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  • FMP's Statement on Fake News

    February 15, 2018

    The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) cautions members of the public in India that they should be watchful of the veracity of the news they consume because there have lately been repeated instances of fake news going viral on the internet and the social media.  

    A report which appeared in a new and unknown ‘news’ portal in early-February 2018 made certain salacious claims about Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav. The website has since disappeared and its ‘news’ report has turned out to be baseless. Around the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit this month to United Arab Emirates, a video clip purportedly of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saying “Jai Siya Ram”, played out not only on the social media but even on mainstream television news channels such as Times Now and Zee News.  A prominent newspaper in the UAE, Gulf News took the publication of this information to be a clear indication that the “mainstream media in India is falling prey to propaganda and fake news”, and wondered whether this was “by choice” or whether media personnel in India were “incapable of verifying basic facts – which form the backbone of journalism.”

    The FMP shares the concerns raised about the falling media standards in India.

    There have been other egregious examples in recent weeks of the Indian media failing to verify basic facts before publication. In Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, which saw communal violence, false information about a young Hindu man being allegedly killed by a Muslim mob for carrying a saffron flag in a Muslim neighbourhood was spread on the social media by various people including the editor of Mail Today, Abhijit Majumder. Further, an anchor from the same India Today group’s Hindi TV channel, Rohit Sardana, made inflammatory statements while the situation was tense in the area. 

    It is worrying that another editor from the India Today group, Angshukanta Chakraborty, had to leave her job this week for tweeting against promoters of media organisations turning a blind eye to “hate mongering, fake news spreading” journalists. India Today justified its actions by claiming that her services had been terminated for breach of editorial conduct. The statement went on to say, “Our Code of Conduct is sacrosanct across all mediums including social media…actions contrary to our editorial ethos have no place in our organisation”.

    It would appear that India Today’s Code of Conduct does not consider facts or the law of the land sacrosanct. Promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion is a crime under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code.  Inciting a community to commit an offence against another community is a crime under Section 505 of the IPC. The editors who spread fake and inflammatory news during rioting have kept their jobs, but the person who spoke up against such actions has not.

    When some of the biggest names in Indian journalism, such as India Today, the Times Group and Zee News, manage in the space of a few days to either disseminate fake news or act in support of those spreading fake news, it is a cause for grave concern.

  • Statement from the Foundation for Media Professionals on the arrest of a cartoonist in Tamil Nadu

    November 06, 2017

    The Foundation for Media Professionals condemns the arrest in Chennai of cartoonist G Bala on November 5, 2017 for his allegedly "demeaning caricature" of, among others, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. The cartoon, which also portrayed Tirunelveli district collector and police commissioner of Tirunelveli city, is a valid journalistic critique of their failure to prevent a family's suicide by self-immolation in the district.
    As a usury victim was driven to kill himself, his wife and his two young children after the collector had allegedly failed to act on his repeated pleas for intervention, Bala's cartoon sought to highlight administrative insensitivity by showing the three authorities covering themselves with the fig leaf of currency notes in the presence of a charred body.
    Though he has been released after being detained for a day, Bala's arrest on the basis of the cartoon is the latest in a long list of attacks on free speech in the country.
    This is evident from the nature of the offences invoked in the context of the cartoon on a distress-related tragedy. Bala has been accused of not only printing "matter known to be defamatory" (Section 501 IPC) but also transmitting "obscene material in electronic form" (Section 67 of the Information Technology Act).
    It's a telling irony that the arrest of the Tamil cartoonist took place on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Chennai, to participate in the function of a Tamil newspaper.
    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, President
    Manoj Mitta, Director
    Sandhya Ravishankar, Tamil Nadu Convenor

  • FMP's statement on the Rajasthan gag law

    October 23, 2017

    The Rajasthan ordinance prescribing a six-month embargo on the media from publishing any stories related to a complaint against a public servant pending sanction for investigation is a brazen assault on free speech to shield all those who abuse official powers, either to indulge in corruption or to violate human rights. The Foundation for Media Professionals calls upon the Vasundhara Raje government to withdraw the Bill introduced on October 23, 2017 to turn the controversial ordinance into a permanent law.

    It is a crying shame that the very state that had sowed the seeds of the RTI movement across the country and the very chief minister who had, in her earlier avatar as a minister in the Vajpayee government, piloted the freedom of information Act, a forerunner of RTI, have now come up with gag provisions as part of the larger scheme of the ordinance and the Bill to increase impunity for public servants.

    The gag provisions are a corollary of the criminal law amendments introduced in Rajasthan barring a magistrate from ordering an investigation against netas and babus till the government gives a go-ahead. The Foundation believes that both the impunity and gag provisions should be dropped forthwith as they are contrary not only to the public interest but also to the ruling party's much-touted promise of combating corruption and ensuring good governance.

    That this is the most serious legislative attack on the media freedom since the ill-fated 1988 defamation Bill of the Rajiv Gandhi government is evident from its provision imposing punishment with imprisonment up to two years for anybody who discloses the identity of the public servant while a complaint against him is awaiting sanction to launch the investigation.   

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, President

    Manoj Mitta, Director

  • Why My Paper Had a Blank Editorial

    November 19, 2015

    Three Nagaland newspapers responded with blank editorials to the Assam Rifles directive to them not to publish news related to the banned outfit, NSCN(K), under threat of being prosecuted for abetting insurgency. In an article in the Indian Express, Monalisa Changkija explains why.  The Indian Express also wrote an editorial telling Assam Rifles to keep off. The link to that editorial is given below. Excerpts from Ms Changkija's article: 

    As the theme speaker for National Press Day, celebrated on November 16, I had said: “But there comes a time in the life of an individual, as much as in the life of a society, when we must do or die, or die doing, because only a few of us are blessed with the courage of conviction to live beyond and above our own selves. And we solemnly observe National Press Day today because we, those of us gathered here today, have vowed to be guided by our courage of conviction… I think those of us gathered here today will agree that it is worth laying down our lives for.” This was in reference to the Assam Rifles’ censorious “notification” to newspapers in Nagaland, and the Nagaland editors’ joint public statement thereof, which is now in the public domain. The blank editorials in three Nagaland newspapers — the Nagaland Page, Eastern Mirror and Morung Express — on November 16, were also messages for all who would gladly muzzle the press one way or the other. There are many such agents, though not all of them are armed groups or non-state actors, or even the security forces. In Nagaland, there are too many power centres. The state government does not govern. Rather, it outsources governing, hence creating a huge vacuum that is filled by several parallel governments.

    ......Contrary to what was tacitly underlined in the Assam Rifles’ “notification” to us, the press is not the cause of the “thriving” of the insurgency or armed groups’ activities, but a victim of the failure of Afspa, the Assam Rifles and indeed the rest of the security forces deployed here to contain and curb them. Also, while the Assam Rifles quoted the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, to control and dictate to the Nagaland press, and we respect this act, the Union ministry of home affairs should have directly, or through the Nagaland state government, consulted with us on the issue of dealing with the publication of press releases/ statements of banned groups. Unless the ministry is trying to gag the Nagaland press obliquely through the Assam Rifles? But is the Assam Rifles constitutionally mandated to issue such “notifications” to any press? But then again, anyone who is well versed with the situation in Nagaland (and the rest of the Northeast) will know that it is very difficult to comprehend the internal working and decision-making logic of the security forces, or indeed of the MHA, given that Afspa is still in force here.

    Link to the Indian Express article.

    Indian Express editorial 

    Monalisa Changkija's photo courtesy of


  • 'Press Council Should Regulate TV and Internet News Too'

    November 17, 2015

    The Press Council of India was best suited to regulate news standards on television and the Internet, its chairman, Justice (retd) C K Prasad said on the occasion of National Press Day, the Times of India reported. Prasad said there were constraints on the council in terms of legal powers to tackle rising attacks on journalists and deal with violations of professional standards and ethics. Government funding must reduce, he said, and contributions by stakeholders must increase so that the council could be truly autonomous. 

    Phioto credit:

  • Not Every Journalist Is Chasing the Salacious and the Steamy: Justice Gautam Shirish Patel

    September 25, 2015

    Excerpts from the judgement of Justice Patel of the Bombay High Court dismissing National Stock Exchange's defamation suit against Sucheta Dalal and Debhashish Basu for their article that NSE's systems could give some high-frequency algorithmic traders the advantage of a few micro-seconds. He also imposed a fine of Rs 50 lakh on the NSE.

    (Photo courtesy: Bombay High Court) 


    "It is fashionable these days to deride every section of the media as mere papparazzi, chasing the salacious and steamy. We forget again. None of the scams and the leaks of the past two decades would have been possible without journalists, editors, newspapers and television news anchors. We have grown accustomed to mocking them. We deride their manner, describing them as loud, brash, obnoxious, abrasive and opinionated. We forget. We forget that but for them the many uncomfortable questions that must be asked of those in authority and those with the sheer muscle power of money would forever go unasked and unanswered. We forget that it is these persons we are so wont to mock who are, truly, the watchdogs of our body politic, the voice of our collective conscience, the sentinels on our ramparts. They may annoy. They may irritate. They certainly distress and cause discomfort. That is not only their job. It is their burden. Watchdogs respond to whistles and whistles need whistleblowers; and between them if they can ask what others have not dared, if they can, if I may be permitted this, boldly go where none have gone before; if they can, as they say, rattle a few cages, then that is all to the good. Neither of our principal stock exchanges are strangers to scandal; no matter what the NSE may think of itself, and even if Dr. Tulzapurkar (advocate for the National Stock Exchange) insists that the past is the past and irrelevant today, public memory is not that short. The scams that beleaguered our exchanges in the past, and those that continue to occupy the time of this Court have at least in part come to light because of persons like Ms.(Sucheta) Dalal and her fellow travellers. If regulatory agencies have been compelled to make changes, and if our own Supreme Court has felt it necessary to step in with drastic orders, it is because every oversight process has either failed or been subverted. The Plaintiffs are in error when they describe Ms. Dalal as some out-of-control lone wolf. The nation may or may not want to know; Ms. Dalal does. So do her readers. And, as it happens, so do I. She is certainly entitled to ask, to question, to doubt and to draw legitimate conclusions.
    26. Today, all our institutions face the crisis of dwindling public confidence. Neither the NSE nor the judiciary are exceptions to this. It presents a very real dilemma, for the existence of our institutions is posited on that very public confidence and faith and its continuance. The challenge is, I think, in finding legitimate methods of restoring that public trust, that balance. Hence the cries for transparency and accountability everywhere; and I see no reason why the NSE should be any exception to this. Quelling dissent and doubt by strong-arming seems to me a decidedly odd way of going about restoring that public faith. It is not a move that, from a public institution, readily commends itself. For public bodies and figures, I would suggest that the legal standard is set higher to demonstrated actual malice and a wanton and reckless embracing of falsehood though countered at the first available opportunity. I do not think it is reasonable to propose a legal standard of utter faultlessness in reportage or public comment in relation to such bodies or persons. If there is indeed a factual error, can it be said to have been made in good faith, and in a reasonable belief that it was true? The 'actual malice' standard seems to me to suggest that one or both of these must be shown: intentional falsehood, or a reckless failure to attempt the verification that a reasonable person would. In this case, I do not think that the Plaintiffs (National Stock Exchange) have met that standard, or demonstrated either intentional falsehood or a failure to attempt a verification. The burden of proof in claiming the qualified privilege that attaches to fair comment can safely be said to have been discharged."

  • Every Citizen has the Right to Dissent:: Vice President Hamid Ansari

    September 25, 2015

    Excerpts from Vice-president Hamid Ansari's First Ram Manohar Lohia Memorial Lecture at ITM University, Gwalior:  

    "It has been observed with much justice that the history of progress of mankind is a history of informed dissent. This can take many forms ranging from conscientious objection to civil or revolutionary disobedience. In a democratic society, including ours, the need to accept difference of opinion is an essential ingredient of plurality. In that sense, the right of dissent also becomes the duty of dissent since tactics to suppress dissent tend to diminish the democratic essence. In a wider sense, the expression of dissent can and does play a role in preventing serious mistakes arising out of what has been called “social cascades” and “group polarization” which act as deterrent on free expression of views or sharing of information.   

    Dissent as a right has been recognized by the Supreme Court of India as one aspect of the right of the freedom of speech guaranteed as a Fundamental Right by Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. The court has observed that “the restrictions on the freedom of speech must be couched in the narrowest possible terms” and that the proviso of Article 19(2) is justiciable in the sense that the restrictions on it have to be ‘reasonable’ and cannot be arbitrary, excessive or disproportionate.

    In the globalizing world of today and in most countries having a democratic fabric, the role of civil society in the articulation of dissent has been and continues to be comprehensively discussed; so does the question of its marginalization or suppression.

    Despite the unambiguously stated position in law, civil society concerns about constraints on the right of dissent in actual practice have been articulated powerfully. “On the surface,” wrote one of our eminent academics some time back, “Indian democracy has a cacophony of voices. But if you scratch the surface, dissent in India labours under an immense maze of threats and interdictions.” Referring to the then new reporting requirements for NGOs, he said:

              “nothing is more fatal for disagreements and dissent than the idea that all of it can be reduced to hidden sub-texts or external agendas…The idea that anyone who disagrees with my views must be the carrier of someone else’s subversive agenda is, in some ways, deeply anti-democratic. It does away with the possibility of genuinely good faith disagreement. It denies equal respect to citizens because it absolves        you of taking their ideas seriously. Once we have impugned the source, we don’t have to pay attention to the contents of the claim…This has serious consequences for dissent.”

    This was written in 2012. It is a moot point if, given the Pavlovian reflexes of the Leviathan, things would have changed for the better since then. Informed commentaries suggest the contrary.

    Every citizen of the Republic has the right and the duty to judge. Herein lies the indispensability of dissent.”

    Photo courtesy: PIB Mumbai

  • What is Wrong with Media Coverage of the Sheena Murder Case?

    September 06, 2015

    Excerpts from Amulya Gopalakrishnan's critique in the Times of India of 1 Sept, Op-ed page.

    How does media advance public accountability in a criminal case? By reporting the investigation and providing perspective, and exposing any flaws in the conduct of police and courts. Not by inviting random people and allowing every conjecture in their lizard brains to be aired, and prejudicing perceptions of the case even before the chargesheet has been filed.

    As far as TV channels and the digital media and many newspapers are concerned, there seems to be no obligation to respect Indrani’s privacy. Being declared a suspect is enough, the media now has licence to pry. There have been interviews with former schoolmates, colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Intimate details of her life have been flung about. Her family tree and business dealings have been leading news items, with no attempt made to establish relevance.
    What about the presumption that she is innocent until proven guilty? Is it the media’s job to feed on leaks and funnel sympathies one way or the other, or to leave evidence-gathering and motive – establishing to the investigators and leave room for a fair trial?
    The logic of TV, though, means that it would be near-impossible to maintain distance and decorum in the Indrani case. The material is simply too promising to be passed up. When the media is sustained by ratings, news naturally blurs into entertainment and public interest comes to mean what the public is interested in.
    Around the world, media trials feature a few recurring tropes – the ‘sinful rich’, the ‘abuse of trust or power’, the ‘evil stranger’. Extra-legal facts are routinely highlighted. By that logic, this case is brimming with exploitable angles.
    What draws TV and public attention to a particular crime? The algorithm usually involves the social prominence of accused or victim, the exceptional or grisly nature of the crime, and the emotional resonance of the story. TV doesn’t cover mundane crime or care about conditions that foster crime. Crime is presented as individualised pathology, propelled by things like madness or ambition. Agents of law and order are usually celebrated. And perspective is sacrificed for sensation.

    * * * *

    Somehow, social mobility is suspect in India; it is assumed that anyone who rises rapidly must have made some pact with the devil, and when it’s a woman, the titillating possibilities are endless. This paper ran an article called ‘Shock and horror among Assamese women’ – where random people decried her for not submitting herself to family alone, calling her actions monstrous, hurling metaphorical rocks.

    Click here to read the full article

    Even editors cannot refrain from being salacious. Here is an exchange between Rahul Kanwal and Vir Sangvi on India Today TV

    (Amulya's photo credit: Indian Express)

  • Winners of the 2015 FMP-Indiaspend Healthcare and Sanitation Fellowships

    June 06, 2015

    Congratulations to Raksha Kumar and Nitika Saxena for winning the FMP-Indiaspend Healthcare and Sanitation fellowships. Only two were on offer but Indiaspend was kind enough to institute two more ‘half’ fellowships for Rakhi Ghosh and Urvashi Prasad on the recommendation of the jury.  Congratulations to Rakshi and Urvashi as well.

    Raksha Kumar (pictured here) is a graduate of the Journalism School, Columbia University and a Fulbright scholar.  She proposes to examine the state of maternity wards in rural districts of three states to find out whether  the cut in healthcare spending by the central government has had an adverse impact on them.  She would also like to examine whether medical insurance is increasing the gap between government and private healthcare facilities.  Her third proposal is on female laparoscopy Vs male sterilisation.

    Nikita Saxena is currently an assistant wed editor with Caravan magazine. She is a graduate of mass media from St Xavier’s, Mumbai, and also a Young India fellow of Ashoka University.  Nikita won the Mumbai Press Club’s 2014 RedInk Award for her story on advertising practices of tobacco companies. It was published in the September 2014 issue of Caravan.

    Rakhi Ghosh is based in Bhubaneshwar. He is a post-graduate in journalism from Utkal University.  She got the Child Survival Media Fellowship in 2014 from National Foundation of India and Save the Children to work on ‘adolescent, reproductive and maternal health,’ in different parts of Odisha.

    Rakhi has sent three proposals including one on menstrual hygiene and open defecation.

    Urvashi Prasad is working on a master’s degree in public health at the London School of Hygiene. She previously managed the health, water and sanitation portfolio of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in India.

    Our best wishes to all the four winners. We also wish to thank all those who sent in proposals. We got eighteen in all from across the country, including  Kerala, J&K, Odisha and Rajasthan.

    We are grateful to our jury members. Dr Srinath Reddy, went through each of the proposals and made detailed comments.  Dr Reddy is a renowned cardiologist and heads the Public Health Foundation of India, which he set up.  Dr Samiran Nandy is a well-known liver transplant surgeon, and is dean of  Gripmer (Ganga Ram Institute for Post-graduate Medical Education and Research),  Delhi.  He has an amazing knack of getting to the nub of an issue and made insightful observations.

    The  Foundation for Media Professionals is keen on promoting journalism that makes a difference to our lives. Hence its association with Indiaspend for this fellowship.

    Indiaspend specialises in data-based journalism.  For more details visit

    We wish to thank Indiaspend’s founder Govindraj Ethiraj for partnering with us.

    All those who responded to our offer of fellowship should consider writing for  





  • For Modi Fourth Estate is the Last Estate

    June 02, 2015

    As Narendra Modi celebrates his first year in office as prime minister, the man who held 'the second most important office in the country' at one time writes that the claim of the traditional media to be the Fourth Estate of democracy 'lies in tatters'. No prime minister since Indendence, writes Dilip Padgaonmar (in a blog in ToI on 23 May), has been as image conscious, and 'no one has shown such relentless contempt for them as he has.'
    Modi did not hold press conferences as chief minister. He kept the English media out of bounds of the secretariat in Gandhinagar. He did not give interviews that would have involved supplementary questions. Journalists had to be content with using press releases prepared by Modi's self-effacing PRO, Jagdish Thakkar.
    Modi has brought these atittudes to Delhi with him,says Padgaonkar. What has encouraged him is the string of electoral victories in Gujarat. The numerous public rallies during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and use of social media for 'direct, unfiltered, unidirectional and, not least, accessible to any owner of a mobile phone,' that resulted in the BJP's spectacular triumph, has further persuaded Modi to the redundancy of traditional media.
    Click here to read full piece.

    NOTE:After Modi gave an interview to TIME on 8 May, he spoke to Jagran on 10 May. At the end of the month, he chatted with PTI and gave an interview to UNI on 1 June.  Of course, this may not suggest a change in Modi's attitude. 

    (Photo courtesy

  • India Ranks Low on Media Freedom Index

    May 04, 2015

    Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has ranked India 135th out of 180 countries in its 2015 press freedom index for acts of censorship, like Al-Jazeera being banned from broadcasting in India for five days from 22 to 27 April, 2015. Strangely, few newspapers and TV channels reported this in India. RWB condemned the Indian government for the ban. ‘The sanction should never have been imposed on Al-Jazeera and just reflects the government’s growing intolerance of any journalism it does not agree with,’ said Benjamin Ismail, the head of RWB’s Asia-Pacific desk.

    ‘The Indian government has every right to state its position on this border, and it does so frequently, but there is no justification for censoring the different viewpoints that are reflected in the media. We call for the immediate resumption of broadcasting by Al-Jazeera.’

    Al-Jazeera had published a map of India showing Pakistan and Indian administered territories distinctly.

    In May 2011, the organization says, the Indian customs department forced The Economist to alter 28,000 copies of its 21 May issue before permitting their distribution in India. It contained a map showing the territory claimed by India and Pakistan without taking sides.

    Disclosure of Sources

    RWB said the Andaman police arrested and beat three members of the Karen community in November 2014 to force them to confess their alleged complicity with two French journalists who had entered a reserve of the aboriginal Jarawa tribals. Saw Santom, Saw Awenger and Saw Safmi, were held and beaten by the police chief of Mayabunder, it said, for helping Alexandre Dereims and Claire Beilvert with their documentary.  

    The authorities were alerted when a trailer of the documentary went up on the web along with photos taken during the reporting trip. The reporters had violated the Aboriginal Tribes Protection Act of 2012. RWB said the Andaman authorities were reportedly planning to seek the help of Interpol in pursuing the case.

    It was ‘unacceptable for police to launch a witch hunt to punish those who assist the media’ Ismail said. ‘Officials have to recognize journalists’ right not to reveal their sources.’

    The French reporters and those who assisted them may be on thin legal grounds as they had broken the law.  RWB admitted the violation, but said ‘human rights issues raised by their documentary make it a work of public interest. Consequently, their actions may be justified under international law.’

    Kashmir Assembly Elections

    RWB has recorded several instances of violation of media freedom during the Kashmir assembly elections between 7 April and 12 May, 2014.

    Sheikh Inayet, a local correspondent of Times Now and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, a reporter for the Sharhebeeb Times  were covering a party meeting in Bandipora on 19 April when they were attacked and badly injured by members of the SOG, police officers and reservists, RWB said.

    Javed Dar, a photojournalist of Xinhua News, was attacked and injured by police in Kulgam on 24 April, while the windows of the car of the journalist accompanying him, Farooq Javed Khan, were smashed, it added.

    Shabnam Fayz of Munsif TV and Aadil Umar Shah of Voice TV had to be hospitalized after being beaten by police while covering protests in Pulwama, on 24 April, RWB said in its report.


    In January 2014, Jitendra Prasad Das, the sub-editor of the Oriya-language daily, Samaj, was arrested in connection with the publication of a picture of the Prophet Mohammed. ‘We regret that Samaj did not protect this young journalist by taking responsibility for publishing the picture. This attitude is indicative of the pressure under which it was placed and the self-censorship it feels forced to adopt.’ RWB said.

    Muslims had demonstrated before the newspapers offices in Cuttack, Balasore, Rourkela and Kendrapada, demanding a public apology. Although editor Satya Ray published an apology in the newspaper, protesters ransacked its Balasore office and torched its Rourkela office.

    As the person supposedly responsible for the inclusion of the picture, Das was arrested at the newspaper’s headquarters in Cuttack on a charge of ‘hurting religious sentiments,’ RWB said.

    When the entire editorial staff told the police that they should all be arrested, the police said they singling out Das just to defuse street tension. He was nonetheless taken before a judge.

    RWB noted that the National Union of Journalists' secretary- general Prasanna Mohanty had criticized the Samaj management for giving Das’ name to the police instead of taking collective responsibility.

    An FMP View

    Some of the incidents mentioned by RWB fall into a grey zone. For instance, the French journalists cannot claim media freedom to walk into a tribal reserve which is out of bounds for outsiders. But if human rights violations were indeed taking place, would the authorities have allowed them access and indicted themselves?

    The depiction of India’s boundaries is another sensitive issue.  The fact that an Arab channel was involved perhaps made the Indian authorities more uncomfortable.

    ‘India is meant to be a democracy that approves of freedom of speech," John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist, had told AFP after it was forced to put stickers manually on the Kashmir map in its May 2011 issue.  India’s ‘attitude on the issue is much more hostile than either Pakistan or China’, he said.  But China protests whenever an Indian government leader visits Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims.

    The publication of the Prophet’s picture was a bold but foolish act, as Indian authorities do not have a record of upholding freedom of speech when it comes to religious issues. So all citizens are subject to what one community considers as blasphemy. Other religious communities are also quick to take offence and urge censorship. An allegation of ‘hurt sentiments’ is enough to trigger police action.   

    India has become a difficult place for journalists to operate. The few instances which RWB mentions do not cover the harassment and hate which journalists routinely face from right-wing Internet trolls. Coverage of right wing violence, or of violation of the rights of Muslims citizens to live where they wish (like a neighbourhood in Bhavnagar, Gujarat), questioning the reports of alleged mass conversions, interrogating the arrest and imprisonment of Muslims on thin or no evidence for alleged acts of terrorism, investigation into possible acts of terrorism by Hindutva groups and doubting the ‘clean chit’ of courts to leaders implicated in the 2002 Gujarat riots is met with derision. ‘Sickular,’ ‘news traders,’ ‘bazaaru,’ and ‘presstitutes,’ are some of the abuses.

    India has risen up RWB’s freedom of media index, from 140 in 2013 to 135 now. Other countries of South Asia fare worse. Bangladesh is at 146, Pakistan is ranked 158 and Sri Lanka 165. But India continues to be a difficult place for journalists. Itis not just the political establishment; even media owners do not like outspoken editors and reporters.       

    (Image is that of notice posted by Al-Jazeera on its screen following India's ban on it. Photo credit: Reporters Without Borders). 

  • 'Govt Must be Rational; Media Is Not Conspiring'

    April 29, 2015

    Given the sway that media owners have on content, and given the positive sentiment that exists in business circles towards this government, there is no reason to believe that media is engaged in any conspiracies against this government. It is time for a rational view, says Santosh Desai in his column in the Times of India, 26 April, 2015.

    'The danger of thinking of media as an actor in a conspiracy is that little attempt is made to understand it; the effort is largely aimed at taming it through some manner of force or denouncing it angrily. The latter has been much in evidence in the last few weeks with some senior members of the government including the PM railing against media and calling it names, civilized and otherwise. Any mature government learns how to work with media, and finds ways of managing a relationship with it. The relationship is almost always tense and often adversarial, but seldom do things reach the point that they seem to be doing. Perhaps this a good time for some realism about how media works.'

    Click here for full report

    (Photo courtesy:exchange4media)