Time to rethink on Katju?

01 Feb,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


So which was bigger – the slap that Bollywood mega star apparently gave small-time director Shirish Kunder or the attack on The Times of India Mumbai offices by supporters of a Shiv Sena politician?


This is from Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju’s letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra: “Please, therefore, let me know at the earliest what action have you taken against the hooligans who committed this outrage. In particular, please inform me whether the delinquents have been arrested and any criminal proceedings launched against them.


I may mention that this is not the first time that such an incident has happened in Maharashtra. I had written to you earlier also about such assaults and harrassment (sic) of journalists. I, therefore, must tell you now that the Press Council may now have to take a serious view of the matter and take suitable action if such incidents are not curbed in your state.”


It is heartening indeed for the press to get such support and perhaps we need to rethink our views on the honourable judge, his views on journalists notwithstanding? By the way, the misspelling of harassment is not mine; I have cut and pasted the extract from the letter. I make no comment here.


At any rate, with the famous Khan-Kunder slap, Katju’s deepest fears about the media were fully realised. This made headline and front page news. But I think there is room for debate here. After all, Shah Rukh Khan is one of India’s biggest stars. If he gets caught in a late night fisticuffs at a fancy night club, then it is certainly news. The problem for me is that enough juice about this fight was not provided. I must confess I had no idea who this Kunder chap was when I first read about the fight on Twitter. It was later I realised that he is husband of Farah Khan, choreographer-turned-director. Most of the stories which appeared were written by insiders for insiders so outsiders like me, who had no idea of the stories within the stories, were left confused. I would say that this is a problem which journalists have to address – make everything clear to your readers. Do not assume that they know as much as you do about a particular subject which you have specialised in.


As far as the attack on The Times of India is concerned, this is one more in a long list of intimidation tactics used on the media by political parties. And as long as nothing is done to those who instigate or participate in such attacks, they will continue. Hooliganism has almost become an accepted way of life and neither our government nor the police seem to be bothered.


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What does one make of the excitement over baby Falak, the infant abandoned at AIIMS, Delhi on Republic Day? Instead of minute by minute updates on the condition of this unfortunate child, one would have expected newspapers at least to delve further into the status of abandoned and abused children in India. We expended much outrage over the actions of the Norwegian child services over the Bhattacharyas’ children but perhaps we need to examine whether we need such agencies ourselves. Right now what is happening with this baby is not concern; it is outright sensationalism.


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