Ranjona Banerji: Katju’s heart is beating for the wrong reasons!

26 Mar,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has now been making the rounds of TV studios to explain his stand on Sanjay Dutt. The former judge thinks that the film star has been punished enough for his transgressions during the Bombay bomb blasts of 1993 and needs to be pardoned rather than being made to endure his jail sentence. On Times Now’s News Hour with Arnab Goswam, Katju and Mahesh Jethmalani were supposedly engaged in a “debate”. But it wasn’t much of a debate since Katju said he was a kind-hearted man who was willing to plead for mercy for all kinds of people not just celebrities and Jethamalani also said Katju was a kind-hearted man but then said that he had appeared for Dutt in the early days and then said Dutt should acknowledge what he had done.


It made for a very dismal debate since no arguments happened and Katju never veered from his set three lines and Jethmalani seemed a bit wary of offending the former judge thus ensuring there were no fireworks. Indeed, no illuminating or enthralling argument either and nothing to be gained. It is true that those yelling matches can become tedious but a boring discussion is well, a boring discussion.


But rather than take on Katju over his kind heart, the media needs to understand Katju’s stand on the media. The Press Council chairman may or may not be right when he says that 90 per cent of Indians are idiots; there are times when one is inclined to agree with him. But when he says that a special kind of educational qualification is needed for journalists, one wonders at the advice he is being given.


If there is a problem at this moment it is with the abysmal quality of journalism schools and courses in the country and the fact that HR departments are in charge of hiring since they cannot see beyond their noses. A journalist among other things needs to have a grasp of language and a wide range of interests and a sense of curiosity. By doing a journalism degree after school, a prospective journalist misses out on that mind-widening experience of delving into subjects without the restrictions imposed by the school system. That is why several senior journalists have argued that those who have studied in the school of life are better suited to the job than those with bogus journalism degrees.


Here is Katju’s defence on his stand, which seems a bit plaintive, but he has still not understood the issue and why journalists are angry: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/how-not-to-be-a-journalist/1092798/0 I am unaware of how far the brief of the Press Council stretches in this regard and how much power media houses want to give it. But Katju seems to be an influential and intelligent man. In which case, he needs to broaden his base of advisers and listen to more journalists from all over the country rather than limit himself to a few influence-pushers in Delhi.


And then of course, there’s the biggest problem facing the media which Katju could do something about: paid news. Here the culprits are owners and managers and perhaps the Press Council might want to negotiate with the Indian Newspaper Society and the Editors Guild to try and understand the issue.


The chairman’s heart may well be in the right place but right now it’s beating for the wrong reasons



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