Ranjona Banerji: RedInk Awards: Beacon for Journalists

28 Jun,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The state of the media today is now being commented upon by Opposition politicians in Parliament. The Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused the Modi government of stopping government ads to The Times of India, The Hindu and the Ananda Bazar Patrika group for their critical coverage of the Modi government. Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress, in her maiden speech, mentioned how dangerous it is for democracy when media control is in the hands of a few owners.




It’s not as if no one in the media is unaware of this and yes, stopping government ads is unfortunately a tactic used by parties in power. But we cannot continue use the wrongdoing of the past to justify wrongdoing in the present, much as our neutral fence-sitter friends would like to. Not when democracy in India is under the gun again. This week marks an anniversary of The Emergency. A good time for journalists to stop making false equivalences to please their political masters in power at the Centre and their corporate masters, whose only God is revenue.

Well. Whatever. Not Gonna Happen.

In some good news, The Mumbai Press Club’s RedInk Awards are tonight. Since its inception, the RedInk awards have established themselves as a beacon for journalists from across India. No mean feat one might add for a non-Delhi organisation run by journalists. Or maybe, that’s why. Access to power is not the bearing factor for these awards, plus here are journalists honouring fellow journalists.

This year’s Journalist of the Year goes to Rachna Khaira for her incredibly brave story for the Tribune on massive discrepancies in the Aadhaar scheme. Brave because the police took action against Khaira and the then editor of Tribune Harish Khare for daring to expose that personal information of millions of Indians was in danger of misuse.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is being shared by Dinu Ranadive (94) who retired as Chief Reporter of the Maharashtra Times for his long and distinguished career covering Maharashtra politics, as well as the Goa freedom struggle and the Bangladesh war, and photojournalist Sebastian D’Souza for his intrepid and evocative work. He is best known now for those iconic photographs of terrorist Ajmal Kasab at Mumbai’s CST on the night of November 25, 2008, but D’Souza’s career spans a range of memorable photographs.

Guests of honour at tonight’s event include trail-blazing Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam, recently arrested by the Bangladeshi government for criticizing its treatment of protestors and social activist Prakash Baba Amte.

At least all this brings hope that somewhere, journalists do honour those who stand up against authority and question those in power. Three minutes of watching some news television last night demonstrated to me that nothing has changed: anchors across several channels still act as government spokespersons. Emergency anyone?

What does it mean in a democracy when politicians discuss media control and official punishments and the media doesn’t? The last “statement” from everyone’s favourite Editors Guild of India was on June 9. I just use the Editors Guild as an example. Across the board, you see journalists who you once knew, now toeing the official line. If they are in positions of power, you know the message they send down to young, enthusiastic new recruits. If groups as powerful as The Times of India, The Hindu and ABP can be punished by an angry government, how will smaller entities practise any semblance of journalism. And let’s not forget that the TOI and ABP’s news channels, especially Hindi, routinely get rammed for being too pro-government, pro-Modi and pro-BJP. That means even the little bit of journalism they practice is now under threat.

All luck and power to the Mumbai Press Club and the Red Ink Awards. Let it continue to shine a light on the best of us by exposing the worst of them!


 Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

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