Ranjona Banerji: Editors Guild: 20 seconds to defend one editor, many days to speak up for another!

15 May,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Within the media and its organisations there appears to be some rumbles about government high-handedness with journalists doing their duty. But who am I kidding?

It took the Editors Guild about 20 seconds to come out all guns blazing to defend Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami for claiming that Congress President Sonia Gandhi provoked riots in Palghar. Although Goswami’s credentials as a journalist have long been suspect, he is of course an “editor” so possibly he ticks all the boxes for the guild.

Or, is that all it takes? It took days for the Guild to speak up for Dhaval Patel, also editor of a Gujarati news portal called Face of Nation. Patel has been charged with sedition by the Gujarat police for a report that suggested that a change of chief ministership is being considered in Gujarat because of the problems in the state with Covid-19.

Therefore, there are editors and there are editors.

The Guild however even stretched itself a bit to speak up for Mahendra Singh Manral, a special correspondent with the Indian Express. Manral was sent a notice by the Delhi Police for his report that there was doubt within the Delhi Police about audio clips of the Tablighi Jamaat leader being doctored.

https://editorsguild.in/statements-issued/

Why take on the Editors Guild so often? Because for many, outside and inside journalism, it is seen as the granddaddy of associations, speaking with gravitas. A far better job for standing up for journalists comes from smaller or local organisations like the Network of Women in Media, India or the Mumbai Press Club or the Press Institute of India, Chennai or Newslaundry.com or even here at mxmindia.com

But like many people who think that journalism is TV (god help us!) so do many believe that the Editors Guild is the main spokie for journalists or at the very least, editors.

Of course, with or without acknowledgement, journalists across India continue to be harassed for speaking up and speaking out. Over the years, especially over the last six years, to work as a journalist has become more and more difficult. Too many people at the top of the profession have debased themselves into government or party mouthpieces. This has a terrible effect on juniors, on those starting out, on those trying to navigate various political minefields to just do their jobs. The worst of it is borne by TV journalists who work at the ground level. The racket created by their seniors and the stars of their organisations every night on the debate/drama shows makes it impossible for those on the field to actually work without being threatened or intimidated.

Not of course that anyone cares. The viewers come for the drama and not the news. If news was of interest, RepublicTV would have collapsed on Day One of its launch.

Cynical as this sounds, there is some good news in that the so-called “package” announced by the Centre, as in Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12 has been torn apart by most media outlets. And the subsequent analysis, even carried by pro-government outlets, has shown up various flaws within. Like this excellent analysis by Vivek Kaul.

https://www.firstpost.com/business/six-reasons-why-the-fiscal-package-is-more-about-putting-peoples-own-money-into-their-hands-than-actually-kickstarting-crippled-economy-8366251.html

 

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Less spoken about remains the severe money crunch felt by the Indian media and the various lay-offs which continue, under the radar. We need some strong voices to speak up here, once again.

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

 

 

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