A Surly Editorial and the Unseen Side of Money to Media

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A surly editorial in minister Damodar Raut’s daily newspaper ‘Sanchar’ makes us infer that the money offered to journalists at Puri by Member of Parliament Pinaki Mishra, when he was addressing the Press as President of the Parliamentary Committee on Urban Development, was deliberate and as per plan of BJD, eager to escape further exposure in chit fund and other scams.

Thrashed by severe protests over the mischief, and possibility of police action upon FIR lodged in the area PS, Mishra has termed it as “gift” and has rejected the allegation that it was an attempt to bribe the Press. “Gift to journalist” is not defined as an offense under the IPC, he has said. This shows, he has made a lot of mental exercise to escape prosecution after being caught with the corpus delicti for attempt to bribe the scribes.

Attention of the Press Council of India has been attracted to the condemnable conduct of the MP. If it entertains the allegation, bribe or gift whatever be it, would get weighed on the matrix of Press Freedom. And, I am sure, Mishra would be censored by the PCI, where the Indian Parliament has also its representation. Pinaki is conscious of what is to happen.

Therefore, he is in fidgets. The idea of describing the bribe he offered to media persons as “gift to journalists” could not have come to his mind had he not been in fidgets.

Two Mistakes

The MP has done two mistakes by linking UCO Bank to the money distribution.

Firstly, he has asserted that by handing over the money-carrying kits to journalists, the UCO Bank has done no wrong; because, Parliamentary practices provide for such services.

This is a very wrongful assertion.The reigning guidelines on tour of Parliamentary Committees do not support this claim. Therefore, BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra has termed it as an offense against dignity of the Parliament and has demanded that the Speaker of Lok Sabha, where Mishra is a member, should divest him immediately of his chair of the Parliamentary Committee that visited Puri.

And, if Bijay is not ignored by his party bosses, the point he has raised would sure hit the Parliament and if UCO Bank has really been used by the Parliamentary Committee on visit to Orissa by the chairman thereof, the Speaker would sure give him a stricture, if not dismissal.

Secondly, by exposing the UCO Bank link, he has generated a justified suspicion that he and/or his colleagues in the BJD Syndicate are holding black money in secret accounts in that Bank, so that such secret money could flow in without his signature into the money-carrying kits offered to journalists by the said Bank.

The black money angle
should be investigated into

It is imperative that the central government should investigate into the black money angle and keep the records before the public, so that the discomforting suspicion would come to an convincing end.

Therefore, the ethicality in using UCO Bank in an attempt to influence the Press and the possibility of black money stashed by BJD in the UCO Bank are issues to be looked into by the Parliament and Central Government respectively.

Mens rea

But for us the point for cogitation is: why at all Pinaki Mishra, MP of the party of Orissa’s Chief Minister, preferred a paltry sum of Rs.200/- to be offered to each of the journalists that attended his Press Conference at Puri on records? What was the mens rea?

The query pushes us towards a greater conspiracy to destroy dignity of media when, because of media activism, the BJD supremo’s credibility is suffering sharp erosion. The journalists are exposing the discernible details of the scams and of the investigations or lack of investigations thereinto, to the utmost chagrin of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. No other chief minister had attracted so much suspicious eyes over so many scams and loot of natural resources and tyrannic oppression on indigenous people for benefit of non-Oriya and foreign industries. In no other regime, resounding steps of compradors were so menacingly overwhelming the State administration. Slowly but steadily the curtain is being raised by the Press and the nasty inner color of the ‘MahakalaPhala’ (Trichosanthes Palmata) coming out. Naveen is to be protected from being exposed as a Trichosanthes Palmata, if BJD is to stay in power.

So the motive hidden behind Pinaki’s attempt to grease the journalists’ palm with accompanying tricks to bring that to public, was to create a situation for depletion of credibility of scribes whose alert eyes are now focused on Naveen.

Tricks can’t save

Naveen is sure, all the tricks he has contrived to mislead the people by christening all welfare projects of the State by his father’s name would fail; and he would be kicked out of office by the people, if the current trend of exposure by the Press continues.

Therefore, when several BJD members of Assembly and Parliament are in jail under judicial custody consequent upon exposure of scams, and possibility of exposure of his own involvement as the real operator of various scams through frontmen is gaining vigor, and media is digging out how he has acted a comprador of mine-grabbers like Jindal, and people have started suspecting him over the scams as a result of Press activism; the attractive Trichosanthes Palmata red-ball is at the verge of getting ripped off, attempts were made through Pinaki to show the people that the Press Reporters cannot be relied upon, because they are susceptible to external influence guided by bribes or gifts, howsoever small be the volume and the value.

Surly Editorial in Sanchar

The design to denigrate the Press, so that the people won’t be inclined to believe in what the journalists report, is spelt out in editorial of Sanchar, the paper of BJD heavyweight Damodar Raut, dated November 14, 2014, where attempts have been made to make out why the journalists are gainable by bribes or gifts and not reliable.

Sanchar has a marked nuisance value. When it was a periodical, Raut had got back his ministership by blackmailing Naveen Patnaik in a banner therein that read – “Belgium Glass ru Parada Khasuchhi” (Mercury is falling from the Belgium Glass). And, as Raut is now functioning as a minister, the daily avatar of the same Sanchar has, in the editorial cited supra, has aspersed the journalists, because of whose watchful eyes, it is difficult for Naveen to escape.

The evil and opportunistic design of Sanchar is bare, when, while shedding meretricious tears on plight of the journalists in the regime of Naveen Patnaik, the crabby editorial says that, most of the newspapers are not paying the journalists their due salary and therefore, they have no other way than depending on payola for giving publicity to whosoever wants. Knows as he of this, Pinaki had arranged cash gifts for them in both his press conferences at Puri and Bhubaneswar. The Puri scribes protested; but media persons of Bhubaneswar took the money with pleasure, the editorial has said. The entire editorial, captioned “Sambadikanka Swabhiman” is a shrewd attempt to destroy the public image of the scribes, so that whatever they report on economic offenses sic passim the State administration shall not be taken seriously. Thus, the Sanchar of minister Damodar Raut has tried to provide necessary support to the mischief of the ruling party executed through Pinaki Mishra.

Obviously the putrefactive viruses have taken up new masks, such as this editorial and terming the bribe offered to journalists as “gift”.

Acrobatics won’t work

But such wordy acrobatics will not work.

People know, if press persons had ever been guided by avarice, the felonious activities of political leaders and top brasses of administration that are exposed and on exposure of which governments have gone out of power time and again, and judicial inquiries have brought out hidden offenses of the rogues that rule, and leaders have been incarcerated, and plutocratic governments have been forced to allocate funds for welfare of the wretchedly poor, could never have been possible in India.

And the offenders know, the power they are misusing can never last for ever.

Money to media has failed at Puri, and will fail everywhere despite Sanchars and Arnab Goswamies.

As conscience cannot be wiped out, so also Press cannot be suppressed through money and innuendoes.

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Media Matters: We are more confused by Supreme Court Orders

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Even as rich media is rendering Indian democracy poor, the Supreme Court of India has asked for a regulatory authority on visual media, because it feels, display of a dead body from morning to night was irksome.

“Have you ever seen foreign channels showing dead bodies?” Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya asked on Thursday. Even after the 9/11 attacks in New York not one dead body was shown on the visual media including the recent beheading of the American and British journalists, he observed while the bench comprising him and Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant wanted Additional Solicitor General P.S.Patwalia to get back to it on the suggested regulatory body within a period of four weeks (IANS).

The regulatory body thus mooted by the Apex Court should be an effective body and not like the Press Council of India. (Ibid).

This puts us to a situation of confusion.

When the Press Council was created by a law framed by the Parliament, collective legislative wisdom had deliberately denied it punitive powers, keeping in mind the sense of responsibility that the Press must be inherently possessing.

Till now, in adjudicating the complaints against and by the Press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the Press, the purpose for which the PCI is created, it has not done anything wrong and its orders are not seen violated and/or dishonored by any in the country.

Was the collective wisdom wrong?

So, by requiring a separate regulatory body, which should be an effective body and not like the PCI, is the Supreme Court not conveying us that the collective legislative wisdom behind the Press Council Act 1978 in the aftermath of Emergency that had curtailed the freedom of Press, was a misguided, misconceived wisdom of the Parliament?

True, the PCI, by virtue of its scope under the Act, has no direct jurisdiction over television media, as by 1978, the country had no experience with TV journalism. Yet, I must say, television comes within the purview of its extended jurisdiction; because, even though it is created for “maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India”, the PCI is created for “the purpose of preserving the freedom of the Press”. And, to fulfill this purpose, the Act has given it the entitlement to take steps to encourage the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in the profession of journalism, under Sec. 13 (2) (d) of the Act.

And, electronic media, including television media belong to “profession of journalism”.

So, the PCI has its jurisdiction on television journalism.

Norms of Journalistic Conduct

On the other hand, ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ laid down under the PCI Regulations also address to the television journalists. In matter of Photo Journalism to which television belongs, it has been said that the “Pictures should not reflect anything that is obscene, vulgar or offensive to good public taste” (point 6 under the head of do’s). Displaying dead bodies is discouraged by saying, “do not show mangled corpses or such other images as cause revulsion or terror” (point 3 under the heading of don’ts).

As such, the revulsive display of the dead body all through the day that made Justice Mukhopadhya say, “I can’t read my SLP with TV on”, is also subjected to the Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ formulated and promulgated by PCI.

Therefore another regulating body for electronic visual media with prosecuting powers will not only subject the Press to multifarious Laws, but also affect the scheme of the Press Council evolved out of Press Commission recommendations and Parliamentary wisdom.

Deadly blows to democracy not noticed

We are worried because, the urge for creation of a regulatory body for electronic visual media has come only from revulsion generated by a day long display of a dead body, but not from any reaction to deadly blows television journalism has given to Indian democracy.

As in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s scheme for fetching votes in 2004, so also in Narendra Modi’s scheme of acquiring power in 2014, the electronic visual media has prostituted journalism.

The same TV journalists who were spearheading the campaign for BJP in 2004 were also the forefront players in the misleading game for BJP in 2014.

If any law may be proposed to help the country get rid of harmful mischief of electronic visual journalism, it is essential to first find out how 2014 role of TV journalists like Arnav Goswami had the same genre of journalism used by BJP in 2004.

When the 2004 experience had forced us to write “Free Press? Think Afresh” , Mr. Sekhar Gupta, in a signed article in Indian Express on May 8, 2004 had to confess, “This election was fought more in the media than in the streets” with television being “the new electoral battleground”.

Inquiry needed to reach the root

So, if the electronic visual media is to be tamed to serve Indian democracy, it is necessary for the country to go to the root of media anarchy generated by mainstream television journalists during elections -2004 and elections – 2014 and from the premise of such determination, to think about how to bring in a change.

It would be better, therefore, for the Supreme Court to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry  or create a separate bench of its own for the specific purpose of determining the politico-mafia connection of television journalism practiced by those who project themselves as national channels in context of General Elections in last two decades, particularly in 2004 and 2014 and then to promote the idea of a separate effective body for regulating visual media. Otherwise, the exercise may turn into barren wordy acrobatics, with nobody to care a tinker damn for the same.

Unless the visual media is salvaged from the rich and the mafia, no law to be framed can make it tamed.

And, unless ceiling on private property is enforced, there shall be no last limit for acquiring wealth by any means.

If accumulation of limitless wealth is not legally stopped, no law can, in reality, stop electronic visual media, owned and controlled by the wealthy, from playing any havoc they want to keep the general public acquiesced into what they design, as that only ensures transformation of their status as free citizens to subjects of the lords of plutocracy.

The country is saturated with Acts and Rules. And the citizens are drowned in the labyrinth they create. Before getting another Act framed in the area of Press, the background of anarchic conduct of electronic visual media should first be studied in depth. We have to first get the answer to why the television media is so irresponsibly working.

Without diagnosis, treatment may be more harmful.

Strange! The Head of Press Council of India Wants Curb on Freedom of Media!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju seems to be in confusion over the role given by law to him.

He has written to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting to take steps for initiating suitable legislation to curb the social media.

What is Social Media?

Social media is opposite to monopoly media and has emerged as the latest scientific tool for peoples’ empowerment. It is platform of participatory journalism that is changing people from audience to participants in matters of their affairs. World wide in Internet, it has emerged as the unfailing weapon in the hands of the common man to challenge and change politico-economic powers to advantages of people in the grassroots.

A compilation of highly researched studies on emergence and impact of Internet media is published by the London and New York based ‘Taylor and Francis Group’ under the caption ‘Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics’. While observing that, “the Internet is now a mainstay of contemporary political life”, it attracts us to a conclusion that says, “In little more than a decade, the Internet has evolved from a collaborative tool for scientists to become a fundamental part of our system of political communication”. In other words, social media has become “a fundamental part” of political communications.

Author of ‘We the Media”, Dan Gillmor describes social media as medium of “grassroots journalism” which to him, is “by the people, for the people”.

“In the past 150 years, we’ve essentially had two distinct means of communication: one-to-many (books, newspapers, radio, and TV) and one-to-one (letters, telegraph, and telephone). The Internet, for the first time, gives us many-to-many and few-to-few communications. This has vast implications for the former audience and for the producers of news; because, the differences between the two are becoming harder to distinguish.”

Such is the social media, in words of Gillmor, media of “grasroots journalism”.

“The tools of grassroots journalism”, he says, “run the gamut from the simplest email list, in which everyone on the list receives copies of all messages; to weblogs, journals written in reverse chronological order; to sophisticated content-management systems used for publishing content to the Web; and to syndication tools that allow anyone to subscribe to anyone else’s content. The tools also include handheld devices such as camera-equipped mobile phones and personal digital assistants. What they have in common is a reliance on the contributions of individuals to a larger whole, rising from the bottom up”.

In Cluetrain Manifesto, Authors Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger have shown how information through Internet has given birth to “ a powerful global conversation” through which “people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter and getting smarter than most companies.”

In perhaps the most precise presentation of how social media is emancipatory, Gillmor utters the concluding words in ‘We the Media’ in a way that makes the common man free of fear in expressing himself. He says, “Your voice matters. Now, if you have something worth saying, you can be heard. You can make your own news. We all can.”

This is alarming the anti-people elements. But why it is alarming the Press Council of India head?

It is paining to see that, to the Chairman of the Press Council of India this emancipatory media looks like a “menace” and he wants the union government “to set up a team of legal and technical experts to find out ways and means of checking this menace”!

Resembling “His Master’s Voice”

“Unless some curbs are placed on the social media, nobody’s reputation will be safe in India”, Katju has said in the letter to the Minister.

Strangely, he has sent this latter to the Minister after the social media rendered inconsequential the Congress leader Abhishek Manu Sighvi’s armor of judicial injunction on circulation of a sex video that has put India into a tumult.

And, surprisingly, he has just echoed what Singhvi has said.

Alleging that social media is “concertedly” used by “motivated interests” through “an organized gang” to defame him, Singhvi has warned that unless action is taken against the social media, “this can happen to anyone and if this lawlessness is allowed to continue as it is, we will all be consumed shortly.”

Katju has not only copied Singhvi in lashing out at social media, but also has made it clear that his letter to the minister is inspired by Singhvi.

“Not only is there a court injunction, not only has the author of the alleged CD sworn in an affidavit in court and accepted that the contents were fabricated and morphed, but even as respectable a media group as India Today has accepted the position of the court” . Yet, the social media circulated the CD to damage his reputation, Singhvi has stated.

Katju has copied Singhvi’s this version to the minister.

In justifying his suggestion for action against social media, he has said, “The recent example (of social media’s mischief) is of dissemination of a CD which even the author admitted had been distorted for defaming a reputed senior lawyer of the Supreme Court and Member of Parliament”.

Is the Chairman of the Press Council of India expected to echo a political person of the ruling party in his letter while instigating the information minister against social sites?

Katju has no carte blanche

The law, Press Council of India Act,1978 that has created him, has not given the PCI Chairman a carte blanche to ask for such a law or to give such advice to the Union Minister against social media.

Section 13 (1) of PCI Act wants the Council to “maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India”; but not to instigate the information minister to curb social media.

In the letter to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, he has sought to set up an expert team to keep under control the social media, when social media never comes within his purview.

“The reputation of a person”, he has said, “cannot be permitted to be trampled upon by mischievous people,” This he has said to justify his request “to set up a team of legal and technical experts to find out ways and means of checking this menace, including, if the government thinks fit, initiating suitable legislation for this purpose, for filtering out such offensive material”.

To him, the satyriasis in action captured in the video is not offensive, but its exposure by social media is offensive!

“I have repeatedly said that while there is freedom of the media in our country, no freedom can be absolute, and has to be coupled with responsibilities,” Katju has said in the letter, uncalled for.

First, the responsibility component

The man in the CD looks like Singhvi.

That, he is morphed into the video by his driver is what he says.

The lawyer further says that he has arrived at a settlement with the driver out of court and the driver has informed the court that he had morphed Singhvi in the video.

Is the driver’s admission of morphing not linked with the out-of-court settlement that a very powerful person like Singhvi has arrived at with him?

Is the driver’s version believable under the circumstances?

Thousands of people including presumably everybody in Singhvi’s acquaintance have seen the video. Have they declared that the male in the video is not Singhvi?

What about the female in the video?

When a section of Delhi lawyers has identified her to be a lady lawyer it knows, had the driver also morphed her into the video?

Is that lady lawyer a nymphomaniac, indulging in such acts with anybody at anytime so that Singhvi’s driver could catch her in action on a different occasion and morphed her into the video with Singhvi?

Has any authentic and authorized lab established that the video is morphed?

Has any medico-legal investigation established that what the driver has said after out-of-court settlement with Singhvi is not untrue but true?

Is Singhvi’s driver a trained expert in videography for which he could so perfectly morphed Singhvi into the video?

If he is not an expert in videography and not done it personally, where did he got it done? Has it been investigated into and found out?

Has Katju the answer to these questions that are so essential to determine whether or not Singhvi is the male in the video?

What the video shows?

It shows a man, looking like the Congress leader having vital parliamentary role in matter of justice and law, indulged in sex with a lady, allegedly a lawyer, who is suspected to have bartered her libidinal liberty against a possibility of elevation from bar to bench under his influence.

The suspicion may be baseless and the projection of the persons may be an act of morphing.

But who can come to a conclusion without actual investigation?

Onus lies on whom to prove that the video is fake, when possibility of the post-out-of-court-settlement-statement of Singhvi’s driver cannot for certain be said as a statement not coined under any duress?

Is it responsible to keep the people in dark about it sine die?

Now to freedom of media

Katju has said, “while there is freedom of the media in our country, no freedom can be absolute”.

Let me make it absolutely clear that India is a democracy and democracy lives only on absolute freedom of media.

I take the debt to say this from the founding Prime Minister of my country, Pandit Jawaharla Nehru, who had said, “I would rather have a completely free press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or a regulated press” (‘The Law of the Press, by Dr. (Justice) D.D.Basu, Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi, 1986, p. 49), though this declaration remained a wishful thinking as, under his mixed economy policy, seeds of plutocracy were sown in this soil.

A plutocracy that appears like democracy is disadvantaged by absolute freedom of media and for its smooth run, suppression of information is necessary.

Suppression of information is necessary when criminals, anti-people elements, vested interest gangs rule the country in the guise of democracy.

Media being the last pillar of democracy and democracy being the last obstructor of plutocracy, is Katju interested to clear whatever obstacle is there in the path of plutocracy by obstructing the evolution of a freer media like the social media?

It is shocking that the Chairman of the Press Council of India is for curb on people’s right to be informed.

The basic object of Press Council spelt out under Section 13. ( 1 ) of the Act is to preserve the freedom of the Press. But the Council chairman’s suggestion goes against this provision.

Freedom of press does not mean freedom of the protectors of freedom of press to deny people the freedom to be informed.

The Universal declaration of Human Rights under Art.19 thereof gives everybody the right to be informed unrestrained.

It stipulates, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

“Any media” “regardless of frontiers” includes social media that India’s Press Council Chairman wants to “curb”.

Katju’s suggestion sharply militates against the concept of freedom of press depicted in the pioneering judgment of Supreme Court of India reported in (1959) S.C.R. 12 wherein the highest unbiased judicial wisdom of the country, full of essence of freshly fetched freedom from foreign control, had delivered the dictum that, freedom of press is the foundation of free government of a free people and that, it rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public; and the guarantee given under Art.19(1)(a) of the Constitution is to prevent public authorities from assuming the guardianship of the public mind.

Sadly, the chief of the Press Council of India, required under the Act to preserve freedom of press, wants the authorities assume guardianship of the public mind in blatant disregard to the dictum above.

People in their own wisdom

As far as restriction on news, lest that affects reputation of an individual, is concerned, people have refused to be hoodwinked in this particular case, though the corporate media has honored the court injunction, obtained by Singhvi against a section thereof.

The people have deliberately shared the video through social media to avenge the attempts to use court injunction to keep them debarred from information on the alleged misconduct of a ruling party heavyweight and to use their intelligence to accept or reject the information.

The people of India are mature enough to decide which material deserves attention and which doesn’t.

As for example, Katju had described the Indians as foolish. People have refused to pay attention to this raving. The corporate media houses have given massive publicity to Congress’ as well as CBI’s statements that Rajiv Gandhi had not taken bribe in choice of Bofors guns. The people of India have not given credence to such reports. So, it is clear that it does not make everything acceptable to Indians if published in media. If the contents of the sex video had not been blocked from being carried by the media, people might have refused to accept it as true. But, attempts to disallow people to know of it through media houses that had the video in their possession, as is seen, activated social media to step in, the people’s right to information being basic in that sector.

With evolution of social media, freedom of media cannot be curbed any more, as, no law can deny people the access to Internet and no law can debar Internet from carrying any data the users can share if they like to share.

If big media on any pretext suppresses any information, social media will provide people with collective strength to know what is what and no law can put any hindrance thereto, because the Internet is a world wide phenomenon and has made every person a part of world community.

To the people, reputation of a person suspected to have committed a heinous crime does not count. What counts is possible disrepute of their motherland over silent endurance to suppression of data of a heinous crime suspected to have been committed by a parliamentary standing committee chief.

This is why, it is better be appreciated, despite aversion to obscenity, the people have shared the video through social media. This mass action is indicative only of mass protests against use of court to curtail people’s right to be informed.

It is to be kept in mind that social media is the media of the people built up by the people to its present stature in course of their anxiety to get rid of doctored information fed to them by motivated corporate media with highly paid editors engaged to tamper with or twist information as their masters like, a phenomenon that was forcing the people to see in the eyes of the rulers and the rich and their agents and the oppressors and the shareholders / controllers of media houses.

Every attempt to curb social media will, therefore, be futile and rejected by the people.

It would be better for government of India to ignore the letter of Katju as an instance of illogical zeal and meritless fanfaronade.

(This article is dedicated to Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das, the great patriot and votary of freedom on his birthday)