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Washington Post questions ethics in Indian media

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 November 2010 21:29 No Comment]

“Do you have in mind a clear political solution, even if you have not revealed the specifics?” Mr. N. Ram of The Hindu who was awarded ‘Sri Lanka Ratna’ gave the lead to Mahinda Rajapaksa in a recent interview. The Hindu, lobbying for Colombo, later titled the news “I have a political solution in mind: President Rajapaksa.” The Sri Lanka president in fact sounded vicious when he said “We defeated terrorists, not freedom fighters…What we refused to give Prabakaran, we won’t give to others,” and even on provincial elections he said “We can’t have elections under the 1981 Census,” indicating what schemes are hatching in his mind. Meanwhile, Indian journalists are accused of secretly helping politicians, businesses, said the lead of an article in Washington Post, Monday, in the context of a multibillion-dollar scandal causing the resignation of a DMK minister in the New Delhi Establishment.

Washington Post came out with some general observations on the Indian media in the context of lobbying for politicians accused of corruption.

The ethics in the Indian media and its coziness with corporate and political bigwigs, especially at a time of unprecedented economic growth, raises questions, The Washington Post feature by Emily Wax said, adding that India’s free press may not be free from pressure to act as a go-between for India’s government and corporate leaders.

“Indian journalists also increasingly serve as advisers for companies and as brand strategists on five-star hotel advisory boards. They are often paid by think tanks and are alleged to be paid sometimes to write stories by interested parties,” the article said citing media experts.

The article specifically named The Hindustan Times and the NDTV as involved in the scandal of the telecommunication ministry corruption that cost the treasury of India an estimated 40 billion dollars. The minister Mr. A. Raja of DMK, participating the Congress regime in New Delhi denied allegations, but resigned.

The Indian media is accused of lobbying for a second term for Mr. Raja in 2009. The transcripts of the involved Indian media men were published in Open and Outlook.

“While allegations of widespread graft are nothing new in India, the accusations that seemed to cause the most surprise were the revelations that some of India’s most influential journalists were taped having chummy conversations with high-powered Indian lobbyist Nira Radia about Raja’s second appointment as minister. The journalists allegedly promised that they would offer opinions and advice for the government formation after the 2009 general elections,” The Washington Post cited Manoj Mitta, a founding member of India’s Foundation for Media Professionals.

"In India’s ultra-competitive journalism world, the lobbyists are gatekeepers to getting interviews with industrialists," Mitta said. "The quid pro quo seems to be that the lobbyist will give access for interviews with the big industrialists to the journalist, who is then able to do them a good turn by conveying the lobbyist’s needs to ruling party leaders. In the process, it’s the journalists that are getting compromised and the Indian public that therefore suffers."

"Let’s not hoodwink ourselves to believe that this morally pornographic journalism is objective, fair and exact. All of it stinks, in varying degrees of severity and phoniness," said Virendra Gopinath, a columnist writing in a New Delhi tabloid, Mail Today.

Many of India’s newspapers and TV stations have kept away from the issue, saying the story had too many holes and was vague. Some critics have accused the mainstream media of a seemingly orchestrated blackout, Washington Post said.

A recent government sponsored probe report, titled “ Paid News: How corruption in the Indian media undermines democracy,” revealed how the malpractice of writing stories for cash has become widespread and now cuts across newspapers and television channels, small and large in different languages and located in different parts of the country, Washington Post article observed.

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