Liberals vs Patriots
The Indian Women’s Press Club Corps (IWPC), which runs the Women’s Press Club in Delhi, is not known as a hotbed of politics. Annual elections here have always been low-key affairs. But this year, these was keenly contested since it became a veritable clash between the lobby representing the liberals vs the patriots (read the pro-government camp). Campaigning was in full swing in the run-up to the polls with allegations flying thick and fast. The liberals were accused of being propped up by the Congress, while the outgoing committee was accused of compromising press freedom and toeing the government line. It had during its tenure included an objectionable clause to the IWPC form for booking space for meetings and conferences. It read: “Nothing will be said which will be anti-national, question the integrity of the country, amount to sedition or cause harm to reputation of the club.” It was later removed after members expressed strong disapproval. After votes were cast on April 1, more drama unfolded the following day when counting got underway. It took all of Sunday to count some 280 votes and with one candidate demanding a recount, results were finally declared at 4 am. The liberals won and the social media was full of messages that “a major victory had been won”. Well, should we say two cheers to that?
Liberals Vs Patriots Part Two
It’s an established fact that anyone in the media who speaks or writes anything critical of the Narendra Modi government is either trolled or physically threatened. The well-known and highly respected journalist Siddharth Vardarajan, is the latest to fall foul of the Modi bhakts. The former editor of The Hindu and founder editor of The Wire, Vardarajan was paid a visit by hitherto unidentified goons at his Delhi home. The domestic help opened the door to tell them there was nobody home, only to be thrashed instead. He was told to inform his master to be careful of what he says on TV. Vardarajan is a regular on television news channels, where he takes an independent and liberal view. The attackers also threatened Vardarajan’s wife, sociologist Nandini Sunder, who has been fighting the Chhattisgarh government over human rights violations in Bastar. Delhi police is investigating.
The WhatsApp News Model
One local reporter in a remote district of UP has launched a successful subscription news service on an unusual platform—WhatsApp! Located in Pilibhit, the reporter, Shivender Gaur’s WhatsApp-based news broadcast service was launched last April and has 11,400 subscribers, a majority paying Rs 100 as annual subscription. Called Rocket Post Live, it offers news updates throughout the day and one video-based report every evening in Hindi. Its USP is local news, crime, social issues, personalities, sports and politics. Gaur has a small team of reporters and makes a modest profit. His success could be an example for bigger players to follow.
Women journalists in Kerala are up in arms against Mangalam TV. Reason: they feel their profession has been harmed by a fake sex sting operation that the channel aired recently. On March 26, Mangalam TV made public an audio clipping of a telephone conversation in which former state transport minister AK Saseendran is heard demanding sexual favours from a woman who approached him for help. It later transpired that the woman was an employee of the channel who had been asked by her superiors to honey trap the minister. The upshot of the sordid episode is that women journalists in Kerala are being treated with suspicion by politicians. Suvi Vishwanathan, a Kochi-based journalist, revealed that TK Hamza, a senior CPM leader, refused her an interview saying he was ready to speak only to a male reporter from her organisation. “What is it for?” she was asked. “Do you want to make an AK Saseendran out of me?” Women journalists are upset that they are being viewed with suspicion from several quarters and discriminated against ever since the sordid sting.