CHURUMURI POLL: Press Council versus media?

The “tendentious and offensiveremarks of the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, on the state of the media and the quality of journalists—and his articulation for greater powers, including over television news channels—has predictably, a) touched a raw nerve, b) stirred a hornet’s nest, c) set the cat among the paper tigers, d) exposed the media’s achilles’ heel, or e) all of the above.

The Editors’ Guild of India*, the Broadcast Editors’ Asociation, the Indian Journalists’ Association have all reacted sharply, while public opinion seems to be on the side of the press council chief, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. To a question on the CNN-IBN programme “Face the Nation” last night, 73% viewers said there was no need for Justice Katju to apologise (but who believes these polls any way?).

While Justice Katju tries to “place” an article in newspapers to further elucidate his views and some in the media say he said nothing that should not have been said, at least two Delhi-based English newspapers have thought the controversy fit enough for editorials.

Mint, the business daily from the Hindustan Times stable, has an edit titled “Educating Justice Katju“:

“Perhaps Justice Katju is not aware of what journalists do. The basic task of any journalist is to gather news and report it. Most of his or her working day is spent doing that. This is true of the cub reporter and of the senior editor.

“It is true that newsrooms, newspaper columns and TV channels are noisy. But that is only a reflection of the society at large: journalists don’t exist in ether. What is true of Indians is true of Indian journalists.

“Now it would be wonderful if all journalists could appreciate Caravaggio, read Catullus’s poetry, know Thucydides by the chapter and creatively use advanced macroeconomics to interpret the daily ebb and flow of events. It would not only make the press a more cultured institution, but possibly make India a better country. It is also true that few, if any, journalists are enabled to do that.

“These are expensive tastes that require extensive (and yes, expensive) education. Few journalists can afford that, even if most of them want to. The reason: there’s a huge divergence between personal and social returns from such education. This is a wider problem and it afflicts many other professions. To blame the press for being “illiterate” is misinformed, if not downright wrong.”


Mail Today, the compact daily from the India Today group, pulls no punches. “He doesn’t deserve to be press council chief” is its rather straightforward headline:

“Justice Katju’s attitude towards the media is one of undisguised disgust. Clearly, he seems to have been misled about his work as the PCI Chairman.

“He seems to think that he has been appointed by Josef Stalin to forcefully “ modernise” the media. Actually he has been appointed under the Press Council of India Act and his main job is to ensure that the press remains free in this country.

“A second task is that of raising the standards of the media discourse, not through chastisement— where, in any case he can merely admonish— but dialogue and persuasion. But this is something you cannot do if you hold the media in utter contempt.

“It would appear that Justice Katju, who had a streak of the self- publicist even as a judge, is pursuing a bizarre agenda which may end up embarrassing those who pushed for his appointment as the Chairman of the Press Council of India.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

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3 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: Press Council versus media?”

  1. equateall Says:

    Something is seriously wrong with our TV news media (of course, print isn’t excluded). Justice Katju has not said anything that should not be said. It does not matter about educational qualification – read it as that we need quality journalists (who are ethical). But there is no reason for the media to attack him viciously for his views. You may differ, but questioning his motive, his appointment itself (which in any case, followed the due process) – is totally wrong. I was shocked by the arguments made by Ashutosh on CNNibn’s FTN show. He went totally hyperbolic. I have(/d) high regard for him (,earlier), and never expected him to speak in that manner. Kumar Ketkar, Nalini Singh were the sane voices, even if they differed with Katju on some aspects.

    Let me share a twitter incident, I am part of.

    A few days ago, Pallavi Ghosh, CNNibn journalist, tweeted that she came to know of some journalists being on Congress payroll. She felt bad about it, and expressed her feeling to Dhanya Rajendran. I, took liberty, to interject and tweet why can’t she reveal details. No response. My persistent tweeting to her, even once to Digvijay Singh, resulted in no response. Since Dhanya did not initiate it, I won’t say much about her being silent. It’s for her to decide how to react. Kartikeya, of Headlines today, who broke the story on BJP official paying Rs. 500 to some journalists in MP, during LKA’s Janchetana Yatra, too maintained silence to my tweet.

    If you have courage to tweet, or break a story on one party, why NOT show the same courage to expose the people in ruling party. What prevented Rajdeep Sardesai (even he received my tweet on this topic), or Rahul Kanwal / Kartikeya of Headlines Today, to expose the corrupt among their fraternity? Is being paid by Congress ethical, secular? While, BJP given currency notes smell communal?

    Sorry to say this – these journalists do not have an iota of courage, respect for viewers, for democracy, and, for their profession. We question them, they ignore. If you persist, they block you on twitter, censor your views, comments on their sites.

    But, when a person like Katju questions, they group and attack him, attribute motives. What kind of journalism is this? They go on hyperbolic arguments of what good work they have done. That is duty. Not a favour. When will they realize, that the public is paying them for their services. Is cheating them, an acceptable, ethical, practice? Is it lawful? What wrong did Mr. Katju do by holding a light? By speaking bluntly about an issue that has been ignored, shoved under carpet by Editor’s guild, and other bodies.

    When we read Indian news papers, or, watch channels, we do so to see how hollow they are. How much they twist, muzzle, abuse their power. But, Twitter allows us to question them. They choose to ignore and carry on their acts unabated. Isn’t that comparable to prostitution? May be those who are in that profession, have some ethics. They at least service their clients. But our media, which is paid for by the people doesn’t even give that due.

  2. twistleton Says:

    Yours truly begs leave to inform the BEA and the Editor’s Guild and the International Agency of Induced Hysteria, that they are being pompous and puffy old blubberheads, and are close to being nicknamed Nitpicking Sobersides forever.

  3. Faldo Says:

    Justice Katju makes very valid points and there is no question that large sections of the media are biased and do not seek to cover relevant issues. He can and must try to correct this by persuasion and debate. Where one could take objection however, is his demand for greater powers to curb the media. That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. While the eminent justice may have good intentions, this cannot be said of all other people in power. They could end up misusing such powers to browbeat the media and stifling fair reporting.

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