At the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards organised by The Indian Express, where Prime MinisterNarendra Modi honoured 37 journalists from across the country, Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha sent a strong message to those in power and in the media: “Criticism from a government is wonderful news for journalism”.
This comes at a time when NDTV India is facing a one-day ban on 9 November on the recommendation of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. This penalty is for allegedly revealing “strategically sensitive” details during the coverage of the Pathankot terrorist attack in January 2016.
Chief Editor of The Indian Express, Raj Kamal Jha. Courtesy Twitter/@rajkamaljha
The awards function also caused discomfort to some journalists such as Akshaya Mukul who refused to accept the award (and further boycotted the event) from Modi. Mukul was awarded the prize in the category of Books (non-fiction) for Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India, which looks into the making of Gita Press and its critical role in the formation of “Hindu political consciousness“. This ironically clashes with the Prime Minister’s politics (BJP and RSS, which finds its base in Hindutva).
In his speech, Jha thanked Modi for the latter’s strong message on maintaining credibility in journalism and mentioned that it was the most important thing journalists can take away from his speech. He added that good journalism was, in fact, not dying but that “bad journalism makes lot more noise than it used to do five years ago”
Transcript of Editor of Indian Express, Raj Kamal Jha’s speech, delivered on November 2, 2016:
Thank you very much Mister Prime Minister Narendra Modiji.
After your speech, we are left speechless. But I need to say a few things as a vote of thanks.
Your being here is a very strong message we hope that good journalism is defined it should be defined by the work we celebrate this evening, done by reporters who report and editors who edit. Not by the selfie journalists we see a lot of these days who are always obsessed by what they think, by their face, by their views, who keep the camera turned towards them. The only thing that matters to them is their voice and their face. All the rest is backdrop, a silly background noise. In this selfie journalism, if you don’t have the facts, it doesn’t matter. You just put a flag in the frame and you hide behind it.
Thank you very much sir for your speech, for your wonderful underlining of the importance of credibility. I think that’s the most important thing that we can take away as journalists from your speech. You also said a few wonderful things about journalists that makes us a little nervous. You may not find it in Wikipedia, but Shri Ramnath Goenka, and it’s a fact and I can say that as the Editor of the Indian Express, he did sack a journalist when he heard that the Chief Minister of a state told him that, “Aapka reporter bahut achchha kaam kar raha hai.” That’s very very important especially in an age, and I turn 50 this year so I can say that, when we have a generation of journalists who are growing up in an age of retweets and likes. And they do not know that criticism from a government is a badge of honour.
So just as they do in smoking scenes in cinemas, I think we should have a ticker tape running whenever we hear praise of a journalist that criticism from a government is wonderful news for journalism. I think that’s very, very important for journalism.
Thank you sir for your speech. You made some wonderful points. I think the most important point was of credibility and I think that is very very important. We cannot blame the government for that, that is our job, we need to look within and we will surely reflect on your remarks.
Thank you to the winners of the Ramnath Goenka Journalism Awards. There are two remarkable facts about this year’s awards, which I want to share with you. We got 562 applications, this is the highest ever we got in the last 11 years, from 128 news organisations. This is also the highest ever and it is very important for me to underline this number because this is a reply to those who say good journalism is dying, that journalists have been bought over by the government. It is not that good journalism is dying, not at all. It is getting better, and it is getting bigger. It is that bad journalism makes a lot more noise than it used to do five years ago. And that is why I think the remote control should get the RNG Award for Excellence in Journalism. And so that is why I would like to request you to lend a hand to all those who have won the award this year.
In the end, thank you to all of you who have come here this evening. There are people from the government, there are people from the Opposition, we know who is who. But when they applauded journalism, it did not matter. You could not make out who is in the government and who is in the opposition. That is the way it should be. Thank you very much.