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Girish Karnad – Dirty Tricks of TOI will not affect my political stance on Modi

On 5 July, at an event organized for the Chitra Film Society in Dharwad by its secretary, Abdul Khan, I was asked how I reacted to having Modi as the Prime Minister, given that I had criticised him earlier as a dangerous person. I replied that since the BJP had come to power through a perfectly constitutional process one had to accept and respect the verdict of the people. I said one should not be in a hurry to start criticising it, and  added that the fact that there was such uniformity in the voting across the country could be taken as a sign that somehow democracy was working in India.

          Next day, the Bangalore edition of  the Times of India carried the report on its  front page, discreetly  consigning  it to a corner although it added that I had expressed approbation of Modi’s government which I had not. But one is used to little  misquotations and  tweakings in Indian journalism. As The Hindu correctly reported it , I had said that ‘it would be too early to say anything about the style of functioning of the Modi government… Let us give him time.’
               I was therefore startled to receive angry emails from my friends outside Karnataka accusing me of treachery and selling out. It was only when Teesta Setalvad drew my attention  to it that I realized that other editions of the TOI had in fact projected the story entirely differently, displaying on the  front page my photograph with a saffron teeka on the forehead with a long story inside probably rewritten to match the mood.  I was amazed that the TOI should so openly turn itself into a publicity rag for the Right.
               But I was more bothered that my left- wing friends, who had known me for years, should so easily accept what the TOI said about me and start lambasting me with accusations of betrayal. If you wanted evidence of the impact of the media, here it was!.
I do not tweet or use the Facebook since I do not wish to turn my life into an endless response to ignorant comments. Perhaps as you and Teesta have indicated I should, in my untweeting Facebookless isolation, be more sensitive to the anxieties that are gripping the nation, and in particular, the Left.
               For the moment I can only assure you that the dirty tricks department of the TOI  is unlikely to affect my political stance.
                                                 Girish Karnad by email

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#India – #AFSPA rage: Manipuri Students’ Federation (MSF) bans #TOI, #RSS in Manipur

IMPHAL, Dec 31: Accusing the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of undermining human values of people of Manipur and the Times of India (TOI) national daily of alleged misinformation campaign, Manipuri Students’ Federation (MSF) today announced ban on functioning/publication of the two entities in the State with immediate effect.

Explaining to newspersons on its decision to impose the ban, MSF president Kh Seraj-uddin said inspite of the students’ body intima- ting to the TOI chief editor for an explanation on publishing an RSS functionary’s comment in support of persisting with AFSPA in State the genuine concern of the people of Manipur continues to be ignored by the national daily.

Construing that the Central Government remaining indifferent to over 12 years of democratic movement of Irom Chanu Sharmila for total repealing AFSPA from Manipur compared to instant reaction to a few days’ hunger strike by social activist Anna Hazare testify discrimination of the North East people by the Centre, he stated that the RSS functionary belittling sacrifice by the then MSF advisor Pebam Chittaranjan, who self immolated to demand repeal of AFSPA is outrightly condemnable.

Moreover, the Times of India publishing such irresponsible remarks amounts to disregarding interest and sentiment of the people of Manipur, said the MSF president apparently justifying the decision to ban both the RSS and TOI in Manipur.

He also urged the TOI subscrib
ers to contribute their mite in making the ban effective.

Read more here http://www.thesangaiexpress.com/tseitm-34151-afspa-rage-msf-bans-toi-rss/

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Times of India (TOI ) indicted for fake contracts and denying journalists PF

Journalist crusades against top Indian newspaper for justice

Saji Thomas

Saji Thomas

Bhopal: The Provident Fund (PF) department has indicted The Times of India (TOI) for engaging a journalist for nine years in the name of a fictitious news agency and depriving him of several benefits of an employee.

Saji Thomas, who had worked with TOI in Jabalpur, was summarily terminated without notice. The journalist joined the media company on December 15, 2000 and continued to serve it until December 15, 2009.

The TOI management also did not reply to his e-mails seeking justice to him, apparently as part of its strategy to escape from paying the minimum wages and other benefits of an employee.

Subsequently, the journalist approached the PF Commissioner seeking direction for releasing his PF. The commissioner, Ajay Mehara, however, did not act upon the complaint apparently under the influence of the powerful media house.

Following which he moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur Bench, seeking direction to the PF department to act upon his complaint.

The High Court in its direction to the PF department said, “… the concerned authority shall consider and decide the same in accordance with the law after keeping all the facts and facets into consideration.”

The matter was thus, referred to the Regional PF Commissioner, Bhopal, Dheeraj Gupta for adjudication.

The commissioner, in his order on November 29, ruled, “…I find that as per the definition of Employees under Section 2f of EPF and MP Act 1952 Shri Saji Thomas was working for the establishment with wages in or in connection with the work of the establishment and accordingly he is eligible for PF being an employee getting wages directly or indirectly.”

Besides the PF, he is also entitled for other benefits under the Act.

The modes operandi of the TOI, according to the complainant was that it (TOI) created a fictitious news agency – Thomas News Agency – in his name after obtaining a signature on a stamp paper.

During the hearing the TOI contended that the complainant was proprietor of the said news agency and hence not liable for any employee benefits as he was not an employee.

The PF department in its probe found that the TOI could not prove the authenticity of the firm which it claimed to have existing, other than the agreement to substantiate its stand.

On the contrary, the journalist produced stories published in his name in TOI during his nine years tenure, the passes issued to him for covering the assembly and Lok Sabha elections among other documents.

The PF finding also said, “…the agreement was merely a paper arrangement to avoid the legal liabilities.”

According to the complainant, the TOI adopted such illegal employment practice and deprived poor journalists of their legal benefit of an employee taking advantage of it being one of the market leaders in media industry.

“It is true that it got my signature on a stamp paper on the day of joining saying it as part of its employment practice,” Thomas said.

“In a way it is a fraud on the country to evade tax and deprive employees of their legal benefits promised under labor laws,” said the journalist who studied the law.

It is high time that the government conducted a probe into the employment condition of journalists working with TOI, he said adding, “This illegal practice was going on in the last 13 years with me and it must have been going on for several decades.”

“Just signing on a stamp paper does deprive a citizen of his constitutional rights and if this practice is allowed no employer will pay wages to an employee and the laws meant for employees will in effect, become useless,” Thomas added.

Besides this, the journalist has also lodged separate cases for back wages and his reinstatement with the Labour Court and another one for claiming his gratuity which is now pending in Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The TOI has a network of hundreds of stringers under similar fake contract across India and the order categorically says that even stringers are also eligible for PF.

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#India – Tehelka, Jhatka and now Tamasha #mustread

DECEMBER 2, 2013

Guest post by Satya Sagarjustice

Eight years ago I remember listening to Tarun Tejpal in Bangalore as he held forth on how the news media could change the world for the better. It was a gathering of journalism students from Catholic institutions around the country and Tejpal was impressive in his defense of media freedoms.

He was passionate, charismatic, extremely articulate and as Chief Editor of Tehelka- with some of the best stories of Indian journalism behind them- very credible too. After his speech Tejpal left in a hurry, like a star priest dashing off to his next flaming sermon and fawning audience.

I was the following speaker and was openly skeptical of Tejpal valorising the profession of journalism and the potential of the media in general to transform anything beyond superficialities. (At that time I had no idea Mr Tejpal would turn out to be the complete fake he has proved to be now.)

My simple point to the students and the media studies professors before me was –  there is no such thing as ‘journalism’ outside the framework of the media industry. The so-called fourth pillar of democracy was in fact the fifth column of capital- this role being somewhat hidden in the past but flaunted quite openly these days.

The business interests of the media owners were the single most important factor shaping the limits of journalism and the biggest threat to the ‘freedom of the press’ lay within the media organisation itself. Every journalist who ever roared like a lion at a press conference was sure to tuck tail between legs, while in his own office.

The security of a job and privileges of the trade were, for most journalists, far more important than the values of the profession they claimed to stand for. Nothing unique or surprising about this of course, as this is the norm in all industries- not just the media.  However, this abject surrender of most mediapersons to their paymasters is the real reason why they deliberately miss out on all the really important news stories that stare them in the face every day and instead pass off frivolous triviliaties as ‘scoops’.

Just as it is not possible these days to find religion in temples, mosques or churches; health in the hospitals; education in our schools; or revolution in the revolutionary parties – it is meaningless to expect any truth from the news industry. To rub it all I added, while there was a good chance of getting some insights into the society we live in by watching soap operas or cinema – for pure entertainment news channels are the medium to go to.

All this I recollect now as Tejpal – the much feted journalist, publisher, novelist, impresario turned alleged sex offender – faces arrest and is hounded by the rest of the Indian media. His story has hogged headline space for an incredible five days in a row already as if nothing more important is happening in a land of 1.2 billion people!

There is no doubt at all in my mind that what Tejpal is accused of – sexual assault on a defenceless young woman employee – is a shocking act of pure criminality.

Tarun Tejpal happened to operate in a circuit that was like the IPL of sexual abuse – where the high and mighty do whatever they please with anybody lower down the pecking order. He was part of a planet where power, wealth and fame not only acted as aphrodisiac but offered the bonus of endless impunity too. Preying upon (known in these circles as ‘scoring’) a young female, even one the age of your daughter, was just part of the daily ’20-20’ routine.

Further,  as the skeletons fall out come dancing out of the Tehelka cupboard, it turns out Tejpal and those in the top echelons of the magazine (at least in recent years) had turned against every principle they themselves preached the loudest. Suppressing stories in order to ‘monetize’ them, plugging on behalf of corporate sponsors, using media privileges to amass property and forging business alliances with known crooks. All this while getting employees of Tehelka to constantly ‘tighten’ their belts and slave on for the cause of ‘great’ journalism.

For this Tejpal should be tried and punished as severely as the law permits. Uptil now it seems difficult for him to escape a long time in prison and rightly so too.

Having said all this, I am not very sure if the rest of the Indian media has the credibility to do endless talk shows or write pompous editorials about the Tehelka editor as if he were a freak accident in their midst. Nobody it seems wants to investigate the fact that Tarun Tejpal’s behaviour was perhaps the norm and not an aberration in the media industry.

First of all I don’t even think most of the news channels or newspapers are  covering the story because of the gravity of the crime Tejpal is supposed to have committed. Anyone, who has followed how the 24 by 7 media really operates, knows all this frenzy is because the idea of a ‘rape in a 5 star setting’, with celebrities (Robert de Niro in a cameo role) at the center of the story to boot can send the hearts of their audiences racing and TRPs of their channels zooming.

“CCTV cameras show woman journalist walking out of lift and adjusting her skirts” said a ‘Titillation’ Times of India headline recently. Many journalists routinely punch out obnoxious sentences like that on the front pages of their newspapers every day deliberately insensitive to the context involved.

Years ago, working for this idiotic media group, I was pulled up for doing a story on the growth of the poultry industry. In an official letter I was informed that it was the group’s policy ‘not to promote the meat industry’- presumably because the owners were vegetable-loving Jains. Today even a casual look at the stories and visuals on their website would reveal the ToI is foremost in projecting all women as ‘meat’. Rape in particular is a favourite subject for this newspaper (being an important pillar of India’s ‘erectoral democracy’) and it would be very nice if Mr Arnab ‘Outrage’ Goswami grills  his bosses about this some day (the Nation wants to know you @#$%&!)

Secondly, some of the glee evident among mainstream journalists at Tehelka’s downfall is because the outfit was always an upstart interloper in the world of Indian media and never really accepted it as ‘one of its own’. As a new entrant in the media market Tehelka was willing to break with convention, both in terms of content and methods, immediately earning the suspicion of the defenders of old-style and more conservative journalism.

The ToIs, the Hindu, Indian Express, Hindustan Times and the numerous noisy TV channels that have emerged in the last two decades are mostly run by well-entrenched, family-run business groups projecting a facade of civilised norms while protecting the colonial kleptocracy called ‘India’.  When it launched with a bang over a decade and half ago, Tehelka’s operation was based on little more than sheer audacity, something the rest of the media (emascualted by the vested interests of its owners) had lost a long time ago.

Interestingly, despite its reputation for ‘rocking the boat’ there was  little that Tehelka’s famous sting operations revealed that the rest of the media did not already know or the public already suspect. Many journalists for example knew that top Indian army officials were purchaseable for bottles of Scotch or that cricket matches were being fixed for money and leaders of ‘nationalist’ political parties were taking bribes to sell national security. However, no news outlet had thecojones to take them up for the simple reason that attacking the Indian army, cricket and Hindu nationalism – all holy cows of the great Indian middle-classes-  meant bringing down their idea of what ‘India’ was all about.

‘Sabko nanga karne wala ab khud nanga ho gaya’ goes the typical refrain one finds on social media platforms posted by anonymous characters who have an opinion on everything and a stake in nothing. Some of this middle-class anger is now being reflected in the way the Tejpal story has also been taken up by the media – as a way of showing him ‘his place’.

(This is not to say that those who admired Tehelka’s coverage of communalism, state atrocities or other important issues have not been angry too at Tejpal’s criminal behaviour or at subsequent revelations of his organisation’s corruption. There is a deep sense of betrayal among many who had sought to use Tehelka as a media platform to raise issues of significance to the Indian public.)

If maintream Indian media really had an iota of shame or honesty – along with following the Tejpal story- they should be ‘outing’ the numerous other Tejpals who continue to occupy exalted status within their own hierarchies. Those cameras chasing the former editor of Tehelka, should go back to their media offices and record how junior employees- particularly women- are being treated every day by their bosses.

Some of them should also examine the track record of their bosses both present and from the past. Does anyone in the Indian media have the guts to investigate long-standing charges of sexual predation against women employees by the late and ‘legendary’ founder of a newspaper that claims to do ‘journalism of courage’? Will every journalist who ever won an award in this ‘great media defender’s’ name return it if they found evidence of his atrocities? Is anyone within the media even interested in finding out by tracking down and talking to the survivors of his predations and gathering such evidence?

Why confine coverage to just the news media sector- is the media willing to touch the sexual  shenanigans that happen within the Indian corporate and business sector in general? The case a few years ago involving a senior executive in India’s top IT company – was just the tip of the iceberg as far as rampant sexual harassment within India Inc. goes.

And if one chooses to look beyond middle and upper middle class India then the cases of sexual assault and rape are equally numerous and horrific, particularly in the construction industry where women are routinely forced to give ‘sexual favours’ in order to get daily wage work. Or for that matter among agricultural labour where institutionalised forms of sexual exploitation of women by landlords are passed off as ‘tradition’.

Also, given that the Tehelka story has gone beyond just sexual abuse to one of molesting the core values of journalism, the coverage today should be of how every single media organisation is in the vice-like grip of one major corporation or the other. Is the Indian media willing to tell us what are the kinds of bribes it accepts to publish promotional stories or suppress uncomfortable ones on a daily basis? Or even tell us who really owns their bloody publications and channels? Or, how many senior journalists have acquired land, houses, free junkets abroad or other favours from either the state or corporates for acting as their PR agents?

The list goes on but I do not expect the Indian media to investigate itself or its wealthy patrons- that is something  for the rest of the country to take up. The least one can do in the meanwhile is to switch off the television at home, throw the newspaper back at the newspaper boy and look out of the window to see what is happening in the real world out there. We don’t need big media to brainwash us and set our agenda as if we were the walking dead.

And some words here for activists, however well-meaning, who like to appear on TV talk-shows. The fresh experience of jhatka given by Tehelka to liberal and leftist causes should caution them against blindly lending credibility to the tamasha of the Indian media by rushing to participate in their hypocritical debates.

It is time to understand that the media is not a mere neutral messenger but among the masters of the vast slave-camp this country has become. What we need today are ways to directly communicate with the people of India while putting the 24×7 ‘StinkFest’ called the Indian media where it really belongs- in the dustbin.

Satya Sagar is a former journalist and public health worker based in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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TOI’s foot-in-mouth rape coverage #mediaethics #Vaw #reporting

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In its desire to give saturation coverage to such crimes, TOI led the way. But there were four oversights that ought to have been caught by alert editors. Politically correct terminology is not enough, says KALPANA SHARMA  in hoot.org

On Sunday, August 25, three days after the journalistic fraternity and many others in Mumbai were shaken by the gang-rape of a young journalist, the Times of India (TOI) announced that from henceforth it would use the word “survivor” instead of “victim” while reporting on rape and sexual assault. Its competitor in Mumbai, Hindustan Times, had already beaten TOI to this by using the term in its coverage of this dastardly crime from day one.

But TOI being what it is, made sure that its readers noted why it had decided on the change of terminology. If its front page announcement about adopting the term “survivor” after decades of campaigns by women’s groups results in educating readers, that is all to the good. But if it represents just a cosmetic change of using politically correct terminology, it means little.

To understand this, you only have to look at the coverage of the gang-rape in Mumbai’s English newspapers. On day one, that is August 23, all papers carried front-page stories about the incident. Of the papers this writer surveyed, none gave out the name of the publication for which the journalist worked, but all mentioned “photojournalist” or “photography intern”, thereby narrowing the field. TOI mentioned “lifestyle magazine”, narrowing the field even further. Two newspapers, Afternoon and Dispatch Courier and Free Press Journal, gave out the name of the publication for which the journalist worked. (However, when alerted to this, both editors responded speedily and removed the name of the publication from their web editions)

Why is any of this relevant? Because when covering rape and sexual assault, it is incumbent that the media ensures that no personal details of the survivor are made public unless she chooses to reveal them. Hints such as the name or type of publication in this instance, or the organisation with which a survivor works, or where she lives, or the names of her parents, her siblings, her best friends etc are exactly the kind of details that ought not to be in the public realm.

The restraint seen on August 23 remained only for a day. By the second day, August 24, given the predictable competition amongst newspapers to get an edge over their rivals, the print media went into overdrive.

In its desire to give saturation coverage to such crimes, TOI led the way. It devoted four full pages to the story including a substantial part of page one. At this point it was still using the term “victim” as the policy change would kick in only the next day.

There were four oversights that ought to have been caught by alert editors. First, in a story on page two by Sumitra Deb Roy about the health of the survivor, the reporter first quoted the doctor who gave out the barest details. But then went on to state that “TOI has learnt” details about the way the survivor was raped using the term “unnatural sex”. And then concluded by stating, “The hospital refused to comment on this”. She also quoted doctors repeating, “Her family wants to maintain strict privacy and does not want too many medical details to be divulged”. In other words, in the same story we know that the family does not want the public to know details, and rightly so, but TOI does us the favour by giving these out from its sources. This kind of insensitive reporting is an illustration of how merely a change in terminology makes no difference.

On the same day, TOI sent out reporters to the building where the survivor lives. Under the headline “Neighbours didn’t know of tragedy, friends back her up”, the story reports how the watchman did not know about the incident, nor did the neighbours. In other words, the TOI reporters informed the survivor’s neighbourhood about something that she and her family would have wanted to keep private. Is this the job of the media? Should we be exposing survivors in our desire to get scoops?

Third, in a story about statements of support for the survivor, TOI mentioned the religious head of one community. If a clearer hint were needed of the religious community to which the survivor belonged, you did not need a more obvious one.

And finally, both on August 24 and 25, TOI ran the photographs of the five accused with their names underneath. Surely, the editors would have known that by doing this, they could prejudice the case, as an identity parade has not yet been held.

In contrast, the other three papers this writer surveyed, Mumbai Mirror, Indian Express and Hindustan Times followed up on the story and gave more details about the location of the crime but none of them gave injury details other than what the doctors revealed, nor did they visit the building where the survivor lives, and they did not match the names of the accused with the sketches or photographs.

We have to see how the coverage of this case proceeds. In this instance, because the person involved is a journalist, the coverage is being followed closely. In hundreds of other cases, no such scrutiny is maintained, either by the publications, or by those who are concerned about media coverage.

As a result, irrespective of whether the media uses the term “survivor” or “victim”, insensitive errors in reporting at the cost of the privacy of a rape survivor continue.

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