A newspaper defends itself
A lot of people lambaste the media and some go to extremes. But it is unusual for the media to speak out and write something in it’s own defense. That was why I was surprised to read this article in the Times of India editorial page (not an ediorial), in which the newspaper defended itself against a vicious power point presentation circulating on the web.
The presentation criticizes a particular article by Ashish Nandy which contains statements against Narendra Modi and also some rather broad based generalizations about Gujaratis and other communities, including one that I belong to. Nandy wrote:
…Recovering Gujarat from its urban middle class will not be easy. The class has found in militant religious nationalism a new self- respect and a new virtual identity as a martial community, the way Bengali babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims at different times have sought salvation in violence. In Gujarat this class has smelt blood, for it does not have to do the killings but can plan, finance and coordinate them with impunity. The actual killers are the lowest of the low, mostly tribals and Dalits. The middle class controls the media and education, which have become hate factories in recent times. And they receive spirited support from most non-resident Indians who, at a safe distance from India, can afford to be more nationalist, bloodthirsty, and irresponsible.
Outrageous statements eh? 🙂 But yes, that is all that they made me do. Grin in disbelief that someone actually believes this kind of stuff. But not everyone was happy. In the presentation that I mentioned, Nandy has been called a psychopath (!) and all because of his rather extreme views which I am sure were written to be deliberately provocative. And unfortunately the people who made the presentation had no idea that The Times of India publishes all sorts of views and unless the piece is an editorial, the article does not reflect the views of the newspaper. But Nandy’s article has been misconstrued to reflect the views of the newspaper, and as a result the Times of India has been rubbished…called a bananna newspaper (!)
And the Times has responded to this criticism…a quote from the Times article:
There’s a power point presentation circulating on the web. It expresses the fury of some readers at the Times of India for publishing in these columns an article by Ashis Nandy that is severely critical of Narendra Modi and Gujaratis. It lampoons the Times, ridicules our journalists and ends by calling us a “banana newspaper”. I thought this might be a good opportunity to clarify to readers what this newspaper stands for and believes in, so that you know where we come from.
The newspaper not only clarifies that the anti-Modi piece was not an ediorial (and what people write under their names is their business), it says it is a ‘liberal’ newspaper and offers “a wide variety of opinions” to readers.
I wondered why the Times bothered to defend itself on this….because there is a lot of criticism about the Times of India today. It appears that everyone one meets is divided into two camps. The Times of India camp and the anti-Times of India camp. It’s difficult to find someone who is indifferent!
There are various articles floating around the web about the Times making money at the cost of ethics. One of these articles (this is an update) accuses the Times of promoting companies in which they have themselves invested. This is far more damaging (as it means that the ET will not give unbiased economic coverage) but the Times has not reacted to this to my knowledge. What they did react to is the hate campaign. There was no need to because there are strong anti-Modi and pro-Modi lobbies. And those who are pro-Modi object to anything negative being written about him. Take my rather mild criticism of Modi:
( 1) My headline said:
A third life for Narendra Modi
I got a message saying that I had no right to write a headline like that! 🙂
I had also mentioned that I have never been a Modi fan and my concluding lines were:
…I personally may not believe that Modi deserves to be Chief Minister the third term round, that he deserves to pay a price for what happened during the riots…
Now how mild is that!
Despite that I got some hate mail! 🙂 I simply ignored the sender. Modi has a lot of champions who will not tolerate any criticism against him at all, no not even anyone’s personal opinion as I think insecurity runs high.
The Times is showing signs of similar insecurity. They are probably nervous about the power of the web, and the power of Utube. For the first time in this century, people can compete with the power of a major newspaper in terms of reach. That Utube presentation can reach more people that the Times ever could!
Update June 08: It is interesting that the Supreme Court has come out in A. Nandy’s defence and has “restrained the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government from arresting social scientist Ashish Nandy in connection with his article in The Times of India. The court slammed the government for initiating criminal procedings against the journalist curtailing freedom of expression. ” A good move. I mean, if a person cannot express his views, what sort of a democracy is this!