Journalists’ safety and media freedom both endangered in Indian election, panel warns
March 6, 2019 – 3:19 pm | No Comment

James Manor, Deputy Director of the ICwS Sue Onslow, CJA’s Rita Payne, Nupur Basu, and Salil Tripathi. For video highlights from the India Media debate go to https://youtu.be/RZ4zI-IACzE

By Raymond Whitaker

The traditional freedom and diversity …

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Journalists’ safety and media freedom both endangered in Indian election, panel warns
March 6, 2019 – 3:19 pm | No Comment
James Manor, Deputy Director of the ICwS Sue Onslow, CJA’s Rita Payne,
Nupur Basu, and Salil Tripathi.


For video highlights from the India Media debate go to https://youtu.be/RZ4zI-IACzE

By Raymond Whitaker

The traditional freedom and diversity of the media in India is under threat as never before from Hindu extremists who support the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP.

This was the conclusion of a panel of leading commentators on modern-day India who addressed a meeting organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS). at London University on February 18, 2019. The meeting, chaired by CJA-UK head Rita Payne, was told that intimidation was increasing with the approach of national elections.

James Manor “a war on the media”.

Professor James Manor, former Director of the ICwS, described the situation as “a war on the media”, with vigilantes characterising criticism of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, as “anti-national thought”. Pressures included concerted campaigns of threats and character assassination on social media, defamation suits, arrests on sedition charges and physical attacks, even murder, most notably the shooting of the editor, Gauri Lankesh, in Bangalore.

Modi had not held an open press conference in five years, according to members of the panel. “He just picks his favourites,” said Nupur Basu, an India-based TV journalist and documentary maker. Salil Tripathi, an Indian-born journalist now based in London, where he chairs PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said the Prime Minister believed he could communicate directly with the public, bypassing traditional media.

Salil Tripathi “oppressive laws being revived”.

Tripathi recalled the restrictions imposed on the media during the state of emergency declared by the late Indira Gandhi. However bad they were, he said, she at least stepped aside when she lost the ensuring election. “There were certain norms of democracy,” Tripathi added. “What is happening today is that the norms are being attacked.”

Oppressive laws, many of them dating from the colonial era, such as the sedition law, had always been on the statute book, but now they were being used without restraint. The “most dangerous aspect” was that the state, instead of upholding the right of the person who spoke, tended to look the other way when the person who claimed offence went after the journalist or writer. In the worst cases this meant violent retaliation.

Basu pointed out that the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked India 14th in its latest global impunity index, with 18 unsolved murders of journalists. Women formed an increasing proportion of those murdered. She had started out in journalism with Gauri Lankesh, never imagining that one day her friend would be killed with seven bullets fired into her, and that even after her death, she would be the target of torrents of abuse on social media.

Nupur Basu “regional journalists particularly vulnerable”.

The ruling party had set up what Basu called a “war room” to monitor the media, described in more detail by Manor. He said over 250 BJP monitors tracked journalists, editors and participants in televised debates, dividing them into supporters and critics, with some monitoring the number of times Modi’s name was mentioned.

The information ministry also had some 200 people scrutinising TV channels and compiling dossiers on how, and how much, Modi and his leading associate, Amit Shah, were covered. Proprietors and editors were pressed to improve their coverage, even to the point of telling them which of Modi’s statements should be re-broadcast. The threat of advertising being withdrawn by interests linked to the BJP was another means of forcing the media into line, and self-censorship was growing.

While journalists in the main centres had some protection from attack, Basu said “smaller fish” at the regional level who sought to report on corruption, pollution and illegal exploitation of resources were particularly vulnerable. Manor, who spends much of each year in India, recounted numerous instances of intimidation in BJP-run states. In one, police often arrested reporters critical of the local authorities, and telephoned journalists to threaten them. In another, journalists and academics were arrested on dubious charges of “taking money from Maoists”. A BJP leader in a third state, warning journalists to “mind what they wrote”, reminded them of the murder of a journalist in that state.

Tripathi conceded that public sympathy for journalists was weakened by the media’s own failings. Low standards of accuracy and impartiality had eroded public trust, giving “fake news” greater currency. Manor pointed out that despite pressure on the media to fall into line, the BJP faced an uphill task to retain office – historically, Indian governments failed to win re-election 70 per cent of the time.

But even if the BJP was defeated, Tripathi concluded, the norms had shifted when it came to the treatment of journalists: “I am not optimistic.”

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Malcolm Naudi: Comment on murder of Maltese blogger
October 20, 2017 – 12:18 pm | No Comment
Author: Malcolm Naudi 
A former Chair of the Institute of Maltese Journalists (chaired the Institute for 14 years consecutively from 2001 to 2014). Former Deputy Editor of the Sunday Times of Malta.

Daphne Caruana Galiza. – Pic Reuters.

The brutal murder of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed by a bomb planted in her car, caused shock around the world, not just among the journalism fraternity but also in political circles, especially around EuropeWikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a €20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of her murderer.

Daphne had a mighty pen. She wrote flowing, well-structured prose that bit to the bone. Frighteningly frank, she was not afraid to get personal on her subjects. She tested the boundaries of the Press Law, going beyond what many would tolerate, and faced countless actions for libel by politicians and individuals who felt offended.

 She was adored by many, but hated and feared in equal measure. She revealed so much that would otherwise never have seen the light of day – and in consummate detail. Face to face, she was soft-spoken and almost shy. She was three years younger than me and grew up in the same street as my wife, who remembers going to feed tortoises and hedgehogs in the garden of her house.

I edited her work when I was Acting Editor of the Sunday Times of Malta early in her career. I distinctly remember when I had to remove a piece in which she commented on a matter that was sub judice. I was also in her sights when I was chair of the Institute of Maltese Journalists for certain positions taken by the Institute that she did not agree with. Apart from her Running Commentary blog, which she started in 2008, she had two columns a week in the daily and Sunday editions of the Malta Independent newspaper, apart from editing a glossy magazine, Taste & Flair.

Daphne had a formidable network of informers and was the local journalist who, single-handedly:

  • released the local data from the Panama Papers, accusing then Energy Minister (today the Minister for Tourism) and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff of holding secret companies in Panama and trusts in New Zealand;
  • made allegations that the Economy Minister visited a brothel outside Duesseldorf with an aide while on an official visit to Germany;
  • cited a whistleblower who claimed that the Prime Minister’s wife was the ultimate beneficiary of a Panama Papers company; and
  • was a vocal critic of the opposition party leadership candidate, who went on to become the party leader, for what she alleged was his involvement in a “prostitution racket” in London and holding a bank account in Jersey in which the funds from the “racket” were deposited.

Hers is the first assassination of a journalist in Malta. She certainly had a highly influential blog (that invited readers to add their comments) and is credited with singlehandedly “convincing” the Prime Minister to go to the country last June, more than a year before the end of his five-year term. In 2017 she was listed by Politico magazine as the only Maltese among 28 Europeans “who are shaping and shaking and stirring Europe”.

The duty magistrate, who went on site after the bombing to initiate an inquiry, recused herself from the case after Daphne’s family filed a court application claiming she had a “flagrant conflict of interest”. The magistrate who has been appointed to conduct the inquiry, Anthony Vella, is said to be highly competent in this area.

Malta and journalism will never be the same again. There have been incidents of journalists being manhandled or threatened, but we have never seen anything like this. It looks like a Mafia-style contract killing, intended to silence the journalist definitively.

Journalists’ safety and media freedom both endangered in Indian election, panel warns
March 6, 2019 – 3:19 pm | No Comment
Journalists’ safety and media freedom both endangered in Indian election, panel warns

James Manor, Deputy Director of the ICwS Sue Onslow, CJA’s Rita Payne, Nupur Basu, and Salil Tripathi. For video highlights from the India Media debate go to https://youtu.be/RZ4zI-IACzE

By Raymond Whitaker

The traditional freedom and diversity …

Big Media ‘must do more’ to protect journalists
February 9, 2016 – 10:50 pm | No Comment
Big Media ‘must do more’ to protect journalists

By William Horsley
The big guns of the world’s media have found themselves at fault. At UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on 5 February, 200 senior media managers, editors and journalists from around the world, whose everyday job …

Middle East background prompts thriller
December 3, 2015 – 10:43 am | No Comment
Middle East background prompts thriller

Long-standing BBC editor Ian Richardson has exploited his wide experience of broadcasting and the Middle East to write his first novel, The Mortal Maze.
A thriller, the book takes in terrorism, espionage, corruption, love and betrayal, http://www.themortalmaze.com/comments.html.
Ian …

Real progress in Modi’s India .. or just hype?
May 22, 2015 – 9:47 am | No Comment
Real progress in Modi’s India .. or just hype?

Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India a year ago after inflicting a crushing electoral defeat on the Congress party and its allies. His victory reflected a broad-based desire for change and economic growth, driven …

Richard West: journalist and author who chronicled the last days of Empire
May 18, 2015 – 7:52 pm | No Comment
Richard West: journalist and author who chronicled the last days of Empire

By TREVOR GRUNDY
Soon after the quintessentially English journalist Richard West married the quintessentially Irish journalist Mary Kenny in 1974, he visited South Africa during the build-up to the Soweto uprising and the final days of …

Professor Faber: An obituary
April 9, 2015 – 3:52 pm | No Comment
Professor Faber: An obituary

Trevor Grundy on the life of the economist and adviser to the Zambian govt whose negotiations on mineral rights saved that country a fortune in 1964
Born August 12, 1929
Died February 26, 2015 aged 85
Historians examining …

Bangladeshi brothers building on a great tradition
January 5, 2015 – 11:13 am | No Comment
Bangladeshi brothers building on a great tradition

By SYED BELAL AHMED
 
For more than 200 years the British ruled in India. On their departure in 1947, they left many legacies in which culinary tradition played very little part. Back on British soil however, a …

‘Myths and realities’ around Mandela examined at London seminar
November 21, 2014 – 11:04 am | No Comment
‘Myths and realities’ around Mandela examined at London seminar

By TREVOR GRUNDY
Nelson Mandela’s membership of the South African Communist Party  will be one of the main topics up for discussion in London on December 5 when the Institute of Commonwealth Studies hosts a one- …

Do they know it’s Christmas in Muslim West Africa?
November 19, 2014 – 12:00 pm | No Comment
Do they know it’s Christmas in Muslim West Africa?

CJA member TREVOR GRUNDY reports on the latest version of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign in the fight against ebola.
Children in Britain think it’s a Christmas Carol like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry …

How safe is it to be a journalist in Pakistan?
August 7, 2014 – 3:30 pm | No Comment
How safe is it to be a journalist in Pakistan?

CJA member Ragasudha Vinjamuri reports on a discussion on the state of the media in Pakistan and how journalists are under increasing threat from militants.
Read her report here AV_CJA (2).
The discussion was held at the University …

How Glasgow proved itself a worthy host
August 3, 2014 – 10:34 pm | No Comment
How Glasgow proved itself a worthy host

A personal view of the success of the Commonwealth Games, by ALINE DOBBIE
Sitting waiting on a gloriously hot evening in Glasgow for the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was an interesting experience.  I am …