When Indian Express editor gave Modi a masterclass on journalism, left PM embarrassed

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This year’s Ramnath Goenka Awards was embroiled in controversy after a Times of India journalist Akshaya Mukul refused to accept his award from Prime Minister Modi.

Justifying his reason to boycott this year’s awards Mukul had said, “I cannot live with the idea of Modi and me in the same frame, smiling at the camera even as he hands over the award to me.”

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Modi, for his part, praised the bold journalism of Indian Express and how even its founder Ramnath Goenka was a victim of Emergency.

Modi also said that credibility was the biggest challenge for media in the age of technology and it is important for media establishments to maintain it.

Then, it was the turn of the paper’s editor-in-chief, Rajkamal Jha’s turn to speak to thank his chief guest, which in this case was Modi. And what Jha said to Modi left the prime minister incredibly embarrassed and content of his speech will arguably be preserved in the handbook of journalism.

He said, “We hope that good journalism should be defined by the work we celebrate this evening, done by reporters who report and by editors who edit and not by the selfie journalists we see a lot these days.”

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He added, “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.”

Jha continued, “..criticism(for journalists) from a government is a badge of honour.”

Then came this killer blow, “You said some wonderful things about journalists which 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 a CM of a state telling him, “Aapka reporter bahot accha kaam kar raha hai”.”

He concluded by saying, “Good journalism is not dying; it is getting better and bigger. It’s just bad journalism makes lot more noise than it used to do five years ago.”

Here are the excerpts of Jha’s speech

“Thank you for your speech, Sir. Your being here is a very strong message. We hope that good journalism should be defined by the work we celebrate this evening, done by reporters who report and by editors who edit and not by the selfie journalists we see a lot 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 own voice and their own face. All the rest is backdrop or 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 journalists can take away from your speech.

You said some wonderful things about journalists which 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 a CM of a state telling him, “Aapka reporter bahot accha kaam kar raha hai”.

That’s very, very important, especially in this age, and I turn 50 this year and 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 like what they do in smoking scenes in cinema, I think we should have a tape running in mind when we hear praise of a journalist, that criticism from a government is wonderful news for journalism. I think that’s very important.

Thank you sir, for your speech. You made some wonderful points. I think the most important point was credibility. We cannot blame the government for that. That is our job, we need to look within and we will surely reflect on your remarks.

This year for Ramnath Goenka Award, we got 562 applications. This is the highest ever and this is very important to me to underline this number because this is the reply to those who say that good journalism is dying, that journalists have been bought over by the government.

Good journalism is not dying; it is getting better and bigger. It’s just bad journalism makes lot more noise than it used to do five years ago. And that is why I think the remote control should get the R&G award for excellence in journalism.”

(With inputs from website DailyO)

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Socho generalists, when Rajeev gandhi officially changed muslim law to marry 3 wives no body objected. When Indira Gandhi declared emergency not body talked even Newspapers said it’s better now. But now Terrorist are killed are papers talked the atrocious nature of Modi Government.schophency at its best.

    • “When Indira Gandhi declared emergency not body talked …”. Stop spreading misinformation. I, for one, have seen newspaper spaces being left blank to protest against the muzzling of media during Emergency. There might have been some sycophants then too, but you cant justify all bad eggs today for few bad eggs then.

  2. Stop lying Girish. When Rajiv Gandhi used an ordinance to overturn the court’s decision in the Shah Bank case. Media called him out on it.

    Mr. Goenka went to jail for criticizing Indira Gandhi during the emergency.

    You just want to highlight the bad journalism of that era to justify today’s bad journalism. That’s typical of all you Aaptarded Khangressi Bhakts.

  3. These journos should be thankful that they can and are allowed to speak their mind with impunity even in front of the highest authority in land.. that in itself speaks volume about state of freedom of press and speech in India now (under Modi). Few years ago similar jibes would have ended not just their career but left them high and dry if not eliminated altogether..

    Some people have never get to rise and accept ground realities..

  4. Let us put the Patrakar Parivar in the right perspective. Majority of the journalists are third rate ones for the simple fact that there is no competitive entrance examination or development of the skills. They are on par with the lawyers as they have the common interest – self above the country. We must make it as competitive as for other professions and then we can see a change. Cio

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