Prime Minister gets uneasy after defining ‘Journalism’

New Delhi, Nov 5: The evening of November 2 was happening one with an ex-serviceman’s suicide in the national capital and Prime Minister Narendra Modi  giving away the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism.

The event at the award ceremony was a grandeur with the presence of many dignitaries but many journalists were miffed to hear that PM Narendra Modi was invited for  the event. The  award-winning journalists started expressing their  irony. Some like Akshaya Mukul and Anna Vettikad didn’t turn-up after denying the award.

“I thought it was a bit too  much to receive a journalism  award  from a man  so contemptuous of  journalism,” said Akshaya Mukul,  senior journalist from Times  of India.

The prime minister, while addressing the media fraternity, spoke about the profession and prescribed a general guideline  on how media should not sensationalise news urging to join hands to present India in better light.

“Earlier, when an accident happens, it was reported that a  truck has ramped over  a  cyclist.  Slowly it changed and now  we can see that a BMW car has  ramped  over a Dalit.  This is how media ignites fire and sensitize news,” said PM Modi.

Following the PM’s speech, it is then Raj Kamal Jha, editor-in-chief at Indian Express, rose to speak in response to the points raised by Modi during the thanksgiving speech.

Here’s the very short speech. Read and commit it to memory.

“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.”