The Press is considered the opinion-leader and opinion-maker in a democracy. Journalism, which was considered a mission in the pre-Independence era, has now emerged as ?journacracy? with the remote control held by the ?journocrat?, says the author. The journocrat never desists from masquerading as a ?kingmaker? of politicians.
For the sake of argument and to justify his observations, the author compares two different attitudes regarding the Press as experienced by the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, of Independent India and the first Press baron who took over from the British. Nehru wanted the Indian Press to enjoy freedom, both from Government control and manipulation by money power. He favoured a completely free Press with all the dangers included in the misuse of that freedom. He was against a surrendered or regulated Press. For Nehru, the term ?freedom of Press? was not restricted to interference by the government only as he once clarified, ?Freedom of the Press usually means non-interference by government but there is such a thing as interference by private interests. I am unable to understand how a small group represses the freedom of the Press.?
What Nehru had hinted as ?interference by private interests? manifested itself in the 1950s in the form of widespread allegations that the Press Trust of India did not cover events which could adversely affect the business interests of Ramkrishna Dalmia. Tracing the history of the Indianisation of the fourth estate, the author tries to explain the entire story of how R.K. Dalmia purchased The Times of India before Independence, when ?such a British paper was not available either to Indians or to Europeans. That was why the deal was struck secretly within so short a time??in the words of Dalmia himself.
It is said that the proceedings of Dalmia'strial at the Delhi Sessions Court were reported by A. Balu, who was reprimanded by Dalmia. Balu asked him to take up the matter with the Delhi-based managers of PTI and a historical stricture was passed against PTI. As the first Press Commission condemned the PTI as an agency of distrust for it was owned by the same publishers who owned the newspaper, hence the transfer of PTI to a public corporation was demanded.
Many interesting incidents are related about how the private barons utilised (though the word ?misuse? would be better) the Press to serve their own vested interests.
At the end of the book the author lists journalists under different categories like Hiranmay Kalekar as ?conventional moralist?, Chelapati Rao and Chandan Mitra of Pioneer as ?trust-ridden editor?, Prannoy Roy or Vinod Mehta as ?clean state variety? and Arun Shourie as ?twinkle-twinkle constellation? and so on.
This book is meant essentially for those engaged in the field of journalism.
(Media Research Centre (Proposed), B-1/17 Moraya Residency-1, Sus Road, Pune-411 021.)