THE Hindu, very rightly, has a high reputation for excellence in reporting and other related issues, but like many saints there are occasions when it slips. But before we come to that, the fact must be recorded that in recent times it has reached the highest growth among all English dailies in the country, adding an impressive 50,000 readers nation-wide over the previous quarter, according to the latest findings of the Indian Readership Survey, IRS 2012-2013.
In a report (January 31, 2013) the paper pointed out its current national Average Issue Readership (AIR) as 22.8 lakh marking a 4.1 per cent increase over the corresponding period in 2011.
“The Hindu with its 134-year record of ethical editorial excellence and commitment to quality journalism has reinforced its supremacy as South India’s favourite English daily and made impressive strides in the National Capital Region (NCR) too”, according to a spokesperson of the newspaper. Its editorial distinction is there for all to see and it deserve full credit. But one regrets its obvious hatred of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the manner in which he is denigrated.
In a report indicating the European Union’s ending of its decade-long boycott of Modi it said that “it was under Mr Modi’s watch that 1,500 Muslims were massacred” and Modi has not expressed his regret over “the bloodbath”. The Hindu surely is aware of what happened following the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the “massacre” of Sikhs without a single Hindu being killed in return. Surely The Hindu is also aware that riots in Gujarat took place only after the slow roasting to death – can we call it ‘massacre’? – of some fifty odd women and children. The riots took a tool of both Muslims and Hindus. It wasn’t that only Muslims were killed.
The Hindu is free to hate Mr Modi; that is its privilege, but words like “massacre” and “bloodbath” have a special meaning and must be used discriminatingly if the paper wants its name untarnished.
About the same time, the Delhi-based Hindustan Times reported that it is “No. 1 choice in Delhi-NCR” and has “re-established itself as the first choice newspaper among the more-educated and affluent households with a 2.15 lakh lead over ToI among SEC-A – a lead which has jumped by over 25 per cent in just one year. Said the paper’s reporter: “While numbers along are not necessarily the best measure of a truly good newspaper, we believe that our success in Delhi-NCR is a reflection of the faith you place in our brand of journalism.” The paper has an Entertainment Section and it has to be seen to believed. One can agree with the paper’s assertion that it has “constantly endeavoured to inform and empower” the reader by taking up issues that matter to him “from safety and bijli-sadak-paani to matters of national importance like corruption and inflation” but is that achieved through endless publication of pictures of semi-nude females in seductive poses? What kind of ‘empowerment’ is that? Is that what the “more educated and affluent households” what? I do not want to go too deep in the matter but what is it that this “brand” of journalism wishes to convey? Meanwhile, how many people are aware that India has dropped nine places to 140 in the list of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index, for the “world’s biggest democracy” since 2012.
A report notes: “In Asia, India is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow.” But to come back to Narendra Modi. In a tv interview, Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind chief Maulana Mahmood Madani said: “In Gujarat Jamiat workers on the ground have told me that in several Assembly segments Muslims voted for Modi. There is a perceptible change of heart, and circumstances are different now. I agree that times are changing. Muslims in Gujarat are economically better off than in several states which have so-called secular governments in power. Madani even said that though the government could create fear about Modi among Muslims, the minority community has “seen through these tactics”. Interestingly Madani also said “More Muslim innocents are wallowing in prisons of Maharashtra than in Gujarat. The Human Right record of several states with secular governments in power is deplorable and the economic situation of Muslims in West Bengal is shocking. These states don’t have a Modi at the helm. This is a grand reality we can’t ignore.” And this is the same Madani who played a crucial role in dethroning Maulana Vastanvi from the post of Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband in 2011 because he had praised Modi. I don’t remember any daily newspaper reproducing this interview.
The excuse can be given that it must have been watched by thousands of TV watchers and that giving it additional publicity in the print media is not worth it. one wonders. Madani did not talk to Muslim ‘massacre’ in Gujarat and ‘blood bath’ in Ahmedabad streets. Perhaps he was aware that Hindu blood also must have wetted the streets in howsoever small a measure. Modi is such an easy target for our distinguished secularists like, for example, Press Council chairman Markandey Katju and Sushilkumar Shinde. Justice Katju is becoming better known for the use of intemperate language than for any judicial pronouncement and is getting to be quite a joke and losing the average citizen’s respect. On October 15, last year he sought a probe into allegations of corruption against Union Minister Salman Khurshid. Why hasn’t he pursued the matter? On another occasion he called 90 per cent of Indians idiots and most of the journalists uneducated. Now he has crossed all canons of propriety by holding Modi responsible for the 2002 carnage, when no evidence to that effect has been presented by the SIT Deccan Herald ( February 20) strongly condemned Katju for his remarks ticking him off saying that “may have his personal views on people and politics but he cannot air them in public when he holds a statutory office”. The paper made it plain that Katju’s words “and functioning have not proved till now that he has done justice to his job (as Press Council chairman) but only confirmed the feeling that he is not the right man for it.”
By saying the things he has been saying, Katju, as Deccan Herald noted has diluted the authority of his office and lowered his status and effectiveness. It is better that he quits his office on his own than be a victim of public anger,even if Narendra Modi couldn’t care less. He has survived an irresponsible media in the past; he can survive in the future as well.