It is sometimes difficult to understand our English media, not to mention our English television channels always ready to break news without providing the background. Now take this story. A Karnataka MLA recently announced his decision not to contest the coming Assembly elections after a CD had surfaced allegedly showing him in an intimate position with an “unidentified” woman, in a hotel room in an unnamed city. Several questions arise: What is the name and address of the hotel which must have been guilty of secretly photographing the alleged sexual relations between the MLA and an “unidentified” woman? Is it permissible for a hotel to have secret photographic devices installed in every bedroom to record what the occupant is doing? Is that legal? Is that officially sanctioned? Is the hotel by any chance, a commercial outfit of a spying agency or a political party determined to get political opponents into situations where they can be blackmailed into submission?
It is a well-known fact that at least some hotels have links with call-girls who are willing to provide their services to established clients for an affordable price. That being the case can anyone claim that the MLA in question was having an intimate relationship with an ‘unidentified’ woman? Besides, how can an ‘unidentified’ woman enter a hotel with a specific assignment in mind without being challenged by the hotel staff? Obviously, in this particular instance, the so-called ‘unidentified’ woman was obviously well-known to the staffers who must have let her in at an appointed hour. This calls for stern action by law-enforcers. Firstly, the public must be made aware of the nature and functioning of the kind of hotel in the prevailing surroundings. Secondly, the proprietor of the hotel must be sued for invading the privacy of a customer and fined heavily if not have his license cancelled. Thirdly, inquiries must be set up as to who it was that made the CDs available in the market.
It is clear that the entire event was pre-managed with intentions evil, to defame the MLA and destroy his credibility. Importantly, a whole lot of questions need to be clarified. One, can a hotel inmate invite a member of the opposite sex in the late hours of the night? In what way is the hotel management involved in providing sexual gratification to customers seeking it? Importantly, is a proprietor guilty of crime in installing secret devices in a bedroom for filming what is going on without the knowledge of the inmate? Questions, questions. And now to turn to another subject.
According to the just published Indian Readership Survey (IRS-2012) The Hindu is No. 1 in South India and has made “impressive strides in the National Capital Region (NCR) too. As a paper (March 31) noted, it has “retained its position at the national level with a readership figure of 21.64 lakh” and in south India is “staying ahead of English competitors by a huge margin”. It dominates the Chennai market,with a readership of 5.13 lakh. Hindustan Times (March 29) announced that it is the Number 1 English language daily in the capital for the 12th time in a row, again according to IRS findings. As the paper noted, “with a daily Average Issue Readership (AIR) of 21.83 lakh in Delhi-NCR, HT has a lead of 94,000 readers over its closest competitor, The Times of India. And it adds: “The HT newsroom strives for editorial excellence and quality journalism” and “while numbers alone are not necessarily the best yardstick of a good newspaper, we firmly believe that our success in Delhi NCR is a reflection of faith “the reader places in its brand of journalism”. Not to be forgotten, The Times of India (March 31) has pointed out that it is “bigger than its next three competitors put together” with its average issue readership (AIR) of over 7.6 million, dwarfing Hindustan Times’ 3.8 million, The Hindu’s 2.2 million and The Telegraph’s 1.3 million. According to the paper, in Bangalore, TOI’s readership of 5.3 lakh is more than two and a half times that of second-placed Deccan Herald’s 2.1 lakh and in Mumbai TOI is about thrice as large as its nearest competitor with a readership of 16 lakh compared to Hindustan Times’ 8.2 lakh. In Pune, TOI’s dominance has increased with a readership of 2.2 lakh against DNA’s 66,000. All this is very well but are these papers really as ‘good’ as they make themselves out to be? How many of them – apart from The Hindu – have foreign correspondents say, in Beijing, Islamabad, Moscow or Washington? How many of them give full coverage of Lok and Raj Sabha proceedings? How many of them have full length obituary columns on a regular basis? How many of them cover city magistrate courts and proceedings in both High Court and the Supreme Court on a regular basis? How many of them cover environmental issues and their impact on, say, seasonal rains?
Some of our leading dailies should be ashamed of the kind of female nudity pictured day after day in their entertainment pages. What kind of journalism is that? Can one presume that, if rapes in Delhi are becoming a daily phenomenon, one can only attribute them to the provocative pictures published in our irresponsible media? Editorials are getting increasingly flippant in tone and language, no doubt to attract the GenNext.
But then there is good news, this emanating from, of all places, Myanmar. Thanks to the steps taken by an allegedly reformist regime, the state is now going to have regular dailies. New freedoms are sweeping through Myanmar and 16 weekly news journals have now been transformed — as from April 1 — into regular dailies, meeting the needs of a news hungry public. After decades of rule by a repressive junta, the country is now having regular dailies and one can only hope that they will stand up to popular expectations. Myanmar is in a transitional stage and one can only hope that democracy will bring with it freedom of expression in its true sense. One can only wait and see.