An editorial in The New Indian Express (August 21) condemning Meenakshi Natarajan’s Private Member’s Bill for regulating the media and Information Minister Manish Tewari’s suggestion for holding examinations for journalists before they join the profession calls for comment. One hopes Tewari isn’t suggesting that politicians should also be examined by a Board of Psychiatrists before they are inducted into a Cabinet. That would make great sense and save the UPA a good deal of embarrassment. What sort of examination does Tewari have in mind in the appointment of journalists? Applicants, needless to say, are invariably interviewed, which is a normal thing to do. Tewari, it seems, has something else in mind when he says that journalists have to pass a test to secure “a license”. Secure a license? Now what is that?
Decades ago, there were no journalism schools and candidates for jobs were hired in good faith, if they had a minimum degree and showed a sense of commitment.
I am professionally speaking, a pharmaceutical chemist who gave up a top job in the industry to seek a place in the media. I knew neither shorthand or typing, two qualifications then for a reporter. This is not the place for my recounting such professional success as I might have achieved, but I might tell Tewari it has not been bad. Indeed he even might envy me. The point I make is that if I could turn out to be a success why can’t some one else?
In any event it is none of the government’s business to tell the media bosses who they should appoint and certainly it is not for the government to give ‘licenses’ – whatever that means. Which government in the past would have dared to question the credibility of the likes of M Chelapathi Rao, Khasa Subba Rao, Frank Moraes or Sham Lal? Is Tewari joking? And what credibility, pray, does he have to be an Information Minister? Does he have a degree in journalism? Has he covered any important domestic or international meeting for a leading paper? Does he know to report an event, any event, accurately and impartially? As a spokesman for the UPA Government he has only brought shame and disrepute to the profession, Ask me, I have covered international news in four continents and won awards.
As The Indian Express noted, “the seemingly uninformed Minister should realise that it has been a venerable convention in India to leave the media alone (except 1975-77) and to enable it to overcome its deficiencies through self-regulation”.
And may one make a short statement? The way Mr Tewari and his fellow party spokesman Digvijay Singh have functioned in the past, using foul and intemperate language against Opposition leaders makes one hang one’s head in shame. Neither is qualified to be a party spokesman, let along hold an Information Minister’s rank. Ask me again, Mr Tewari. I have been in the profession for the last 68 years. Thus The Economic Times (August 19) for example, warned the media to handle the Sensex fall with a better sense of responsibility. The Sensex has been steadily losing steam. The paper did its utmost to analyse the market in all its variations. Why did it do so, it asked, and itself gave the answer. It said: “We weighed facts, we crunched numbers… we reported what we judged was the truth. But what we didn’t do, what we never do, is create panic for the sake of big headlines…” The paper quietly defined the media’s duty.