“It has been a memorable session”, said a prominent delegate as he shook hands with President Mani at the conclusion of the two-day meet. In more ways than one, it was.
For the first time in the 10 year existence of the All-India Newspaper Editors’ Conference, five of the senior most members failed to be returned as members of the Standing Committee. They were ex-President K. Srinivasan of Hindu (Madras) and CR Srinivasan of Swadeshmitran (Madras), Goenka of the “Express” chain, JN Sawhney of Press News Features and Mr Johnson of Statesman.
It was a painful surprise. But the surprise was not without its meaning. The much respected Srinivasans would not have lost but for their association with illegal reversal of the Bombay Special Session Resolutions (calling for active protest against the Constitutional Amendment abridging Freedom of Speech) in last year’s Standing Committee. The election results having done the necessary job of registering the Conference’s protest, Mr Mani did the only right thing in the circumstances, viz. nominating the Big Fallen Five on the Standing Committee.
Guruji wires Ansari
“If is for that same great cause for which you are working that your life is necessary; so I appeal to you to relinquish your fast,” says Sri Guruji in a telegram sent to Shri Riaz Ansari, a prominent Muslim social worker of Gorakhpur, UP who is fasting since September 1, for getting cow-slaughter banned throughout UP as also for the return to the Hindus of Ram Janma Bhoomi at Ayodhya. While commencing his fast Shri Ansair had requested Muslim legislators and ministers of UP to do the right thing in both the matters if they were really nationalist Muslims.
Inaugurating the session Vice-President Radhakrishnan struck the right note by testifying to the good standards of Bharati press Dr Keshar’s address was a prepared affair with its intriguing dichotomy of the “majority press” and the “minority Press”.
The judge no less than the jury (unanimously) held that the matter published was “objectionable”—not “guilty”—but since the evidence adduced and apology published did not suggest bad faith, no action was called for. “If this is a ground calling for the censure of the jury as”…………………………”I fear it is not very far from contempt of court.
Three of the resolutions passed at the conference had a more than journalistic interest.
The first of these was the acceptance of Hindi as the official language of the Conference, along with English. This would not only enable delegates to address the Conference in Hindi but would require the publication of agenda, proceeding and other reports etc in Hindi also.
The other related to accreditation of correspondents. Considering the fact that only accredited correspondents have access to news sources, arbitrary denial of accreditation amounts to a sabotage of the freedom of the press. The central Advisory Committee which exercises discretion in the matter has therefore, been a major grievance of the capital’s Journalists.
An even more significant resolution called upon the Government to distribute its advertisements to papers regardless of their political policy.
Taking advantage of this weakness of the press, the Government is known to patronise its friends by giving advertisements and punish its political adversaries by with holding the same. A Madras English weekly with a claimed circulation (uncertified by any competent agency) of 5,000 receives Government advertisements, but not Organiser, with its certified circulation of over 10,000. Even more glaring instances of bribe—and –blackmail were forthcoming from West Bengal.
Whether the Government would do much or quickly about reforming this state of affairs may be too good to hope. But that conservative A-I.N.E.C should adopt these resolutions is a measure of their truth and the strength of their demand. It should help A-I.N.E.C become a truer representative of the press.