Journalists here are joining heads to find solutions to problems that plague the media in Goa.
PANAJI (Goa), Sept 20: Journalists in Goa are showing a greater tendency to concede that they need to stem the rot attacking their profession, even as concerns grow that the problems are spreading fast.
From journalists flirting with politicians — both the ruling party and the Opposition — to a range of other problems like editors acting as censors, politicians managing to block stories or blacklist journos, newspaper managements playing their own games to abet the above trends, journalists taking undue favours, and even misuse of office or corruption … all these and more problems plague the media in Goa.
Journalists here are joining heads to find solutions to what some see as a worsening problem. Ironically, the issue boiled over after a high profile spat involving the outspoken if controversial editor of the Herald (formerly O Heraldo), Rajan Narayan. But while some journalists voiced their concern, others blamed editors including Narayan for themselves contributing to the rot over the years, or actually contributing to the problem when others were involved.
Goa BJP government’s ham-handed handling of the situation, and chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s growing intolerance towards reporting he didn’t like, apart from alleged BJP attempts to incorporate a section of journalists, has added to the feeling of disquiet among the journos who attended a specially-called meeting on Friday morning.
“It seems that every two days a clarification goes to the Indian Express. (Former journalist and controversially-appointed information department director) Rajesh Singh seems to be having no other work than issuing clarifications,” charged Raju Nayak, correspondent for the outstation Express that has come to be known for its critical style of writing.
Nayak, a former editor who pointed out that even former Congress CM Ravi Naik had used pressures on the Press, however said the situation now being seen was that a few preferred journos were being selectively leaked state information while others were discriminated against.
Nayak pointed out that after a long spell, columns had been started in a section of the press, critiquing the behaviour of journalists, and discussing issues “which had not been raised before”. He felt that the Goa Union of Journalists, which was meant to be a trade union and professional body, had been virtually converted into a ‘cultural club’.
Other journalists voiced their concern that not a single editor had opted to join in this meet. Said veteran journalist Devika Sequeira: “The editors are a big obstacle. It is the editor who is the main person and has the power to stop (things going wrong). We need to tell the editors that we don’t appreciate what is happening.”
Some present agreed with the need for journalists to have a voluntarily-implemented code of conduct for themselves. Commented Flaviano Dias, a respected trade union leader and retired PTI correspondent in Goa: “When we talk of freedom of the Press, who’s freedom is it really? After Goa became free (in 1961), was there any report on mining (as long as the media was controlled by the mining lobby)?”
Tara Narayan, wife of the Herald editor Rajan Narayan, outlined the background to the controversial case that led to allegations of chief minister Parrikar interfering in the working of the Press, and a public announcement of Rajan Narayan’s resignation plans from the paper he was editor of for the past two decades.
(Chief minister Parrikar has separately denied any involvement in this issue, saying “I don’t talk to (newspaper) managements.” But some journalists present disputed this claim.)
“A minister is a public person. I just wrote about his eating habits (at a roadside kiosk in Mapusa in the context of the jaundice problem attacking parts of Goa, and the consequent state clampdown on roadside eateries). It was in any case an interesting story to read,” she explained.
Tara Narayan said proprietors seeking political patronage for businesses were affecting the media. She said she had been stopped from being published through a memo passed on through junior staff.
Said she: “Rajan wants to fight my battle… it’s a question of twenty years of being exploited, tortured and humiliated. I don’t know whether he’s going to leave the Herald or still be there. It’s his decision.”
She said “politicians and chief ministers” should not be so sensitive. “The silence of the press is deafening, specially in Goa (on such issues),” she suggested. But some present, including this writer, argued that editors like Rajan Narayan had himself blocked other journalists in the past, and sought to make a case that differing standards were being adopted in different cases.
Bosco Souza Eremita explained how he himself had been victimised for writing about an alleged Rs 100 million scam, in which he had indicted then ruling politician Dayanand Narvekar.
Other journalists voiced concern about the blocking of information reaching the media through officials, since all of it being concentrated in the hands of the chief minister. Even ministers were failing to have the information pertaining to departments they were supposedly heading, they said.
Said Raju Nayak: “Parrikar runs the government like a one-man show. If we phone him he won’t talk (to those who are not in his good books). If I phone the police and say it’s the Indian Express that’s calling, they say an ‘I’m sorry'”
Various speakers lashed out against the unholy nexus of politicians, editors and managements ganging up to block the truth getting out in the media. Some acknowledged that journalists were themselves at fault for not carrying out their duties without bias and favour.
Many stories were narrated about how stories had been blocked. In just one of the latest cases, the killing of seven bison in Sanguem taluka had been blacked out from the English-language press till well over a week after the incident, allegedly because of the influential nature of the person involved.
The Indian Bison is Goa’s state animal, and is protected by Schedule I status. But beyond this, the case raises questions about the ability of the media to block information from its own citizens, in cases it so chooses to. This incident happened at Bela, Sancorda in the remote south-eastern taluka of Sanguem, some 55 kms from here.