Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The farce that is Editors Guild

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
It was amusing (to use a mild word) to see this report in The Hindu on Wednesday morning:
At first I thought this was some “eminent citizen” group that is ranting. But it turns out, the Editors Guild of India has issued this statement (and many more such gems).

“The Guild articulated the hope that Ministers and officials would continue to be as forthcoming with the media as they were while marking the government’s completion of 100 days in office”
This is a loaded statement. But to simplify it, this is what I understood. The 100 day Press conferences were very good. Now, here’s my question then – Can the Editors Guild of India point to five, just five articles/op-eds, that have dissected the Pressers by the Ministers? Just five articles that tell us in detail what the Ministers spoke of; how much truth lies in what they said; how they have measured up to the new challenges etc? They will fail to provide us with this data.
Secondly, why does the Editors Guild want a running commentary on matters of governance? All relevant information is being reeled out through Press releases and social media statements. Periodic Pressers are happening on matters related to the Ministry – in spite of all this, what more “special access” is this group demanding?
Next up is this statement:
“That the Prime Minister would interact with the Indian media as well on the lines of his interactions with the international media.”
The Prime Minister gave one interview to CNN. Just one. And that too, a short one. The Editors Guild of India suggests that he has had many more interactions with the “international media” than with our media. The question I wish to ask here again – Why does this group want running commentary from the Prime Minister’s Office?
When some random BJP leader made a comment on rape in some part of the country, there was a demand that the PM respond immediately. He responded in Parliament, and sought the help of leaders in stopping the psychological analysis of rape. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. The Prime Minister was on the ground, helping J&K Government with floods. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. He has had a loaded schedule on the foreign affairs front. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. He took questions from children all over the country. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. His Ministers have all given us a detailed report card of their 100 days. But too bad they didn’t talk 100 times in 100 days.
More gems follow:
” in restricting access to Ministers and bureaucrats in offices”. Guess what – the ministers and bureaucrats have work to do. What special access do you need other than access to regular Press briefings from the Ministries?
“Certain deficit in transparency in the functioning of the Government”. What exactly do they mean by this? Exactly which issue did they want to see transparency in and did not see it? Do they want the Government to give a running commentary on, say, the border stand-off with China?
“Diminishing access to information to journalists and the media runs against the grain of democratic functioning in an age of openness, transparency and right to information”.
Whoa! Such a heavily loaded compliment just for cutting down on unwanted access? Kudos Editors Guild and the entire fraternity you believe you represent. If you have any sense of responsibility, please cite at least five instances where you wanted to see more transparency from this Government and you were not able to. We will then have a discussion on them. Do not expect heavy usage of language will intimidate anyone!
The UPA has given sections of media this false sense of entitlement. And these sections of the media have basked in this glory so much that they are finding it difficult to get back to reality. Before I end, here are some nagging doubts in my mind — What is the exact relevance of the Editors Guild? What exactly do they do? Whom do they represent? Can we first gain some transparency into their working please?


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