Editors as Power Brokers: Media must not cross the ‘lakshman rekha’, affirm top scribes

Foundation for Media Professionals organised a panel discussion in Delhi to deliberate on the topic ‘Editors as Power Brokers’ on November 26, 2010. The panellists included senior members of the media fraternity such as Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, B G Verghese, Krishna Prasad, Amit Goel, Shoma Chaudhary, Manu Joseph, Bhupendra Chaubey and Sunil Jain. The session was moderated by Vivian Fernandes of IBN Live.

The main focus of the discussion remained the Niira Radia case. However, other topics of journalistic procedures, integrity and ethics were also discussed. The panel members agreed that media had been entrusted with certain powers which should be handled responsibly.

However, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, independent journalist and educator, believed that the notion of such a power was merely an apparition. He said, “Journalists suffer from what psychologists call, ‘Delusion of Grandeur’. They meet the rich, powerful and strong. Just because they meet influential people, they tend to think that they are as influential as them.” Bhupendra Chaubey, a journalist with CNN-IBN also censured the use of clout by journalists to meet their selfish ends by saying “The new breed of editors is extremely pompous and egoistic.”

Manu Joseph, Editor, ‘Open’, the magazine that first carried the Niira Radia tapes story, maintained that journalism was still a very idealistic profession. He said, “Journalists are like artists, and dignity is the most important thing for them.” Shoma Chaudhary, Managing Editor, ‘Tehelka’, pointed out that the news industry was getting increasingly dependent on corporates, which was undoing their cause as media was not objectively reporting on them. “White-collar crime has to be brought to an end altogether. Corporates, too, should come under the purview of Right to Information (RTI). There should also be a legal transparency,” she stressed. Adding to the discussion, Sunil Jain, Financial Express, said, “Today, private treaties are as good as organised bribery. It is sad that the leading publishers are going ahead with it without any objection.”

Speaking on the credibility of news, B G Verghese, veteran editor, journalist and columnist, remarked, “At the end of the day, news is meant to be credible. If it is not credible, it is not news.” He also added that media must not cross the “lakshman rekha”. Krishna Prasad, Editor, Outlook, was of the view that media had to be criticised in the same way as it criticised others. “We have a culture which does not criticise media. However, it is essential for the survival and credibility of media that it is criticised if needed.”

Lamenting the current media scenario in India, Amit Goel of Pioneer, said, “It is a sad day that things have gone to such a pass that a seminar has to be organised on it.”

Session moderator Vivian Fernandes wrapped up the discussion by saying, “It is important that media points the search light towards itself and have a dog-eats-dog attitude. Only then will we be able to cleanse ourselves.”