Press Freedom In India of Today

How many times have you heard the big press editors raising the fear of press freedom getting curtailed?
How many times have you found journalists blaming the politicians for trying to muzzle the voice of the press?
How many times have you read articles lamenting that bureaucrats are trying to prevent the press from doing its duty?
From the banning of Salman Rushdie’s novel to questioning of Tehelka journalists, we have so many times heard the press protesting the imposition of curbs on its freedom. And why not? We all value the right to express outselves very highly and come to the defence of the press whenever there is even a perceived threat to its freedom.
Alas, when it comes to the Indian English press themselves, they are seem to have a different standard altogether. For them , freedom of press means right of _expression for the accredited journalists of their type only. And they feel quite alright to muzzle the voice of those they donot find in line with their own thinking. Some of us are aware of the rather lukewarm response of the ‘National’ English press when the journalists of the native language press are under attack.
A peculiar pejorative – vernacular press – is used for the press of Hindi, Bengali, Tamil or Telugu or any other Indian language. This term owes its origin to the Raj days when the rulers of the day had their own way of describing the people who were not like them. Incidentally, the dictionary meaning of the term vernacular is colloquial speech or argot – none of which is exactly used for a language of some standing.
Recently, there was a huge outpouring of emotions among the educated class of Bihar when Rajdeep Sardesai decided to once again use Bihar as an adjective. In his infamous article in the Hindustan Times, we found usage of words like Biharisation as if they had already replaced terms like hopeless, dregs and uncouth from the lexicon of English.
It was as if the editorial board of the Oxford English Dictionary had already adopted this OBBLISH term into its latest edition. For the uninitiated, OBBLISH is the special English used by the Oye Bihari Brigade or the OBBs. This is a special class of homo sapiens who are reputed to have been ‘educated’ at colleges like St Stephens and universities of UK – they are always INDIANS. They are a throwback to the days when going abroad itself was an achievement. Acquiring a degree abroad was the equivalent of being blue blood, even if the degree was in some obscure subject from some obscure university.
To come back to the main story, when some of us felt offended by the rather churlish language used by the leading OBB Rajdeep Sardesai, we chose to respond to him. We took great care as to not offend anyone’s sensibilities even though the tempers were running high. In a sense, we were justified to spit some venom in reply to the highly venomous bile secreted by Rajdeep.
The expectation was that if we are civil and respond with logic and politeness, it may have some impact on these OBBs. As some of us are rather ‘tight’ in expresing ourselves in English, we had to struggle hard to draft our responses which took several hours. The feeling was that if we express ourselves in a language of the People Like Them, we would be heard. The hopes were further raised since in these days of internet, the media houses do not have to use expensive paper to let its readers express themselves, just a few inexpensive bytes of HDD is sufficient.
But all our hopes were dashed. The OBBs have their own way of censorship. Not even one response that we crafted with such care has found a place with this article in the Hindustan Times. Dont believe me. Here is the surfer page of HT taken by yours truly a few minutes back.
And why not, HT was till recently edited by a fellow OBB with all the right credentials. Some of us may remember his aptly titled syndicated column Rude Food where he had chosen to denigrate the food from Bihar. His sole sample by his own admission was the food served during a night journey on a bus from Patna to Ranchi!!!
IBNlive, which has also chosen to publish the said article of Rajdeep Sardesai, scores somewhat better. They do have some 50 odd responses by the time I am writing this. However, true to style, prominence has been given to responses that are in line with the thiking of the People Like Them.
I have had several people telling their response has not found a place. There are others who found their responses moderated. Mind you these are not people who would write things that need moderation. That is the ugly face that press freedom has chosen to acquire in the republic that is India.
JP must be turning in his resting place of JP at Bansghat in Patna – alas this is the type of presswallahs for whom he won back press freedom during emergency!!!!.
By : TVS

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