PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

The New Jaataka Tales
-- By Rajendra Yadav
(Translated from Hndi)

We give below excerpts from the editorial of Hans of April 2001 edited by Rajendra Yadav. He has been a member of the jury of the PUCL 'Journalism for Human Rights' Award for some years. In this editorial he has raised some pertinent questions about Journalism as practiced in our country. In a way his comments are based on an impressionist content analysis of the entries that he read year after year. The questions he has raised at the end merit attention - General Secretary

For the past some years we have had the opportunity of being associated with the PUCL's 'Journalism for Human Rights Award' jury. Entries are invited from the journalists all over the country. The entries are generally in English or translations in English. The basis for evaluations are: situations relating to human rights, general importance of the topic, dealt assessment of its effect on the society, the risks involved in the collection of investigation, information and the follow up action.

Going through the entries we come face to face with the picture of the society which one does not see in the explosive news of opening ceremonies, ministers, mafia, frauds. The news published every day has no past or future. Riots, elections, natural calamites are reported daily. In this type of coverage TV journalism is ahead of paper journalism. On TV, no news has a life of more than thirty seconds. The same old scheming faces don't stair at you, making fun of you on your table. In paper Journalism human-interest stories may be seen on the 3rd or 4th page. But generally there is no follow up on the next day. They do not convey the idea that news is a result of the sufferings and the happiness, the fate and future of living persons. Human beings are just names and statistics. Imaginations are missing from professional journalism. Its absence not only converts news into just information but also make the readers insensitive. Here the journalist is a mere clerk who objectively reports the daily events - sometimes giving glossy headlines to the pontifications of the leaders who changed their positions daily, and sometimes making news of the incidents reported in the police dairy. His concerns do not go beyond this. At the most some intellectual analysis appears only on the edit page.

In such a scenario there are some journalists who are fulfilling their duty with dedication. This is reassuring. These people go beyond the deafening cacophony, into the dark alleyway of the society and take pictures of those ordinary people who are victimized everyday and suffer at the hands of the government. The police are entangled in religious blind faith. They knocked at the doors of all and sundry and are nicked everywhere. It is worth noting that about 70 to 80 percent of these entries have been from the south, year after year.

The material that the PUCL receives for its Award is an example of the social concerns expressed by some journalists. It rebels one's confidence shaken by the journalism one comes across in the North India. Tamil, and specially Malayalam journalists are very conscious of the social role of the 4th estate, as if they are aware of their responsibility in this direction. Malayala Manorama, Deepika, and some English dailies of the South lend their strength to these concerns. One comes across the stories of braking the limbs of the children to make them beggar, use of women and children for the sale of narcotics, trade of the kidneys of healthy illiterate persons female feticide, rape of small girls, sexual assaults, flesh trade, family violence, witch hunting to grab the property of widows, murder of prisoners in jail, custodial crime pining for justice for 15-20 years are the themes the stories that one has to judge. "We are calling them stories because these are not theoretical analyses. These are the stories of living beings with names, places, and the surroundings. The journalists have gone there themselves and put their lives in danger. They have tried to find the truth from amidst the threats of the police or the criminals. This is not the reporting of current events but is a follow-up series also.

"Talking of the new bread of journalists of the South and their social awareness, one cannot fail to note that these violations of human rights in small habitations and in villages, in homes and families are to a large extent from Kerala. Here one more question bothers one: Kerala is a State with almost 100% literacy. It has been ruled during the last 45 years by either the left or the Congress. All over the country the nurses in the hospital are mostly from Kerala, scientific institutions have fair representations of Malayalees. Flow of immense wealth from the Gulf countries, fish, cashew, coffee, spices, and coconut coir and flourishing industries here. In spite of all this why are such assaults on human rights continuing?

"These are some of the questions that bother me and informed left academics would rather look for answers. (Translated from Hindi.)

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