Journalism in Goa

About journalism and media issues in Goa... all views welcome. Everything but slander can be discussed here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Photos: Hinterland of Goa

April 10 is the last day of the exhibition by Nirmal Kulkarni and Aasari, titled Hinterlands of Goa, at the Myriad Art Gallery, opposite Hotel Venite in Panjim (near the GPO area). 10 am to 7 pm. Nirmal is 9326107079.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Navy war room case... some Goa links

This issue has figured prominently in the national media. Is there sufficient follow-up on the Goa angles? Reporting on the Navy has tended to be a huge black home for the most... with by-invite-only coverage obviously not doing justice to the issues on hand.

Niraj Naik's DigitalGoa service said 6-Apr-2006 16:49:46: "CBI raided plant in Verna over Navy war room leak case."

Later, a report in the ET named the plant concerned. Below are some reports that show up the Goa link, and name officers whom some of us might have encountered in news conferences:

Navy war room leak case links

In particular, see Navy war-room leak: CBI raids 17 places. It says:

NEW DELHI: Almost a year after the war-room leak rocked the Navy like never before, and led to the sacking of four officers, the wheels of justice finally seem to be turning now after a long delay....

The CBI case, registered under the Official Secrets Act and section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, names nine persons for "conspiring to trade off classified documents and information relating to the defence ministry, the disclosure of which is likely to affect the country's sovereignty and integrity".

CBI, in particular, is eager to arrest Ravi Shankaran, the alleged "brain" behind the episode, who also happens to be the nephew of Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.

Shankaran and Parashar, former naval officers who took premature retirement to set up their own business, were the ones who allegedly enticed Rana, Jha and the then director of naval operations Captain Kashyap Kumar to "leak" classified information from the Navy war-room in South Block for monetary and other gains.

The leaked information, primarily of commercial nature, was apparently meant for international armament companies eager to bag lucrative Indian defence contracts.....

The government had handed over the war-room leak case to CBI belatedly in February only after allegations surfaced that middlemen were involved in the Rs 18,798-crore Scorpene submarine project and that the "recipients" in the war-room leak episode were also linked to French firms involved in the submarine project.

With UPA coming under fire from NDA, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee denied any wrongdoing in the Scorpene deal, saying it was completely above board. He has stressed that the "leaked information" from the war-room did not pertain to the submarine project.

* * * * * CBI raids premises of Naval chief's kinAdd to Clippings

Sources said that the CBI had filed the FIR over 15 days ago but had been waiting for Parashar to return before starting arrests and conducting raids. Raids were conducted in 17 locations in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Muzzafarpur, Chandigarh and Goa.

Another key accused in the case Lt Commander (Retd) Ravishankaran, the nephew of Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, is still in London and the CBI is waiting for his return from London before proceeding against him, He is also named in the CBI FIR.

The factory premises of Shanks Oceaneering belonging to Ravishankaran in Mumbai and Goa were also raided. The CBI also raided the house of Manish Vohra, the chartered accountant for Parashar and Ravi Shankaran....

The entire leak was discovered due to an illicit relationship between Jaiswal and Indian Air Force ex-wing commander Sambhajee L Surve, who is also named in the FIR. Surve's wife had complained to the Air Force.

During that investigation, the Air Force counter surveillance team stumbled on to a pen drive in Surve's possession that led them to the entire war room deal. The Navy and the Air Force both conducted inquiries and three naval officers were thrown out of the Navy. The CBI was given the findings of both the inquiries....

The war room leak case has led to speculation that the Scorpene deal is also linked somehow to the case. CBI spokesperson Mohanty said that all aspects of the case are being investigated....

Scribe-bashing, when will it end? (Vidya Heble, 1991)

Scribe-bashing, when will it end?

[This article was published in the June-November 1991 issue of NewsSpeak, the quarterly publication of the Goa Union of Journalists.]

[BY VIDYA HEBLE] An assault on a journalist is, at the most, a nine-day wonder. If at all. Even the hue and cry raised over the brutal beating-up of O Herald's Anthony Fernandes on March 22, 1991 -- which actually brought to the fore the whole issue of assaults on (and freedom of) the Press -- has died down to a mere memory.

This statement is justified because the long history of attacks on journalists shows up precisely this. As a GUJ pamphlet puts it, the list of those who have been attacked or threatened down the years -- even if one takes only recent years -- makes "frighteningly long reading".

Going by available records alone, it started as far back as around 1979. Then Gomantak correspondent Kalidas Kanekar was assaulted by the Police during the Collem teachers' agitation.

It has now come to the most recent assault on Anthony Fernandes by goondas. In between, there have been many cases, involving unknown elements, mobs and even the Police as those responsible. Which, in parenthesis, leads one to wonder whether the only difference between goondas and policemen is that the latter are in uniform.

Among the other victims of assaults who suffered as a direct result of discharging their journalistic duties have been Gomantak correspondents Vishal Kalangutkar and Ramnath Dessai, O Herald photographer Menino Afonso (in two different cases), Rashtramat executive editor Sitaram Tengse, Gomantak Times correspondents Freddy Dias and Edmund Antao, Maharashtra Times correspondent Suresh Kankonkar, Tarun Bharat correspondent Sunil Fatarpekar, O Heraldo photographer Joe D'Souza, O Heraldo editor Rajan Narayan and the Navhind Times photographer Joy Vaz.

Besides, PTI, Gomantak and Gomantak Times have also received threatening anonymous telephone calls in the course of their publishing reports on various issues.

In all these cases, there has either been absolutely no action or the action taken has been so half-hearted and diluted that it has been of no practical use.

For instance, in the Joy Vaz case, the Collector of North Goa held an inquiry into the assault of the young photographer by a senior Police officer and other police personnel, in the presence of eye-witnesses. The Collector's report however concluded that there was insufficient evidence to press the charges, and the case was dropped.

After Menino Afonso was attacked, once again by policemen, GUJ tied up with the Department of Information and Publicity to issue armbands, for identification, to field journalists. This however, as inevitably it would when a careless bureaucracy is involved, backfired when armbands were sported by all and sundry, even departmental peons.

In the other cases, there has been no action taken to apprehend the culprits, and the only tangible official action noticed has been the provision of Police protection to Rajan Narayan and the offices of O Heraldo and Gomantak/Gomantak Times.

Why is this so?

GUJ (the Goa Union of Journalists) on its part has tried varied measures to tackle these cases, whenever it has received complaints to the effect.

In fact, the Joy Vaz case saw an impressive morcha and a dharna before the Police headquarters, with the Inspector-General of Police even agreeing to suspend the Police officer concerned, pending the enquiry.

And the GUJ action in the Anthony Fernandes case has been perhaps unprecedented, with public meetings held in Panaji, Margao and Vasco, morchas in Panaji and Margao, and a week-long chain hunger strike at the Panaji ferry point, besides memoranda and meetings with the Goa Governor, the Chief Minister and others.

The net result? Zero, it would seem.

Action had to be forthcoming from the Government. But what the Government actually did was to promulgate the National Security Act (NSA). This was never a demand of the Goa Union of Journalists, for the NSA is, as we are only painfully aware, much more often than not, misused; and the GUJ itself was criticised for this act of the Government.

But the men who brutally assaulted Anthony Fernandes are still free. And there is no guarantee that another Anthony Fernandes somewhere else will not be beaten near-unconscious at any time for penning the truth.

The reason for the Government's action -- nay, its hesitation -- to make even a definite statement on the whole case is clear. The people about whom Anthony Fernandes wrote, the people who then hit him with swords and iron rods, themselves enjoy political patronage. Immense money power is also wielded by this section, which makes politicians reluctant to antagonise them.

What then must GUJ do to secure justice to its members?

Drastic action seems to be the answer. What form should this take and how drastic should it be? The main weapon journalists have is their pen -- the power of their words. In order to use this weapon, GUJ needs the backing of newspaper editors and managements.

This is essential.

O Heraldo, Gomantak and Gomantak Times have been cooperative in sticking-up for journalists assaulted. But photographer Joy Vaz found himself in dire straits when his editor claimed that he had never been sent on the assignment at which he was assaulted.

Cooperation in this kind of a case is difficult to expect. And cooperation is essential to prevent field staff from being assaulted while covering agitations, morchas and the like, the newspaper could at least provide armbands stating clearly the newspaper's name, and this could be given to the staffer assigned to cover the event.

And when a case like this comes up, the newspaper has to support its employees, because it is while working for the newspaper that the employee suffers, and so it is as much an attack on the publication as on the individual.

It is desirable that the Goa Union of Journalists and the Goa Editors' Guild discuss this issue and work out a strategy, or at least, a loose plan, for concerted action in cases of such a nature.

For such cases will perhaps continue. As the people are more and more dissatisfied with the way things stand, as anti-social elements become bolder, as the Press beleaguered by competition grows increasingly vocal, lathis and iron rods will be wielded only more often and more forcefully.

We must be prepared. -------------------------------------------- Vidya Heble worked for the Gomantak Times in its early days, and after both reporting and editing for a number of different publications, is now based in Singapore.

Broken peace... fact-finding and the media

Supreme Court lawyer and human rights campaigner Nandita Haksar's (et al) just-released report 'Broken Peace: Fact finding report on the first communal violence in Goa' is now available online, for those interested:

PDF version (with annexures):

Plain-text version (without annexures)

Incidentally, the report makes some references to the media. It seems to have however overlooked the role of a section of the media in fuelling rumours that could have aggravated the violence.

Some of its references:

Page 2 of the Introduction: Thanks Preetu Nair for introducing the team to people who proved valuable in its investigations. Thanks Sujay Gupta of the Gomantak Times for inviting Nandita Haksar to participate in the discussion on communal violence.

Page 3: Subhash Velingker ... has a regular column in the only Konkani daily, Sonarprant (sic). Unfortunately, the editor of Sonaprant claims he is both secular and leftist. But many Goans, including Ramesh G Naik and Dr Pratap Naik SJ have expressed their concern about the growing communalization of their society because of the language issue (and) have expressed their anger at the Editor for publishing the vicious anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim articles by Subhash Verlingker. Father Pratap Naik, a linguist and in-charge of the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr wrote to Ms Sonia Gandhi informing her that the Sonaprant which is owned by Dattaraj Salgaoncar, mine owner and staunch Congress supporter, was sowing seeds of communalism and linked it to the violence in Sanvordem-Curchorem....

Page 20: The next day the newspapers reported that an illegal mosque had been demolished by some miscreants. Niraj Naik's SMS-based news service reported on March 2, 2006 at 10.29.07 IST: "Miscreants demolish disputed masjid at Goddemol, Sanvordem last night. Five arrested. The masjid was declared illegal. But court had stayed its demolition."

The language of this short cryptic message needs to be analyzed. The word "disputed" seems to suggest that it was a dispute between Hindus and Muslims which there is none. No one has disputed that the structure belonged to the Muslim community. Everyone agrees that the land on which it was built was government land. And that the structure had been there for more than three decades. It is true that the structure was illegal in so far as the land still belonged to the government on record. However, in addition to the mosque which was demolished there are on the same land a temple, hotel, a house constructed by the Sarpanch Baptist Fernandes within 150 metres of the madarsa-mosque that was demolished....

Page 48: The arrest of the Kashmiri "terrorist": When we asked how come the police told the media within minutes of arresting a man that he was a "terrorist" and subjected him to a trial by media, the SP (South) said that the media "happened to be present at the railway station" when the arrest took place.

The man arrested was not given an opportunity to call a lawyer and the media presumed him guilty even without any evidence. The media reporting and the attitude of the police had the direct result of putting fear into the Hindu minds in Curchorem. They became victims of politics of fear. The Hindu professional who had initiated this peace initiative told us he lost five friends who called him pro-Muslim and have stopped talking to him.

The challenge before the Goan civil society is to first acknowledge the ugly reality that the Sangh Parivar along with the Congress party are using the war against terror for their own electoral politics and communalizing the society and state machinery. This has resulted in the large part of the media to become party to this insidious politics, leaving very little democratic space for open discussions and debate. The only way to save Goa is to fight the politics of fear and speak out against all those who are responsible for trying to turn Goa into another Gujarat....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GUJ site gets going

Here's the new site created for the Goa Union of Journalists in early-April 2006. You'll find some photos to the years gone by, and a link to an e-book called 'The Net for Journalists: A practical guide to the internet. There's also another useful link to an e-book on covering labour issues and reports by past general secretaries to the GUJ taking stock of the years gone by. Do check it out...