‘Journalists belong on the edge’

Photojournalist Shahidul Alam and Dr. Prakash Amte present the Red Ink Award for reporting on Art to Vaishna Roy of The Hindu at the NCPA on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Journalists from all over the country gathered at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, on Friday for the Mumbai Press Club’s annual Red Ink Awards. Celebrating the power of questions — and the journalists who ask them — the awards this year honoured 32 winners from over 1,000 entries across 15 categories.

While Rachna Khaira from The Tribune bagged the honour of Journalist of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Sebastian D’souza from Mumbai Mirror and Dinu Randive from Maharashtra Times. The Mumbai Star Reporter award was given to Ranjeet Jadhav from Mid-Day.

Vaishna Roy from The Hindu and Faiyaz Ahmed Wajeeh of The Wire won in the newly introduced Arts category in print and television respectively.

Gurbir Singh, president of the Mumbai Press Club, started the ceremony by emphasising the low credibility that haunts journalism at present. “The general public today is turning on journalists, which indicates their lack of trust. Today, the public believes that we are feeding them with fake news and narratives,” he said.

As every year, the award ceremony featured a panel discussion; this year’s was on the topic, “Journalism is dead, long live journalism!”

It was moderated by senior editor, NDTV, Abhishek Sharma and the panellists included senior journalist Barkha Dutt, Mumbai Mirror editor Meenal Baghel and Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem.

Mr. Wangkhem, who was arrested last year under the stringent National Security Act for his criticism of the government, shared his story of the time he spent behind bars. “I thought it was my duty to bring out the truth. Once I was jailed under the NSA Act, the narratives of my truth in the papers changed,” Mr. Wangkhem said. He also emphasised the cost one’s family bears for that truth.

Speaking about the media’s credibility crisis, Ms. Dutt said that today, anything that is a small gradation from the dominant narrative is punished. “While some of us have the privilege of not being arrested for merely speaking our mind, journalism is structurally dying. Journalists have been left craving for ministerial access, news reporting has been put on the backburner,” she said.

Echoing the sentiment, Ms. Baghel said, “There is an inherent laziness in reporting today. We have forgotten the art of storytelling and how to stitch a news report. You have to write a story for the reader.”

Mr. Sharma concluded the discussion by finding a silver lining, that stories don’t hold much merit if they don’t make people uncomfortable.

The chief guests for the evening were Magsaysay Award winning social worker Dr. Prakash Amte and Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam. Dr. Amte, founder of the Amte Animal Ark, spoke about the positive effect of media coverage in increasing awareness. “Due to the media coverage, people became aware of their social commitment, which inspired them and other NGOs to join us in our initiative,” Mr. Amte said.

Mr. Alam, whose arrest last year sparked huge protests internationally, said he was released because of people worldwide who had the courage to ask questions. “Journalists belong on the edge, a dangerous place to be. You get burnt if you go too deep, but cease to become relevant if you move a step behind,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 7:43:43 AM |

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