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HomeJournalists belong on the edge, a dangerous place to be: Shahidul Alam

Journalists belong on the edge, a dangerous place to be: Shahidul Alam

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Image Courtesy : MumbaiPressClub Twitter

As a messenger of news, a Journalist’s role is neither easy nor comfortable. Defining the parameters of the profession, world-renowned Bangladeshi Photojournalist Shahidul Alam, speaking as the guest of honour at the RedInk Awards for Excellence in Journalism at the Jamshed Bhaba Hall on Friday night, said, “Journalists belong on the edge, a dangerous place to be. You get burnt if you go too deep, but you cease to be relevant if you move back too far.”

Illustrating what he meant by the ‘edge’, Alam said that it is a constantly changing position based on ever-changing circumstances; and the journalist’s job is to keep redefining where the ‘edge’ lies.

He also highlighted that the profession was always under pressure from inducements and threats by those in power, and the challenge of journalism was to find a way around it. Giving an example of the Bangladesh Press that had been waging a battle for changes in media laws, Shahidul Alam said the situation changed after the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed decided to present Rs 20 crore to the Dacca Press Club. “Slowly the agitation died away, and then finally we saw a huge banner hanging from the Press Club’s walls with Sheikh Hasina’s full-size image on it.”

Magsaysay Award-winning social reformer Prakash Baba Amte, also speaking as the guest of honour at the event, emphasized the role of the news media to bring to the public eye social initiatives like his work of the Lok Biradari Prakalp in tribal-dominated Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. He said he and his wife Mandakini had worked for the health and education of one of the most backward tribes in India, the Madia Gonds. “We realized we have a lot to learn from them. We never lock our homes. There is no concept of theft among them, even though they very often have nothing to eat. There are also no sexual crimes, and we never hear of rapes,” Amte said.

At the glittering ceremony in the newly built, chandeliered hall, as many as 32 journalists from all over the country received their RedInk Awards for categories ranging from Political writing and environment to the newly- introduced category ‘The Arts’. Chairman of the NCPA, Mr. K N Suntook, in a message to journalists, emphasized the importance of ‘Arts’ to civil society and urged editors to dedicate more space for writing on the subject.

Award recipients included Rachna Khaira of The Tribune who bagged the prestigious ‘Journalist of the Year’ Award for her far-reaching expose on the functioning of the Unique Identification Authority of Indian (UIDAI). The coveted Lifetime Achievement Award this year went to – Dinu Ranadive, 94, who retired from the Maharashtra Times, and Photojournalist Sebastian D’Souza, who served as Photo Editor of Mumbai Mirror.

In a short message by Dinu Randive, when he came on stage on a wheelchair, the veteran gave an example of how good journalism can have a transforming role.

When covering the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the 1970s, Ranadive said that he once came across a weeping Dalit man who said his child had died and he could not bury the boy because the Dalit cremation ground was full of water, and he did not want him to catch a cold! Those days the BMC had separate burial grounds for upper caste children and Dalit kids. Moved by the tragedy, he wrote a series of articles on the discriminatory practice. The Maharashtra Legislature which was in session then took cognizance of these reports and abolished segregation of burial grounds on caste basis.

In his introduction to the awards, Gurbir Singh, President of the Mumbai Press Club, said two major issues were haunting news media today: One, identification with jingoistic and one-sided campaigns of various political parties or government by many sections of the press had made it lose its credibility among the masses; and two, the level of intolerance and hate being generated against an independent media had led to many journalists being arrested and assaulted. This had made the functioning of a free press more difficult by the day.

The Chairman of the Mumbai Press Club, Dharmendra Jore, and Secretary Lata Mishra also spoke. Office Bearers and Members of the Managing Committee participated in congratulating the winners of the various categories on stage. The RedInk Awards have been instituted by the Mumbai Press Club since 2010.

An interesting feature of the evening was a panel discussing the topic: “Journalism is dead, long live journalism!”

Speaking about the media’s credibility crisis, Barkha Dutt said that today, anything deviation 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 asserted.

Echoing Barkha Dutt’s sentiment, Editor of Mumbai Mirror Meenal Baghel said, “There is inherent laziness in reporting today. We have forgotten the art of storytelling and how to stitch a news report. The need of the hour is good story-telling for the reader.”

Kishore Chandra Wangkhemcha, a Manipuri journalist 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, nobody from civil society came forward to defend my case,” he said.

Abhishek Sharma, Resident Editor of NDTV India, who moderated the discussion, said stories don’t hold much merit if they don’t make people uncomfortable.

The Awards Ceremony also treated the hundreds of journalists and media persons to a soothing session of music in the form of 4 scores by NCPA’s Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), and it had the guests tapping their feet to the finale – a classical rendering of the Bollywood number ‘Jay Ho’!

The RedInk Awards were presented in association with lead partner Star India, along with Award Partners Zee Entertainment, Aditya Birla Group, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Indiabulls Housing Finance, Diageo India, Jaslok Hospital, Global Health Strategies, IIFL and the National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA). The Hindu and Facebook were the print and digital partners.

The RedInk Awards for Excellence in Journalism were set up 9 years ago to encourage good quality reporting and analysis, fair play and high ethical standards in Indian journalism. It stands as a reminder of the larger purpose of journalism, and its responsibility to society. It is the only set of awards for individual journalists instituted by a professional body in India and is considered valuable as it bestows peer recognition.

Winners of Mumbai Press Club Redink Awards – 2019

Business & Economy         

Print/Digital: Alia Allana, Fountain Ink

TV/Video: Archana Shukla, CNBC TV/VIDEO 18

Environment

Print/Digita: Adrija Bose, News 18.Com

TV/Video: Shikha, India Today

Sports

Print/Digital: Mihir Satyen Vasavda, The Indian Express

TV/Video: Smitha Ramachandran Nair, Scroll.in

Human Rights         

Print/Digital: Rahul Kotiyal, Newslaundry

TV/ Video: Tridip Kanti Mandal, The Quint

Politics         

Print/Digital: Sagar, The Caravan, Delhi Press

TV/ Video: Arfa Khanum, The Wire

TV/ Video: Sreenivasan Jain, NDTV/VIDEO 24X7

Big Picture   

Winner: Ajay Kumar, The Times Of India

Runner-up: R S Gopakumar, Malayala Manorama

Runner-up: Josekutty Panackal, Malayala Manorama

Science & Innovation         

Print/Digital: Lhendup Gyatso Bhutia, Open Media Magazine

Lifestyle & Entertainment 

Print/Digital: R Rajeshwaran, The News Minute

Print/Digital: Bibek Bhattacharya, Mint

TV/ Video: Vatsala Singh, The Quint

Women Empowerment & Gender Equality         

Print/Digital: Jyoti Shinoli, People’s Archive Of Rural India

TV/ Video: Sonali Jain, Firstpost

Crime

Print/Digital: Santosh Singh, The Indian Express

TV/ Video: Arun Kumar K, Asianet News Network

The Arts       

Print/Digital: Vaishna Roy, The Hindu

TV/ Video: Faiyaz Ahmad, The Wire

Health & Wellness  

Print/Digital: Ritu Sarin, Kaunain Sheriff M & Jay Mazoomdaar,  The Indian Express

TV/ Video: Anil K Emmanuel, Manorama News Channel

Mumbai Star Reporter: Ranjeet Jadhav, Mid-Day

Journalist of the year: Rachna Khaira, The Tribune

Lifetime Achievement: Sebastian D’souza, Former Photo Editor, Mumbai Mirror & Dinu Randive, former Maharashtra Times journalist.

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