The Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards for the year 2015 were given away on November 2, 2016. Ironically, what became the talking point of the event was not who won the awards and for what kind of stories. What made headlines was Prime Minister Narendra Modi being given the honour of handing over the awards to journalists.
Perhaps, it is the inevitable consequence of living in times when a news channel is shut down for a day for covering a terror attack.
In a move that was hailed by many, veteran TOI journalist Akshaya Mukul decided to boycott the award ceremony rather than be in the ‘same frame‘ as the PM. Indian Express received and continues to receive some flak from different quarters for making PM Modi the Chief Guest. But Raj Kamal Jha, the chief editor of Indian Express did his best to lay those criticisms to rest. In a speech that he gave at the function, he began by looking at the PM who was seated right next to him on the stage and commented on how everyone was ‘speechless’ after the Prime Minister’s speech. Modi laughed. But what Jha said later evidently made the Prime Minister uncomfortable as the cameras couldn’t shy away from capturing him.
One of the most powerful things he said that evening was also a commentary on the sad state of journalism today – “In this selfie journalism if you don’t have the facts it doesn’t matter. You just put a flag. You just put a flag in the frame and hide behind it.”
He also said, “Good journalism should be defined by the work we celebrate this evening by reporters who report and editors who edit.” It’s unfortunate that the basic ethics of journalism have to be spelt out on such an occasion in front of the Prime Minister. But if the situation demands it, so be it.
Watch Raj Kamal’s speech below: