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Ethics of journalism and lessons from Ramayana

columns Updated: Dec 12, 2010 00:30 IST
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In the last 60 years of my journalistic career, no one has ever tried to bribe me. I have to concede that no one thought I was worth bribing as what I wrote was of no consequence. I also flopped as a fixer. I was asked to "put in a word" to somebody who mattered. I did so, but none of the people I recommended got what they wanted.

So far the only bribe I have accepted is flattery - particularly when laid on by attractive women. I review their books, praise their work, their looks - everything about them. They never bother to see me again. I am reminded of the doggerel:
You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God an English journalist; But knowing what the
fellow will do unbribed, There is no occasion.

I bring up this subject because two leading lights in Indian journalism, one in the print media, the other a top TV star who has the widest viewership and is known for her guts and integrity, are being maligned for listening to a woman in public relations representing some big industrial houses.

I went through all that passed between them on telephones but failed to figure out anything unethical in their dialogue. The Public Relations lady pleaded the cause of the firms that she was representing. The journalist heard what she had to say as every good journalist is expected to do and make his own assessment before he wrote on the subject.

The lady in India's leading channel was asked to do sifarish (recommend) on behalf of an ambitious politician. The story sounds totally fatuous: a sifarish by a mediaperson carries no weight whatsoever. What the libelers and slanderers have to prove is that money was given to the two for doing their bidding. There is not even a remote suggestion that this was so. It was done out of pure malice to tar the images of two much respected mediapersons.

Ramayana for Gen next
It could be said that Indian children start imbibing the Ramayana with their mother's milk. It is the first story they hear in their childhood. It has found its way into their vocabulary. Their most popular greetings are Ram Ram, Jai Ramji Ki, Jai Sitaram. We are reminded about it every year through performances of Ramlila which take place in all towns and cities ending with the burning of effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarana and Meghnad on Dussehra.

Then there are Bharat Milap and Diwali. The reason is simple. For us, Sri Ram is God personified, his wife Sita, our mother goddess, Lakshman, the loyal brother and Hanuman the faithful servitor. They represent the powers of goodness. Their enemy Ravana and his brothers represent the powers of evil.

In essence, the story is of goodness prevailing over evil. We carry it to the end of our days on earth. When our dead bodies are taken out to cremation grounds, one mourner chants Ram Ram Satya Hai - the name of Rama is the truth; other mourners reply: Sat bolo gut hai - speak the truth and attain salvation.

Hundreds of Ramayanas are published every year in all Indian languages including English.

But there is something special about The Story of Ram and his friends in the forest, written by Pratibha Nath and illustrated by Sujasha Dasgupta (Rupa).

It is written in simple English which teenagers who know English can easily comprehend. It gives a lot of information about the flora and fauna of Indian forests. Above all, the illustrations painted by Dasgupta are truly spectacular, I have never seen any others to match them.

This would make an ideal Diwali gift for teenagers and an equally suitable present to give on the New Year's Eve.

All the Honest men
A Raja, Kalmadi, Ashok Chavan and all the rest
Are, believe me, spotlessly clean and honest
And now Yeddyurappa of Karnataka thunders very rightly with righteous indignation
Because against him and his family, there cannot be any allegation
He de-notified prime land in the highest tradition of Karnataka
And incidentally benefited his sons and son-in-law
The leader of the Opposition too wanted a part of the booty,
Then "Shouldn't my sons set up industry?" quips he
Is it not the job of a Chief Minister to promote his family?
Think calmly
The politicians have built power houses, police-stations and dams.
Cannot we ignore their scores of scams!
And while the BJP in parliament must raise a storm
Should it not ensure that in Karnataka it comes to no harm?
(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Bangkok tourism
Faithful husbands will go straight to Heaven and unfaithful will enjoy Heaven on Earth…!!
The choice is yours.
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

The views expressed are personal