The press in India has always been at the forefront of national life. Liberal notions of the power of the press came from those who were involved in the country's freedom movement and included a belief in journalism's capacity to mould public opinion and safeguard the rights of its citizens. In the years that followed, the press faced numerous challenges including attempts to curb the freedom of expression. This book shows that the tradition of independent journalism is alive and well in India in the sixth decade after independence, and indeed much of what has appeared in India newspapers has shaped and affected the course of Indian democracy.
This anthology looks at some themes that defined national discourse from around the time of Independence to the present day as expressed through journalism in the English press. It showcases a wide range of articles that have expanded the terms of debate, expressed criticism and dissent, and enriched the Indian press. In doing so, they have strengthened the very fabric of Indian Express, The Hindustan Times and The Times of India of this nation, offering incisive analyses and clarity on issues that critically impacted on the lives of its people.
The writers include celebrated journalists, politicians, academics, activists, film makers and many others whose considered views have drawn attention to issues that have affected the nation from the immediate aftermath of Independence to the present era of globalization and market dominance. The richness of insight and depth of perception offered in this collection makes this anthology invaluable not only to students of journalism but also to anyone who seeks to understand India.
About the Author
Nirmala Lakshman is joint editor of The Hindu, one of India's leading English newspapers. She is a seasoned commentator on social and development issues and regularly writes editorials and articles on these subjects for the newspaper. She also has a keen interest in culture and the arts; her interviews of Edward Said and Salman Rushdie have been reproduced in special anthologies of those writers works.
In various senior roles at the Hindu for more than two and a half decades, Nirmala has edited feature section of the newspaper including the Sunday Magazine and the Literary Review. She also introduced the popular children's supplement Young World to attract younger readers to the newspaper also initiating the Newspaper in education programme. In the 1990s she formulated and edited Folio, a niche publication as part of the Sunday Magazine that was themed around society and the arts.
Nirmala has an MA degree from the United States and a PhD in postmodern literature. She was a Press Fellow at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, UK, and has also been a Fellow of the 21st century Trust in the UK. She is the chairperson of the Media Fellowship Committee of the National Foundation of India, and is also currently on the Board of Trustees.
Her other interests are poetry, western classical music and Carnatic music. She is the great-granddaughter of Kasturi Ranga lyengar, one of the stalwarts of Indian journalism during the freedom struggle, and the granddaughter of Kasturi Srinivasan, the illustrious former editor of The Hindu. She has an abiding interest in the role of media in a democracy.
She lives in Chennai, travels widely and is presently working on a novel.
Among the most cherished freedoms inherent in modern societies is that of a free press. Contemporary beliefs about the role of the media as well s the practice of journalism have been shaped by the values of humanism and the age of European enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Liberal notions of the power of the press were also imbibed in India by those who were involved in the struggle for freedom. This included a belief in journalism's capacity to mould public opinion, and faith in its ability to shape the destinies of nations and safeguard the rights and civil liberties of its citizens. Although Indian journalism's early emphasis was on social reform, it soon took up the agenda of political independence. Fostered by the journalism of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political awakening also set the parameters for a tradition of independent journalism that took firm root in the national psyche. The press in India has therefore always been at the forefront of national life. Although there has been a considerable erosion of values over the decades since Independence, the original ideals continues to inspire resistance to authoritarianism and censorship and sustain the battles for freedom of conscience, speech and liberty in Indian society.
This anthology attempts to trace, through a collection of articles drawn from mainstream English language newspapers and newsmagazines, some of the discourses that define Indian democracy. It is by no means a comprehensive compilation, but is only representative of certain themes that have been inextricably bound with democratic discourse. It showcases a range of articles from journalists, politicians, activists, economists, academics, writers, filmmakers and others, who have sought to expand the terms of debate, express dissent and enrich the institution that is the Indian press. Beyond being mere reactions to events, these articles are considered responses to a host of issue; in some cases they are investigations that reveal the corruption that comes with power, in others they speak up for those whose voices are never heard, some unearth hidden truths and shake the citadels of power and many remind us why we are journalists in the first place.
Mirroring the progress of the Indian nation state, Indian journalism reflects the multi-layered strands that constitute its heterogeneity. Journalism's association with the nationalist political struggle as well as its advocacy of social reform and emancipation in the years before Independence went into the creation of some of its core strengths. These included independent functioning, resistance to State oppression and censorship, a cardinal commitment to free speech and expression, as well as its role as a protector of civil liberties. The English language press's commendable role during the 2002 carnage of minorities in Gujarat is a case in point. However, there were periods, as some articles in this anthology show, when the press compromised and failed in its duty to uphold the right to free expression, particularly during the Emergency, one of independent India's darkest hours. How the press dealt with state imposed censorship and other attempts to infringe Article 19 of the Constitution (which guarantees the right to free speech and expression) is an important aspect of the history of journalism in India. Equally important is the judiciary's role in both strengthening media freedom and in some cases (as in the use of the laws of contempt and defamation) imposing restrictions on it. Vice versa, the media's own contributions to augmenting the independence of various institutions including the judiciary enhanced the civil liberties of individual and groups and helped to fortify democracy.
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