A Dollop Of Goan Quid Pro Quo
Funded by a public relations agency, politicians and a casino-operating hotel among others, Goa’s first journalism award extravaganza has come under a cloud of alleged financial bungling and propriety issues.The sheen of the Goa Media Awards 2013, organised in February, by the little-known Saimaa Creations and a working journalists union, the Goa Union of Journalists (GUJ), is fast fading, with the latter raising questions about the monies raised in sponsorship and spent for the event.
The award ceremony which was interspersed with a songs, dances and skits, was attended by chief minister Manohar Parrikar, several legislators. The guest of honour was the editor of IBN 7, Ashutosh.
“We have received oral and written complaints about the organisation of the award and the manner in which the awards were given. We have decided to put it before the union’s general body before taking a decision. As far as credibility of journalism and journalists in Goa is concerned, it is a sensitive matter”, said GUJ president Pandurang Gaonkar, when I spoke to him.
According to the organiser of the awards, Jitendra Shikerkar, who along with his partner Paresh, run Saimaa Creations, Adfactors, India’s largest public relations firm had promised Rs 1 lakh in sponsorship for the event.“Adfactors came in at a real crunch time to support us with Rs 1 lakh, which they have promised us for hosting the award”.
Adfactors, a public relations firm, “supporting” a journalism award in Goa is of key significance. Adfactors holds a critical brief for the state’s tainted (of recent) mining industry, represented often by the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA), the voice of Goa’s mining majors since 1963.
Ironically, the same PR agency which hones and articulates the voice and position of Goa’s mining industry, many of whose players have been accused in the Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam by a judicial commission, has also been roped in by the Goa government’s tourism department to up the state’s profile as a leading tourism destination.
“It borders on the unethical. We all know how PR agencies strut their stuff and get their way through newsrooms and into newsprint. Although PR agencies and all the unethical stuff they do is getting wide acceptability in the mainstream media, I think it’s still unethical for journalism awards to be funded by PR agencies”, says former GUJ president Ashley do Rosario.
Speaking about some of the other contentious sponsors who pitched in financial support for the event Jitendra said: “We have also received sponsorship from Micky Pacheco (Rs 50,000), Rohan Khaunte (Rs 15,000) and Reginaldo Lourenco (Rs 5,000)”.
Micky Pacheco is a former tourism minister and heads the Goa Vikas Party (GVP) and is quite infamous in Goa – known more for his non-political ‘glories’.The legislator from Nuvem has a string of criminal cases against him ranging from bigamy, assault and extortion. He was forced to resign from the cabinet in 2010 after he was linked to the death of his alleged lover Nadia Torrado, who had committed suicide. He is also being probed for human trafficking and money laundering by the US government’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which has formally asked the Central government to probe him.
Rohan Khaunte is an independent MLA, while Reginaldo Lourenco is a senior Congress legislator. According to Jitendra, the other sponsors included Hotel Neo Majestic, which is run by operators of a casino chain,Caculo a city mall and the Goa tourism department which dished out Rs 2 lakh, among others.
PrakashKamat, a senior journalist who writes for The Hindu from Goa, hints that adequate care may not have been taken by the GUJ while bandying up with partners for the award.“I believe GUJ is a responsible trade union registered body of working journalists with years of reputation to its credit. GUJ has also taken a stand on professional issues related to the media from time to time. That is why it must be cautious and careful in association with any body or organisation, all the more when media awards are concerned” he said.
Propriety is not the only issue which is giving a section of the journalist community ulcers. Questions are also being raised about the allegedly non-transparent manner in which award winners wereselected and monies raised and spent for the event.
“We have repeatedly asked them to furnish notarised accounts of the sponsorship and funding and nothing has come through yet”, claims Pandurang, even as Saimaa’s Jitendra insists, that they were in the process of finalising accounts for the events which were held on February 16, 2013.
The money squabbles have become even more vicious between the journalists’ body and the award organisers after the chief minister announced an additional Rs 5 lakh sponsorship for the event.Jitendra claims that he suffered a loss of Rs 5.5 lakh while organising the awards event and that he was the rightful claimant to the money.
With the heat now on the Journalists Union to explain the exact nature of its relationship with Saimaa Creations, the cracks are beginning to show in its story too.While the union’s secretary VithaldasHegde claims that the union had “nothing” to do with organising of the awards, barring selection of a candidate for the Lifetime Achievement award, a letter he has signed along with his president, speaks a different story.
The letter dated Jan 31, 2013 says that GUJ had decided to collaborate with the organisers for organising the state’s first journalism award.“We, hereby request you to highlight the collaboration of the Goa Union of Journalists (GUJ) in the event and make the event a grand success”, the letter says.
Leaves one wondering whom should one believe more, a jilted journalists’ body or an event organiser, who could only “profit” from a media event.
Image By: Sakshi Bhatia