Ramnath Goenka awards: Raj Kamal Jha points to ‘hope’ despite ‘intimations of journalism’s mortality’

Newslaundry and The News Minute won four awards at the event.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Raj Kamal Jha

“A thousand plus journalists and more than two dozen authors sending in their best work… brings us hope. Hope, when every day we hear intimations of journalism’s mortality,” said Indian Express editor-in-chief Raj Kamal Jha in his concluding remarks at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards held in Delhi today.

Jha described these intimations of “journalism’s mortality” in his speech, which bore five specific unworded references – from the Calcutta High Court judge joining the BJP to French journalist Vanessa Dougnac being forced to leave the country over “malicious reports”, and media outlet owners going “down on bended knees”. 

“Not many seem to care for us these days, except our parents and some of our best friends. And even those best friends who vote the way we do,” said Jha. He then delved into the “five examples from the last month”, and recalled how “a judge from a high court” told a reporter in an open court after a “mildly unflattering”, but a “very fair” story: “I don’t want to see you report on this court.”

The judge in question, Abhijit Gangopadhyay, eventually resigned and joined the BJP. Jha said, “That same judge resigns, joins a political party and is all sugar and honey on television when everybody sings his praises.” 

Referring to journalist Sagarika Ghose joining the Trinamool Congress – which sparked a debate over whether journalists compromise objectivity by entering politics – Jha said, “There is a journalist as well, who joins another political party and gets a ticket.” 

On Dougnac’s departure from the country, which had raised questions about press freedom, the editor said, “We have a journalist in the city who has to leave the city, after two decades of living here, because she wrote ‘malicious stories’.” 

Jha also revisited the incident of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reportedly asking a India News journalist at Raebareli, “Apke malik ka kya naam hain (What is your owner’s name)?” A “mob of his supporters roughed up the reporter,” Jha said. 

Finally, ostensibly commenting on the Big Media’s lack of objectivity and Modi obsession. He said, “Then we have a few maliks who have gone down on bended knees, and are so comfortable in that posture that it hurts when they stand up. There is an ease of doing business and there is a very specific unease of doing journalism.” 

Meanwhile, Newslaundry won two awards at the event. Ayush Tiwari and Basant Kumar won in the environment, science and technology category for the plunder of the Aravalli series. Hridayesh Joshi’s video report on arsenic in water triggering diseases in several villages, supported by the Thakur Foundation, won the award in the Hindi broadcast category.

The News Minute also won two awards. 

While Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishnan Ganesan, and Prajwal Bhat won in the civic journalism category for their five-part series on exposing manual scavenging, Prajwal’s reports on the 2022 hijab protests in Karnataka was awarded in the political reporting category.

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