This discussion concerns us in the media. The media, the chief minister and the government play an important role in keeping democracy alive. Of late, the media in Goa has been facing a lot of criticism from the CM and the party in power for its various alleged acts of omission and commission. While criticism of the CM is also mounting because of certain actions and inactions, the relationship between the CM and the media is not as rosy as it used to before. To discuss the issue, on HCN we have an eminent panel led by former CM Digambar Kamat, Raju Nayak senior journalist and editor of Lokmat and Sanjay Dhavalikar Editor Dainik Herald. I begin with my journalist colleagues
Herald: Sanjay if you could take us back on certain statements the CM has made and the impact it has had.
Sanjay Dhavalikar: When you say couple of statements made, a couple of them immediately come to mind. I think we should go back a bit when he made a statement at a function where he questioned the intellectual abilities of journalists including what pay packages they get. He had no business to comment on these things.
Raju Nayak: I will tell you, we are relevant today only because we are voicing the sentiments of the people. And now democracy has become very vibrant and the object of politics has changed. Now everybody is expecting a lot of things from the CM and we are only expressing the sentiments of the people.
I feel every statement on journalists is objectionable. In fact what Sanjay said that everyday in the Assembly something objectionable used to be said, castigate journalists, the statement on the ability, the salary, don’t give information to the journalists he has said this to industry. Very objectionable, he has also said the same thing to his officers and his ministers. This is very bad of him.
Digamabar Kamat: In a democracy we believe media has to play an important role. I believe in that. But it happens many times and I also ask media that you are also part of society if the government takes a good decision. I believe the media should support it wholeheartedly if it is in the interest of the society. I am not saying these should not print what they have but they have to also not think about creating controversy all the time.
Sanjay: We are only taking the opinions of people. In the last ten years a lot of NGO’s have cropped up who are studying the issues and working with the people. There are people who have studied the mining problem. I am saying the government should take their viewpoints while framing a policy. Govt says they are coming with education policy but no discussion, mining policy to be tabled this week but no discussion.
Herald: I feel his reluctance to reach out to the media to build this wall is also similar to the perception that he has built a wall with certain sections of society. This blockade of information is happening at all levels, happening between him and his MLAs, between him and his party workers, between him and certain officials and between him and between NGOs’ and certain people. In the BJP executive this issue became big.
Digambar Kamat: I faced problems even before that as MLA. I have gone myself to get connection to my house. So I knew what others would feel. I used to keep my mobile on even at night and I used to respond to anyone.
Herald: The Congress government towards the end was criticized for the right reasons, ministers were running amuck completely. Corruption became an issue and the press went after them and it could be one of the reasons why the congress lost. How did you deal with the media?
Digambar: My relationship with media from the days I became MLA has been cordial I have no personal enmity. I don’t feel irritated if someone writes against me. Sometimes I feel sad when they write without verifying with me. I have never telephoned anybody, depending on my relationship if I meet you then I will point out to you that what was written is not correct.
Herald: Raju do you feel the politics of ridiculing the media and the politics of ridicule is becoming prevalent in Goa and what can the media do, because they have been keeping quiet.
Raju: They have realized the dangers of this and we are concerned about Parrikar’s political future. The papers that were not writing against him are now writing. After these statements, a lot of Marathi newspapers have started criticizing him.
Herald: Raju on the question of accessibility what has been your experience in getting basic information checked. The CM says check with me, but the question is how do you check when there are layers of walls. From my personal experience I can say he has not blocked information to a large extent but for all information you cannot go to the CM to check.
Sanjay: If you reach him then he will talk. But how do you reach him? Secondly there has to be a hierarchy and the senior bureaucrats should have confidence to interact with the media. If something is decided by the Cabinet and the CM or minister is not there, then the secretary or the chief secretary can provide clarifications. My reporters struggle to get information and they have a deadline and other papers are present. No reporter writes wrong deliberately. He makes his best efforts and then he writes. Then the next day without taking the entire picture you make some raw comments it does not speak well. There is a burden of expectations that is killing this spirit and issues have not been solved for two or three years but people still believe he is the man.
Herald: We tried to invite his media managers and party men to come for this discussion. We sent out text messages, but they refused and that itself says a lot.
Sanjay: He wants total support. He wants no criticism. I think there should be a discussion with him, the editors guild and journalist association should meet him. We are doing our job and it is our right.
Herald: What should be the solution? Confrontation? But this constant bickering and ridiculing of media in front of third parties and in the assembly where the media does not have the right to reply and in public when he criticizes the media when they are not part of the dais is not healthy. Defamation works both ways. In this round let us discuss how we can repair it.
Sanjay: Repair is essential because this government is at the half way mark. I believe he has to take stock now because he is a guy who has a vision. I remember between 2000 and 2003 he had very good relations with media; why not now.
Herald: Look at the Modi model of media management. There are lot of things to be critical about ideological issues etc but his media management, the way he has used social media, is projecting what he is doing constantly.
Raju: look at his mining policy. So who are the people discussing the policy? Only the mine owners, the chief minister. This are the things the people want to know. So his government has to be transparent. If he is then he will have no complaints about journalists.
Digambar: Today expectations from the people are growing; expectations from MLAs are also growing and unless you satisfy them they will create problems. I was running a coalition government. He is lucky he has majority of his own party. Sometimes when a decision is taken, there are a lot of complexities and you write it the way you understand it (and maybe) changing the meaning. There should be someone to explain all this.
Herald: I will end with a self critical note and ask if editors have done their jobs properly or not; whether editors study issues as closely as required. Are they becoming the mentors; are they looking at issues technically or not. While we criticize him should we also look at ourselves too?
Sanjay: We have been doing it. We have been publishing reports of all the experts, all of Goa’s intellectuals are writing for my paper, so diverse opinions are published.
Raju. Editors are always taking the effort to understand all these issues whether regional plan or mining, we may not be experts or scientists or technocrats but we invite others to write.
Herald: In conclusion I have to say that though we are at a serious crossroads, the media is doing its job. They have not failed people. We fall short at times but the flip side is that if we fall short it is not due to any vested interest; but if the government does not interact with the media, then a lot of issues will not get addressed in a vibrant way and the gap between media and government, I am afraid, is completely government created. This is where the CM needs to introspect because he has been given a mandate and if this gap continues it will extend to the people as well and problems will arise.