1. RNG Awards: Finest in journalism receive awards from PM Narendra Modi

RNG Awards: Finest in journalism receive awards from PM Narendra Modi

The 37 journalists, who are receiving their awards from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told their stories the way they should be — simply, factually.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: November 3, 2016 6:49 AM
The winners of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, 2015, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Express Group CMD Viveck Goenka, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Express Photo: Abhinav Shah. The winners of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, 2015, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Express Group CMD Viveck Goenka, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Express Photo: Abhinav Shah)

From a heart-rending portrayal of farmer suicides and starvation deaths in Odisha to a heart-warming series on people who beat the caste barrier; from hard-hitting reports on the impact of the Maharashtra beef ban on farmers and the meat industry to a stinging chronicle of Adivasi killings in Bodoland — the ninth edition of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards for 2015 was an acknowledgment of stories that needed telling.

The 37 journalists, who are receiving their awards from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told their stories the way they should be — simply, factually. The awards, which have been given to over 300 journalists from 50 organisations so far, are a celebration of rigour, accuracy and fairness in news. This year, the winning stories were selected by an eminent five-member jury.

Ashwaq Masoodi of Mint won the award in the ‘Uncovering India Invisible’ category for her vivid portrayal of young Indians – from businesswomen to wrestlers – who broke away from the clutches of caste. Mathew Philip of The Times of India won the Civic Journalism award for his sharp reportage on the use of substandard material in road construction in Chennai.

In the ‘Foreign Correspondent Covering India’ category, John Mallet of The Financial Times won the honour for his hard-hitting reports on pollution in the Ganga.

Author and film critic Anna M M Vetticad was awarded in the ‘Commentary and Interpretative Writing’ category for her piece on the stereotypical portrayal of women in TV and films. Pramit Bhattacharya of Mint won in the same category for his story that exposed how micro-finance may not always be as inclusive as is perceived.

The Indian Express’s Pritha Chatterjee and Aniruddha Ghosal bagged the honour in the Environmental Reporting section for their investigative series, ‘Death by Breath’, which showed how political inaction and the administration’s apathy had turned the air in India’s capital into a cocktail of toxins. In the Sports Journalism category, Devendra Pandey won the award for exposing conflict of interest and irregular deals in the Indian Premier League. Esha Roy’s report on a quaint Manipur village, which was preparing to be a Smart City, won her the award in the ‘Reporting from J&K and the Northeast’ category. In the ‘Reporting on Politics and Government category, Ashutosh Bhardwaj’s expose of financial foul play before bypolls in Chhattisgarh was chosen for the honour. Khushboo Narayan’s reports that probed top corporates who are loan defaulters, won her the award in the ‘Business and Economics Journalism’ category.

The other winner in ‘Business and Economics Journalism’ was Rajeev Dubey of Business Today for his report on India’s burgeoning corporate debt.

In the Broadcast section, Sushil C Bahuguna of NDTV India won the Environmental Reporting award for his investigative reports on how development projects were destroying the eco-system in Uttarakhand. Archana Shukla of CNBC TV18 bagged the Business and Economics Journalism award for highlighting the gap between government projects and their delivery in a detailed series titled, ‘What’s Ailing Rural India’. The Investigative Reporting award in broadcast was given to Ganesh Suratchand Thakur of ABP News. He won the award for his investigation into the alleged abduction and detention of girls by the Sanatan Sanstha.

Shamik Bag of Mint won the award in the Feature Writing category, for his report on the life and death of Malli Mastan Babu, India’s first 7-Summiteer.

The Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, the biggest annual event in the Indian media calendar, was instituted by the Ramnath Goenka Foundation in 2005 to celebrate the legacy of the founder of The Indian Express Group. It recognises excellence in journalism and showcases outstanding contributions by individuals each year.




HINDI: Sanjay Nandan, ABP News; Syeda Afifa Khatoon, NEWS24









INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: Ganesh Suratchand Thakur, ABP News

PRINT 2015

REPORTING FROM J&K AND THE NORTHEAST : Esha Roy, The Indian Express; Maddipatla Rajshekhar Scroll.in

HINDI: Santosh Kumar, India Today

REGIONAL LANGUAGES: Firos Khan M , Madhyamam Daily, Nileena Atholi, Mathrubhumi

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING: Pritha Chatterjee, The Indian Express; Aniruddha Ghosal
The Indian Express


BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS JOURNALISM: Khushboo Narayan, The Indian Express; Rajeev Dubey, Business Today

REPORTING ON POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: Ashutosh Bhardwaj, The Indian Express

SPORTS JOURNALISM: Devendra Pandey, The Indian Express

ON-THE-SPOT REPORTING: Nayantara Narayanan, Scroll.in

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: Manisha Pande, Newslaundry; Sandeep Pai, Newslaundry

FEATURE WRITING: Shamik Bag, Mint; Sreedevi T V, Malayala Manorama


COMMENTARY AND INTERPRETATIVE WRITING: Anna MM Vetticad, Blink; Pramit Bhattacharya, Mint

CIVIC JOURNALISM: Christin Mathew Philip, The Times of India

PHOTOJOURNALISM: Burhaan Kinu, Hindustan Times

BOOKS (NON-FICTION): Akshaya Mukul, Gita Press And The Making Of Hindu India

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  1. M
    Mona Ambegaonkar
    Nov 3, 2016 at 4:22 am
    “I Cannot Live With The Idea Of Modi And Me In The Same Frame”: Akshaya Mukul Boycotts The Ramnath Goenka Awards 2639  Print | E-mail |Single PageOn 2 November 2016, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi presides over the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards—insuted by the Indian Express in honour of its founder—at least one recipient is conuous by his absence. Akshaya Mukul, a senior journalist from theTimes of India, has boycotted the ceremony. Instead, Krishan Chopra, the publisher and chief editor at HarperCollins India, the publishers of his book, Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India, received the award on his behalf.Mukul, a veteran who has worked as a reporter for close to 20 years, has been conferred the RNG award in the category of Books (non-fiction) for this book, which sheds light on the ideological moorings of Hindutva—ironically, the lynchpin of the prime minister’s politics. Since its release in August 2015, Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India has elicited rave reviews and won literary awards such as the Tata Literature Live! Book of the Year Award, and the Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize for the best non-fiction work in English.Mukul had no bone to pick with the RNG awards. He told me that it was an “honour” to have won one. His problem lay in receiving the award from the prime minister. “I cannot live with the idea of Modi and me in the same frame, smiling at the camera even as he hands over the award to me,” Mukul said. He invokedan incident that had taken place at Patiala House Court in February, during which a number of journalists and students were aulted by a group of men in lawyer’s robes. The attackers were accompanied by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s OP Sharma. Noting that the episode had led to unprecedented protests by media persons, Mukul said, “Imagine, there were journalists who defended the BJP and opposed us.”The management’s decision to invite Modi to the ceremony has reportedly irked some of the senior editors of the Indian Express as well. A journalist from the publication told me that these editors have raised questions over whether “journalism awards should be given by the prime minister at all, especially somebody as polarising as Modi.” When I asked Raj Kamal Jha, the chief editor of the paper, about the matter, he responded with a cryptic text message that appeared to disociate the editorial department from the invitation that was extended to Modi: “Please send your query to Vaidehi Thakar of The Ramnath Goenka Foundation, which administers the award.” Subsequently, I sent a mail to Thakar, specifically asking her to explain the rationale behind inviting Modi, who, I wrote, has a consistent anti-media policy and uses every forum to run down the media. Thakar side-stepped my question. Instead, she reured me that the Indian Express would always remain “free and fair.” “Your query,” she continued, “seems to suggest that the prime minister’s presence might have some bearing on theIndian Express’s coverage of the government or its politics. Such is not and will never be the case.”Thakar’s response also included a long list of the politicians who have previously graced the award ceremony, starting with Manmohan Singh, the former prime minister of India, in 2006.But India under Modi is very different from India under Singh. For one, the BJP, led by Modi and Amit Shah, has been unsparing in its response to the steadily dwindling section of the media that dares to report facts over government spin. In August 2016, for instance, the Indian Express published a story in which two of its senior journalists reported that during a closed-door meeting in Delhi, Modi had called for the BJP to reach out to Dalits and members of backward communities since the “nationalists are with us.” The BJP reacted to the report sharply. Mahender Pandey, the office secretary of the BJP, issued a two-page press release in which he called the story “ficious,” a result of the “irresponsible atude of the Newspaper,” and deemed the Indian Expressguilty of “following the vacuous approach of the Congress & Co and Kejriwal & Co.” Pandey added that he hoped the “said Newspaper will play the role of creative journalism instead of doing fictional reporting and nefarious plotting to defame the government and work like a negative opposition.” This press release, which demanded a public apology from the Indian Express, was sent to various news organisations across the country. The subtext of the note was clear: the hallmark of good journalism would be to publish only what the prime minister wanted known; the ruling party had nothing but disdain for source-based reporting of any kind.The message was presumably intended for those news organisations that are perceived to be an integral part of Modi’s pet peeve, “Lutyen’s Delhi”—a term the prime minister has appropriated to conjure the image of an ideological dump yard in the heart of Delhi, comprising anti-Modi voices that are led by the English media. This crowd, according to Modi,has not spared anyone over the years, including his illustrious Gujarati predecessors such as Vallabhbhai Patel and Morarji Desai.The fundamental contradiction between Modi and the Indian Express lies in the positions that they occupy on the free-speech spectrum. One is a publication that has built itself on a legacy of unrelenting journalism. Over the past two years, the Indian Express has only added to this oeuvre with work such as its story on the increase in communal tensions in Uttar Pradeshand Bihar since May 2014,  its investigation on the Panama Papers, and its coverage of banks that wrote off over one lakh crore in bad debts between 2013 and 2015. (It bears mentioning that since the Uri attack on 18 September 2016 and the surgical strikes that were reportedly conducted by the Indian Army on the night straddling 28 and 29 September, some of the paper’s coverage has appeared to toe the government line, raising eyebrows and inviting criticism.) The other is a politician who wears his contempt for the media—which is bazaaru,or for , as far as he is concerned—on his sleeve.Modi has often attempted to control both the media and the message through means fair and foul. His most favoured and effective tool remains his inaccessibility. The prime minister does not take questions from the media and even if he does, the interviews are granted as favours to hand-picked journalists after he has approved the questions. A senior television reporter who covers the BJP told me, “Information flow is only one way—top-down. Even ordinary information like the prime minister’s Uttar Pradesh campaign schedule is only given out by the BJP or even the RSS. Nothing comes from the PMO.”—the prime minister’s office.The media has been under attack across the country, including and apart from states that are governed by the BJP. Over the past two years, criticism or even questions regarding the government’s claims have been dangerously bed as a betrayal of the nation. This is symptomatic of a culture that has thrived and grown during Modi’s tenure as the prime minister: intolerance against any form of dissent. In May 2016, Hoot, a media news and criticism website, reported that there had been 22 instances of ault on members of the Indian press over the course of the first four months of the year, with Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh leading the pack. The BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh is a particularly stark example of the party’s abhorrence for a critical press. Recently, the state police reportedly burnt effigies of academics, civil-rights activists and journalists for their “anti-national opposition” to the state’s machinery.India ranks 133 out of 180—lower than the Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville—in the latest World Press Freedom Index,released by Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation. Yet, since the country’s nationalistic fervour has been impervious to any dents over the past few months, it would not be surprising if the ruling party and the Indian media sought solace in the knowledge that India is ranked higher than stan. The report noted that, “Journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematised by various religious groups that are quick to take offense.” “Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” it added, “seems indifferent to these threats and problems, and there is no mechanism for protecting journalists.”The most disturbing of these attacks are the ones that target journalists belonging to minority communities. The communally charged atmosphere that the Sangh Parivar has perpetuated has made it difficult for journalists who belong to these communities to carry out their jobs with a sense of security. As Josy Joseph, the national-security editor of The Hindu, told the digital news platform Scroll, “When I did stories against the UPA, nobody turned around and said, ‘you’re a BJP man, or a Communist or a Christian.’ Today when I do a story against the government, the first thing I hear is ‘You’re a Christian, a Sonia hi agent from the Vatican.’” Mohammad Ali, also a reporter with The Hindu, echoed Joseph when he told me, “It is not that during the UPA regime my ideny was not a problem while reporting. But now, things have become bad. It is very easy to call out my ideny whenever the story appears to go against the BJP and its supporters.” Ali, who is writing a book on the mob lynching of Mohammad Akhlaque in Dadri, said that he only reveals his name when he has achieved a certain level of comfort with the people he is interviewing. During our conversation, he recalled sitting with the alleged ailants of Mohammad Akhlaque when one of the elderly women in the group suddenly said, “Why are the s”—a derogatory Hindi slang for ritually circised Muslims—“getting so much coverage by the media?”  “I immediately got up,” said Ali, “made an excuse, and hurriedly exited from Dadri.”Even for this story, it has been difficult to elicit an on-the-record response from most journalists. Those in support of Mukul fear that speaking up for him could cost them their jobs. Those opposing his boycott on grounds that the “prime minister is porly elected” are loath to be publically identified with the current regime. This speaks volumes about the success of Modi’s media-gag policy. It underscores the fear, the sense of defeat and the reluctance to stand out that is afflicting the pracioners of journalism. Meanwhile, Mukul, who said that he has been under immense pressure to attend the ceremony—both from his peers and the management at the Indian Express—is relieved that event is finally underway. “I don’t fear the consequences,” he said.

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