Minister’s Tussle with Media: Will the Chief Minister Please Pay Attention?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the history of Press in Orissa, September 15, 2014 shall be marked as a black day; because, for the first time in the life of the State, on this day, a Cabinet Minister attacked media in his official chamber in the Secretariat that generated a skirmish to the shock and chagrin of all those who believe that Ministers in a democracy are magnanimous enough never to cause alarm in the Press, despite being confronted with unpalatable questions and provocative innuendoes.

Minister Bijayshree Routray was in acrimonious mood even before entering into the Secretariat; because, evidently he had resorted to browbeating when approached by a TV journalist for update, if any, on land scam rocking the State.

And, in the Secretariat, as TV journalists wanted update on a former minister’s demands for action against land scam offenders, all decency, decorum, discipline and patience expected of a cabinet minister, were discarded under such rush of anger that the consequential skirmish – heretofore never seen – has smeared the face of administration that can hardly be cleansed.

For better appreciation of what happened on September 15, ORISSA MATTERS report dated September 18, 2014 may help. Click HERE to reach the report.

Sad, instead of normalizing the situation with the Chief Minister calling the entire Bhubaneswar Press to an interaction where a norm could have been mutually promoted to eliminate any possibility of repetition of the September 15 showoff, restriction has been imposed on movement of journalists in the Secretariat, where, within or without knowledge of the Chief Minister, denial of entry to CMO even to State accredited journalists has already been in force ever since certain officials there have started dazzling as ‘Super Chief Minister’.

In these pages the syndrome is earlier exposed; yet the Chief Minister has stayed away from the glorious and magnificent tradition his predecessors in the august office had established and maintained in relationship with the Press.

Resultantly, journalists, not in good book of powers that be, feel threatened, alarmed and afflicted.

Democracy is clearly in decadence.

While holding that the journalists should not have crossed words with the acrimonious minister on September 15, I deem it my duty to say, it would be better if the Chief Minister appreciates that unless his colleagues in the cabinet are dissuaded from browbeating the Press as Bijayshree did on that day, the journalists, expect the blue-eyed-boys of powers that be, will continue to stay alarmed under constant fear of conniption any minister may come into any day confronted with any searching question and cause havoc, as well equipped with assaultive power a minister is in the rampart of his office. That shall harm the people.

Remedy lies in restoration of State Information Centre

Its remedy lies not in restricting the movement of media persons in the Secretariat, but in immediate restoration of the State Information Centre to its original stature and state.

The original purpose of the SIC (also named Soochana Bhawan) was to provide the journalists with a domain whereto Ministers and Government spokespersons were to come everyday to brief the journalists on all topics of public importance and to answer to their queries on all relevant matters.

But a former Secretary of Information and Public Relations Ajit Kumar Tripathy sabotaged the purpose of the SIC and converted it into Jayadev Bhawan to fit into his communal design to institutionalize a wrong notion that poet Jay Dev was a Brahmin Baishnav born in Kenduli near Bhubaneswar, though in reality the great love-lyricist of Orissa was a Sahayani Bauddhacharya, born in the now extinct village of Kendubilwa near Puri on the sea, probably where Bilweswar temple now stands. I have discussed Jay Dev in my mega research work ‘Sri Jaya Devanka Baisi Pahacha’ for anybody to see.

However, when a government building was erected for a specific purpose founded and inaugurated by a Chief Minister in cause of people’s right to be informed, a bureaucrat sabotaging that purpose taking advantage of his position as Secretary of Information was blatantly wrong.

This wrong is to be removed and the Press is to be given back its domain equipped with communication instruments and database as well as with a referral library as per original plan. At this SIC, when restored, ministers and official spokespersons will brief the Press, and all press conferences shall be held. The unused and dormant library lying exposed to elements in the Information directorate needs be shifted to SIC on its restoration where all the newspaper/media clippings, which the departmental information officers generate as a routine responsibility, should be archived in this building for journalistic references.

Rabindra Madap be renamed Jay Dev Bhawan

In the past, leaders of Orissa like Harekrushna Mahatab and Biju Patnaik were eager to keep the Bengalis pleased in order not to be adversely reported in national media, as all of the national newspapers with circulation in Orissa were being published from Calcutta. Therefore, they had deliberately named the first auditorium dedicated to music and dance in the capital city of Bhubaneswar by Rabindra Tagore. Orissa’s progressive intellectuals like poet Godavarish Mohapatra had vehemently opposed this, but people in power had their own notorious ability to bulldoze the conscience of the State.

When, therefore, Ajit Tripathy and his associates, in course of executing their hidden agenda to wipe out historicity of the Sahayani Jay Dev under torrents of concocted legends deliberately created by some Hindu chauvinists after his death, wanted to re-name the SIC as Jay Dev Bhawan, there was no visible objection to that from the general public, as the people of Orissa had always been nurturing a silent desire to overcome a grief they had been hit with, when the first hall of music and dance in Bhubaneswar had been named after the Bengali poet Rabindanath Tagore instead of the most popular poet Jay Dev of their own soil, who had epitomized Orissa’s music and dance. That grief was lessened by SIC getting the name of Jay Dev Bhawan.

Now, therefore, if the name Jay Dev Bhawan is to be retained, it should shift to Rabindra Mandap, which in turn, should shift to IDCOL auditorium, that goes without any person’s name.

Information manpower be properly used

After thus the SIC is again available to the Journalists, the government should promulgate a provision making it a must for the ministers to address the Press regularly here in all matters of their respective departments.

in absence of ministers, the departmental information officers should come prepared to meet the queries of journalists and the Secretary of a concerned department must be made to answer online through video conferencing any query that his information officer might not be properly equipped to answer.

The next step that the Government should take, is to recognize the State Information Service as a specialized service, run only by the information specialists, belonging to a distinct and distinguished cadre, under a Head of Department also belonging to the same cadre.

So, be it a must for the State Government to appoint only Information officers as Director of Information, whose unavoidable duty would be briefing the Press on any activity of administration as and when necessary.

If this advice is heeded to, there shall never be any conflict between any minister and media like the one seen on September 15 in the Secretariat Chamber of the Revenue Minister.

The Director of Information and Public Relations, to be thus appointed from the cadre of Information Service, being a specialist in information by education, training, re-orientation and experience, shall not only keep himself abreast of happenings in the State including progress of projects, to successfully meet the queries from media, but also shall guide his team of officers to stay ready with updates in every aspect of administration of the respective departments assigned to them, so that the people of the State cannot be devoid of ready information on any matter that matters to them.

The ignominious assignment to facilitate an appointment of a journalist with a minister, as provided for yesterday, is nothing but non-use of the highly specialized potency the Information Officers have.

Information manpower should not be misspent in hobnobbing between media and ministers.

They have a greater role to play. Let that begun with making the Director of Information and PR a cadre officer with a mission as mentioned above.

The September 15 skirmish between Revenue Minister and Media persons in the State Secretariat has irreparably damaged the image of the State. Let it not happen again and so, let the Journalists be given back the State Information Centre wherefrom they shall operate to the betterment of democracy.

Will the Chief Minister please pay his attention to this suggestion?

Skirmish in Secretariat: Minister made Mistake more than the Press

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

As Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) demanded public apology from Revenue Minister Bijoyshree Routroy for the Monday assault on Press in his official chamber in the Secretariat, under the ‘Freedom Tree’ in front of  Jaydev Bhawan  on September 16, the Minister told a hand-picked group of press persons at his residence that he was abused by the journalists instead.

He alleged that agents of land mafia in the guise of journalists had entered into his room forcefully and subjected him to pushing and knocking, as he refused to entertain them. He did not say who was or were agent(s) of land mafia amongst the journalists, if it was within his knowledge.

This being a serious allegation against media persons, the public is to know the truth.

We would like to produce two videos here.

The first one is a clip of his entrance into the Secretariat. In this he shouts at a TV journalist who was trying for an update, if possible, on official action on a notorious land scam that has been rocking the State. It bares the minister’s disposition and how contemptuous it is towards the media persons.

The second video is the records of how he behaved in his chamber. A former Minister of the State, Mr. Suresh Kumar Rautroy had met the Revenue Minister with a delegation in his chamber demanding stern action against the land looters amongst who are some known blue-eyed-boys of the Chief Minister. As usual, the TV journalists had gone into the room to watch the proceeding. As would be seen from the video, seated near the Minister, Mr. Sura Rautroy (as he popularly is known) apprised the TV journalists of his discussions with the minister during which the minister went into the rest room. As he came out, the journalists wanted his bytes. The video would show how the Minister suddenly went berserk. He even attacked a particular TV journalist, who had covered a land scandal live in which the Minister is involved.

To the Press he has said, “When I extended my hands to shut down their cameras, they pushed me and knocked down (CAMERA BAND KARIBAKU HATA BADHAIBA BELE SEMANE THELAPELA KALE) (Samaja, 17 September 2014, P.12, Cl. 5-6).

It is sad that the State is having such a political Government where ministers indulge in land grabbing, ministers indulge in chit fund swindling, ministers indulge in assault on media persons and in leveling reverse accusations to hoodwink the people, oblivious of how constitutional authorities like the Courts and CAG have stripping it layer by layer in mega scams like mining scam, water scam etcetera.

Clearly, in Monday skirmishes in his Secretariat chamber, the minister made mistakes more than the Press.

MUFP Demands Public Apology from Minister

The Media Unity for Freedom of Press ( MUFP )has, in a statement today, expressed deep shock and surprise over the incident involving a cabinet minister’s assault on media persons on duty on September 15, 2006 inside his secretariat chamber. The Minister Mr. Bijayshree Routray seems to have forgotten all ethics and manners while dealing with press persons. Media persons in Orissa have been in the target of wrong doers for quite some time. Not even a month has passed since media persons were attacked and seriously injured by hired goons inside KISS and KIIT campus and the police have yet to take necessary action against the assaulters, a minister has personally attacked a media person on duty.
The MUFP demands unconditional public apology from the erring minister and calls for serious introspection within the media fraternity to find out reasons for growing attacks on media persons who are just doing their job of digging out truth for public sharing. The MUFP also appeals the Chief Minister to take all such issues seriously and initiate appropriate action against the attackers so that freedom of expression in the state is duly protected.

Government in fidgets: Revenue Minister attacks reporters in the Secretariat

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

One may cheat some for some days, some for all days; but not all for all days, says an axiom.

Chief Minister of Orissa – Naveen Patnaik – is experiencing this at the moment, as day by day, now a days, one after one scandals and scams are getting exposed making him stripped of his cultivated credibility layer by layer.

This has put the government in fidgets.

Ministers are so perturbed that one of them, Bijoyshree Routray, who holds the revenue portfolio, has today crossed all limits of decency and discipline; and has used abusive, obnoxious terms for the Press reporters that were seeking update information on a land scam. Lenses have captured him live in using physical force against the scribes in his secretariat chamber while shouting them out and alarmingly setting his hand on collar/throat of a reporter of Focus Odisha TV channel.

Bijoyshree was known for his composure. But, in what he did today, he exceeded all wild conduct a mad man could have exhibited.
He was earlier known as a bribe-taker, as, for an instance, his palms were allegedly greased with Rs.5 lakhs for clearance of a bill of Rs.25 lakhs in ‘Orissa Health System Development Project’.

The State Government had succumbed to World Bank pressure to take a loan of Rs.415 crores to develop its health system. The loan was granted against stipulated standard of work. But sub-standard execution of work had vitiated the project. World Bank had searched for the reason through its own experts and, bribe taken by the minister was found to be a major reason of sub-standard execution of the project. In a statement on January 11, 2005, the World Bank had put it on records. During the alleged period, Bijoyshree Routroy was the Health Minister, the Chief Secretary of Orissa, at that time Ajit Kumar Tripathy, had informed the Press. So, thus was he known as a bribe-taker.

Now he is known for land scam committed under his nose at Ghangapatna of Bhubaneswar as recently exposed, over and above embezzlement of a vast plot in the Capital City’s high-net-worth industrial area in Unit 3 for personal residential use despite having taken the same in high concessional rate in the name of his wife on lease for a hospital.

From now on, he shall be known for attack on media in fear of further exposure.

Scores of acres of highly valuable land are not traceable in revenue records, when it is now public knowledge that some blue-eyed-boys of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik were the kingpins in Ghangapatna land scam comprising a patch of about 80 Acres, where to exclusivity was ensured through compound walls and a serving road, erected, obviously, by any hidden beneficiary of clout with the powers that be; whom the Patnaik government has not brought to books as yet.

Reporters were to ascertain what progress has been made on this score.

But, they had no idea that a senior and experienced minister like Bijoyshree Routroy was to irrupt so obnoxiously on seeing them making the query.

It is time for the Chief Minister to come out of his cocoon of nonchalance and say as to why it has not occurred to him so far that a political government in a democracy is never above answerability to the people, howsoever be its strength in the House of Representatives.

Is there any justice for the murdered journalist? Orissa should be ashamed of its pusillanimity

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A month has elapsed. As ORISSA MATTERS had put it, the killers had found the Police Station area in Khalikote in the home district of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik quite a safe place to commit the crime. Journalist Tarun Acharya was killed coldblooded by the terminators of human rights in the evening of May 27. But, Police that was sleeping then, is in slumber as yet.

It was a brutal assault on Press. Neither the Chief Minister in whose district this crime was perpetrated, nor the Opposition in the Assembly whom every moment to find fault with administration is a golden opportunity, have woke up to the occasion to shade even their meretricious tears on the loss of the precious life. Neither any politician worth his salt has condemned the murder nor has the Eastern Media Limited that was using his input to gain more audience stood even posthumously with the man, lest thereby his employment with the flagships of the organization may raise complicated labor issues.

In such a circumstances, eminent journalist and leader of Media Unity for Freedom of Press, Prasanta Patnaik has issued a statement appealing the conscience of everybody who loves democracy to react to this dastardly attack on the fourth pillar of democracy. We quote below his statement –

A month has passed since the brutal murder of our journalist friend TARUN ACHARYA of Khallikote in Ganjam district. Despite the demands of media persons through various journalist bodies and MEDIA UNIT FOR FREEDOM OF PRESS (MUFP) for arrest of all involved in this crime and to take exemplary steps by trying all the accused persons in the First Track Courts and giving adequate compensation to the next of kin of Tarun, s far the State Government has not taken any action.

Very strangely our popular Chief Minister Mr Naveen Patnaik and none from the Government have condemned the brutal murder nor have expressed sympathy to the bereaved family including his young widow, old parents and other family members.

It is a clear attack on the freedom of press in Orissa none of our political leaders including the leader of opposition have so far raised voice in the Assembly which is presently on session. None of the Civil Society bodies, intellectuals, women and youth organizations has also raised voice against such heinous attack on the Fourth Pillar of Democracy.

While only two persons allegedly involved in the crime have been arrested others have not been arrested and the police have not been able to reach at the root of the conspiracy and find out the persons really responsible for the crime.

Tarun, though was working for the SAMBAD and KANAK TV and his reports on the cashew mafia in these media is said to be the real cause behind his murder so far the management of this media house have not come forward to claim that Tarun was their reporter nor have taken any step strikingly condemning the brutal killing of a brave Journalist like Tarun Acharya.

I therefore appeal to all the media persons irrespective organizations they are working for and professional organizations to which they belong to join their hands and strongly fight against such threat to media persons in Orissa.

I also appeal to all professional bodies and MEDIA UNIT FOR FREEDOM OF PRESS (MUFP), all the editors, management of Media Houses to express their solidarity for this great cause of Orissa media and press their legitimate demands.

Friends who agree with my views may kindly send their suggestions at the earliest so that we can organize a meeting of all media friends working in print, electronic, web and visual media etc. to finalize our future course of action.

Chief Minister’s home district: Killer finds Police Station area safe for the crime

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The District belongs to the Chief Minister. The department of home (Police) belongs to the Chief Minister. Like all other Police Stations in the District, Khalikote PS is also equipped with carefully chosen Police Officers worthy of confidence of the Chief Minister.

Yet, the killer(s) slaughtered media person Tarun Acharya in the early night of Tuesday sans any fear for the Police even though the PS was in the proximity.

Acharya, only 34, was reportedly investigating into certain acts of felony, which could have become very problematic for the rogues.

Whether or not those rogues have murdered Acharya, the fact that a journalist could be killed so cold-bloodedly on the road nearing the PS, speaks volumes of how the environment there has become congenial to crime.

Various organizations of media persons including Media Unity for Freedom of Press have expressed solidarity with and demanded compensation to the bereaved family and punishment to the killer(s) without loss of time.

SCB Medical College must not be allowed to remain a den of vices

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The rowdy medical students of SCB Medical College, who were on strike since arrest of one of them for having instigated and led a gang of fellow students to torture two of the Cuttack based journalists in wrongful confinement in their hostel, have withdrawn their strike after the SCBMC superintendent put a ban on normal entry of journalists into its campus for news purpose.

In an office-order issued on June 28, the Superintendent has directed that “no doctor or official is authorized to give any bite or news both to electronic & print media”, while prohibiting media representatives from entering into various parts of the institute without his prior permission.

The arrested medico, engaged in medicine ward, was instigating a patient to shift to nephrology ward, even though he was never a nephrology case. His pathological tests that the medicine ward had routinely conducted had shown that his urea creatinine level was normal and he had no problem with the kidneys. But the medico was insisting that he should be shifted to nephrology ward where his kidneys could be tested. The daughter of the old man was not agreeing with the medico to shift her father to the nephrology wing as she was smelling a rat; because, her father was not diagnosed on the basis of investigations to be a case for nephrology and because the medico was insisting upon shifting her father to nephrology ward behind the back of the treating professor and unit head of medicine, and further because, kidney is an organ that gets stolen by the needing rich through the doctors in treating hospitals. The medico was seen intimidating her. The journalist in question being the son of the patient on coming to know of the matter apprised the professor and unit head of this, who instantly rushed to the spot, asked the indoor patients of the ward about the happening and allegation well corroborated by fellow patients, shifted the concerned medico to another duty room immediately. This irritated the medico. So, as the journalist was sure to come to see his ailing father again, the concerned medico kept a gang of medicos organized to teach the journalist a lesion. When the next day the journalist came, another fellow journalist had accompanied him to have a in-depth investigation into the motive of the medico behind insistence to shift the patient from general medicine to nephrology ward behind back of the professor and unit head. The lurking medicos jumped over them and whisked away them into a wrongful confinement in a hostel and inhumanly tortured them for hours. Sadly, the police IIC having arrived in the campus on a SoS message from the tortured journalist, remained a passive onlooker and later, while dillydallying to act on the journalists’ FIR, was seen entertaining the accused medicos in his chamber and accommodating their counter FIR. As the IIC paid a deaf ear to the grievances of the two media men, the scribes and photo-journalists of Cuttack led a protest rally to police headquarters and sumbitted a memorandum seeking stern action against the miscreant medicos as well as against the IIC, Mangalabag for siding with the miscreants. They were assured of appropriate action against the miscreant medicos and the IIC for dereliction in duty.

Against this backdrop, the SCBMC superintendent has issued the mischievous order.

The order is very shrewdly worded which de jure does not appear like a ban order, but imposes a de facto ban. It says, “media representatives both electronic and print shall be allowed to enter into the O.P.D./Casualty/Wards etc only after obtaining permission from the superintendent”. To some, the expression shall be allowed to enter with permission is not the same as shall not be allowed without permission. So, to them, the order in question has a positive line. But in reality, it is a mischief against freedom of press designed to keep unethical and illegal medical practice going on unabated in the college hospital hidden from public knowledge.

That, the averment that “media representatives ……. shall be allowed to enter into the O.P.D./Casualty/Wards etc only after obtaining permission from the superintendent” is a ploy to escape criticism for stymieing free press, is established by the Sambad in its report of July 01 as it has exposed how the so-called permission to its man was granted long 7 hours after formal request on June 30.

So the views that making superintendent’s permission a prerequisite for media persons to enter into the SCBMC campus is not obstructive to freedom of press is not acceptable.

On the other hand, in a signed editorial on June 30, captioned “Dhik Tama Hitlery Shasan” (Fie your Hitlerian rule), editor of the Samaja Sri Gopal Mohapatra has shown how SCBMC has become a den of vices and deliberate negligence to poor patients; and how its maladies have attracted governmental intervention after being exposed in media leading to correction of its wrongs, which without exposure in the Press could have continued to affect the patients under habitual nonchalance of the authorities or under pretense of professional aloofness of the doctors.

In this splendid editorial seldom seen in mainstream media in Orissa, Sri Mohapatra has rightly termed the ban as a crude attempt to keep medical maladies under cover for ever.

How media has made the medical authorities wake up to needs of treatment and nursing is discernible in hundreds of published reports. As for example, in August 2011, when hundreds of Dengue patients were perishing in SCBMC without care on its corridors, the authorities had to confess their lapses and organize beds and nursing materials that had saved hundreds of lives after being exposed in the media.

“There was some problem regarding infrastructure, but everything has been sorted out now. We have taken measures to open the special dengue ward. Arrangements have been made for an adequate number of mosquito nets and beds for the patients and even doctors have been assigned for the ward, It will start functioning from Friday” the superintendent had stated (Times of India, August 19, 2011).

Had the press not exposed the malady, no correctional steps could have commenced and hundreds of people could have died of dengue.

And, this malady could not have been spotted and focussed had the journalists been denied free access to the SCBMC campus.

Exposure of their misdeeds by media has always been irritant to the black sheep in SCBMC. The present restriction on entry of journalists to its campus is propelled by irritation over exposure of medical misdeeds.

The affected journalists, whose professional entitlement to have access to source of information is so very severely infringed upon by the SCBMC superintendent, could have entered into the campus en mass in protest against the wrongful order; but instead of that, they have rightly met the central RDC in a huge delegation on July 01 seeking his administrative intervention.

We earnestly hope, the RDC will appreciate this good gesture of journalists and use his position to ensure that the rowdy medicos are disciplined and the premier medical college is made available to media’s free access in order not to remain a den of vices that a few miscreants amongst medical community have turned it to at the moment.

At the same time Cuttack journalists’ allegation that Mangalabag IIC is protecting the miscreant medicos needs be investigated into and action be taken against him sans any delay if he is found prima facie guilty of the mischief.

This is essential, because the SCB Medicall College must no more be allowed to remain a den of vices.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,626 other followers