Newspaper is not a private matter

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Eminent journalist Prasanta Patnaik, whose column ‘Trutiya Nayana’ had given tremendous credibility and readership to the Oriya daily ‘Pragativadi’, was embarrassed by the owner/operator of the paper to such extent that he has declared not to contribute his column any more to that media organization.

“My column will not appear any more in Pragativadi”, he has notified through social media Facebook.

Pragativadi had begun with begged for financial support from the public. I was the first man to have donated Rs.15/- to the fund for its publication, when its founder Pradyumna Bal had not even been able to print a receipt book for the donations/advance subscription. But his zeal was remarkable, as he was in forefront of agitation against Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s misrule.

That I was the first man to have donated to its funds was witnessed by late revolutionary Manmohan Mishra and my elder brotherly Journalist Ramahari Mishra.

Let me elaborate.

I got a post card from Pradyuman Bal inviting me to a meeting of like-minded friends to be held at Jhanjirimangala in Cuttack to discuss how to develop a media weapon to fight Mrs Gandhi’s misrule. I reached his place at 5 PM on the appointed day. Rabi Das, who, later had become editor of Pragativadi, had escorted me to the inner courtyard of the house, where Manmohan babu was sitting on a cotton ‘Dari (a sort of very coarse carpet) with Pradyumna Bal. After about 15 minutes the 2nd man to attend the meeting – journalist Ramahari Mishra, then with Amrit Bazar Patrika at Cuttack – appeared. Manmohan babu kept us engaged by narrating his experience in jail, from where he had come on parole and with details of how Bhagavat Behera’s wife had sent personal letters to jailers to know of whereabouts of her husband and about his health. No third man had arrived till 7 PM. I had other works to attend. As Pradyumna babu had, in the meantime, told of his intention to bring out Pragativadi as a fortnightly, I had asked him about how much amount of money he proposes for annual subscription and how many people he had invited to the meeting, to which he had replied that he had posted a thousand post cards, and, if 1000 annual subscribers could be enlisted against Rs. 15/- each, publication of the fortnightly would have no constraints. I gave him that amount and begged leave, as we assumed that fear for police might have stymied the invitees, who, on personal contact, may have no hesitation to pay their subscription in advance, the amount being so very small. Then Ramahari babu also gave the amount and came out with me, as staying for more time there could have posed difficulties in getting a rickshaw for Tulasipur, where he was staying.

When Pragativadi was published, Pradyumna babu had never sent me a copy. Aware of the character of politicians in general, I didn’t mind. He, however, remained a friend till his last days.

This unmemorable experience is recalled just to say that, the paper ‘Pragativadi’ owes its origin to donations of unacknowledged paltry sums of money by the public of Orissa.

By embarrassing Prasanta Patnaik as aforesaid, the present owner of the paper has behaved as if the paper was created out of his family’s private property.

The income of a newspaper is the byproduct of contributions of the journalists, because the paper is basically a journalistic venture. It earns subscriptions, because journalists put the information that people want. It earns from advertisements, because the works of the journalists gives it a readership that the advirtisers want to reach. Pragativadi is no exception.

And, if Pragativadi got a readership, Prasanta Patnaik’s contributions thereto is simply unfathomable.

Its acceptability to public was for the first time discernible when its pages had in-depth reports on the plights of rural reporter Naba Kishore Mohapatra on whom the rising mafia had taken revenge for their exposure by perpetrating gang-rape till death on his wife Chhabirani in the days of J. B. Patnaik’s first phase of Chief-Ministership. Prasanta Patnaik had contributed those reports with necessary pictorial in-put.

And, for having, thereby, enhanced the credibility of Pragativadi while exposing JB’s misrule that extinguished Chhabirani, Orissa had witnessed, how eventually Prasanta Patnaik was thrown out of his official residence.

The same newspaper, in hands of the heirs of Pradyumna Bal has misbehaved with the same Prasanta Patnaik, after being established as a major paper with his help, is something, which no nastiness can ever surpass.

What is Prasanta Patnaik?

He is a very simple-natured, uncomplicated, class conscious media person who loves his friends and serves his profession, with tireless readiness to act a sentinel of the people with utmost honesty and magnanimity that he commands. He is an Ajatashatru having no ill-feeling for anybody; yet he is a doyen amongst the scribes of Orissa with uncompromising stance on ethicality of the profession.

He is so pure in mind and heart that he has deemed it his duty to inform his readers that his column shall no more be available in Pragativadi. He has not raised the issue of remunerative compensation, which Pragativadi is legally liable to pay him. He is too magnanimous to raise this issue when the son of his friend holds the reign of the paper. He has decided to stop syndicating to this paper only on the ground of self-respect. In reacting to this, eminent poet and intellectual, Devdas Chhotray has rightly said in Facebook, “Pradyumna Bala must be turning in his grave!”

Dear Samahit Bal, the paper’s editor, I have tried to contact you on this issue; but perhaps time plays the tricks. However, please note, newspaper may be a private property, but not at all a private matter. Therefore, we condemn the way Prasanta babu is embarrassed, and as a friend of your late lamented father, expect that you shall amend yourself.

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