Sunday, June 21, 2009

Journalists as Media Advisors

As a colleague, I am delighted that Mr.Harish Khare of The Hindu has become the new Media Advisor to the Prime Minister.. But as one of his regular readers of his column in The Hindu, I'm disappointed for two reasons. First and foremost, I will be missing his unique perspective on contemporary issues before the nation. The second reason, I know, is debatable. Can journalists, like others, be guilty of conflict of interest? Given the fact that Mr.Khare has at times been critical of the Government's functioning in his columns, how will he now defend the Government as the PM's Media Advisor? In his columns here and here, Mr.Khare is critical of the former CEC, M.S.Gill first becoming an MP, and then becoming Sports Minister at the Centre. True, a journalist is not performing a Constitutional duty like the CEC. But the basis of criticism could be the the same: conflict of interests. Two of his recent articles on Mandate 2009 are available here and here. (I have since modified my view, and edited the original post, as explained in this following update)

UPDATE: This post set me thinking on what exactly are the duties of the PM's Media Advisor. Speech writing and organising the PM's interactions with the media are the obvious duties. Besides, the Media Advisor is also the PM's spokesperson, explaining the PM's decisions (and non-decisions) to the media both on record and off-the-record. Well, these are duties over which one does not expect conflicts of interest from Mr.Harish Khare, even if he had been critical of the Government at times. As far as the possibility of the appointment influencing how a journalist writes, I think it is very remote, as the PM will inevitably chose a person whom he trusts and who has been successful in the profession. Going through the names of some of his illustrious predecessors, I am sure Mr.Khare has an excellent opportunity to observe the PM at close quarters, preserve every piece of record, so as to be able to write his memoirs after he quits office. I found the contribution of H.Y.Sharada Prasad as the Media Advisor to Indira Gandhi very fascinating. He worked for an obscure Government publication, Yojana, before being elevated to the post by her. Readers would find the following links useful to understand the contribution of Sharada Prasad, who passed away recently.
1.Obituary in The Hindu
2.Sanjaya Baru's article in Outlook.
3.His autobiography.
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