Tidbits of the region’s media

Tidbits of the region’s media

Sketch: Sworup Nhasiju

Chhetria Patrakar is much impressed by the Bangladesh government's ingenuity – or ingenuosness. A private TV station, Banglavision, produces a three-part series on the country's most famous murder convict. This is a man who was serving a sentence for murder, when the government appointed him to be the state hangman, sanctioning two months off his sentence for every person he executed. He then went on to conduct nine hangings ordered by the state.

Anyway, after airing the first part, the station gets an order from the government to terminate the show. After the initial fury over Big Brother's noose (media freedom, public's right to information and all that), CP is now impatient to watch the series. Not to test the Bangladeshi government's statement that the show could frighten little children (although verifying this is a must), but in order to learn the selection criteria for the murderous executioner. What was the would-be hangman's application letter like? 'Dear members of the Hang-one-and-get-two-months-off committee, I look like Tom Hanks and I have the necessary experience for the job'? 
 
This is quite the life: this man is convicted of murder, goes on to conduct nine state-sanctioned executions, and then gets picked up by BBC. 
 
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The media in the Maldives has found itself at the other end of protests, with public demonstrations outside television stations supposedly protesting against the media's proclivity to 'intimidate' interviewees. On the other hand, the fledgling Maldivian media also stands accused of being soft on a corrupt and politicised judiciary, which, far from upholding the ethical standards it is mandated to do, is indulging in what has been termed 'judicial bullying'. Hmmm … not just a few injudicious characters warming those benches, suspects CP, but a shaky pillar of the new democracy. Some friendly advice: 'Watch it, Anni!' 
                                                                                           
 
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Sketch: Sworup Nhasiju

The Sri Lankan government sure knows the alphabet of oppression: first Tamils, now billboards, and coming up next – miniskirts. President Mahinda Rajapakse recently ordered the removal of billboards featuring, what else, 'scantily clad women'. Yet what wrong could these billboards possibly have done to engender such a response. If the conservatives on the street (and on the presidential throne) are so aroused (oops, offended) by these images, they must have seriously misunderstood the function of billboards in the first place. There they are, standing tall and glinting like the president's moustache – up there to publicise, advertise and educate, sweethearts. CP suggests that the president simply order those who have taken offence to concentrate on the path forward – an ability we all need anyway in these trying, arousing times. 

 
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An embarrassing time is what ace-cricketer-going-stale Sourav Ganguly was going through, with the media portraying him as a jilted lover. When Ganguly was the boy left out in the recent IPL auction, talk shows and television debates buzzed with what went wrong. A snubbed Ganguly of course made dark allegations about 'politics', which were promptly carried uncritically by most newspapers. What the Indian media conveniently forgot while speculating about Ganguly being ignored is the continuing scandal of Lalit Modi and his allegedly shady deals, which got him booted out of the IPL itself. No questions asked, no awkward analysis – after all, no scandal can intrude into the festivities of cricket meeting Bollywood, the gala taking up two whole days of television time in early January.
 
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Sketch: Sworup Nhasiju

Festivals can get rather routine and ho-hum, so naturally it was initially amusing to recently see the way that the Kathmandu Post ushered in Christmas: with a picture of two cute children in Santa hats, one yawning and the other pouting, and a caption below that read: 'Oh, oh, here I go again…' After the initial laugh, though, CP frowned, wondering what possessed the Post to reserve its humour for the main festival of one the country's religious minorities – and one that has faced a degree of hostility from some sections over the years. Maybe no malice was intended – 'all in good spirit' kinda thing – but would the Post carry a similar picture on the occasion of Dasain or Tihar, the main Hindu festivals in Nepal? CP ain't saying that the Post should not feel free to make jokes about religions. Jape all you want, as much as you want, but no discrimination, eh? 

 
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On the subject of religion, the houries waiting in heaven must be licking their lips in anticipation of the legions of young men who want to be in their midst. Following the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his guard Mumtaz Qadri, the Internet has turned out to be a haven for freedom of expression, even if it has been to glorify murderers of those espousing liberal views. If Facebook fans and those signing up for 'I Love Qadri' pages are any indication, the battalions of the soldiers of Islam are swelling. In a wise move, no bans and prohibitions have been put in place to prevent this war against 'blasphemers and their supporters' … but CP's delicate stomach turns to read such venom.
 
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Sketch: Sworup Nhasiju

Once again comes the never-ending debate about how private a public figure's life is – in this case, the life of President Pratibha Patil. Three press photographers were recently questioned by police after the pictures they took of the president sunning herself on a Goa beach was published in local newspapers. After a bit of googling and oogling at the picture, CP nearly laughed out loud. First of all, what exactly were these photographers after? A picture of the president suitable for Page 3? Or were they hoping to catch her sniffing drugs and swinging through the Goan nightlife? And the policemen, or whoever ordered them to summon the three journalists (most likely from the president's office, given that reports have President Patil being not very amused by the photos) – what were they thinking? 

 
Now that the incident is behind us, let's have a closer look at the picture. How regal the president's pose is! How proudly she admires her country's supple sands and pudgy tourists. Now, look at the white couple, whose appearance in the picture embarrassed some. They are the foils who help us, the Easterners, lay claim to moral superiority. A red-bordered yellow sari versus a blue two-piece bikini! Hands down, we win! 
 
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Sketch: Sworup Nhasiju

CP mourns the loss of 13 Pakistani journalists who, according to the South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) report, were among the casualties of attacks on public gatherings and suicide bombings last year. There is someone who might not be moved to hear this: Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. When Assange learned that a thousand journalists had been killed since 1944, he remarked to Stephen Moss of The Guardian that it was an international disgrace that so few Western journalists had been killed in the course of duty. It's unclear exactly how Assange feels about Eastern journalists, but regardless a journalist is a journalist. CP dreads what Assange might say about the SAMC report – 'Only 13?' Dear Mr Assange, your effort to disseminate raw information is admirable, but in doing so, will you please not equate death with serious journalism? 

 
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What's in a name? Ask the Indian government and it will tell you: a conspiracy. Bugged by the name of a new superbug – 'New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1)' – the Indian government claimed that the research, which was published in the Lancet last August, was a plot to undermine India's 'health tourism' industry. The report also advised the British citizens against travelling to India for corrective surgeries. Although the editor of the journal, Richard Horton, apologised for what he called 'an error of judgement', the lead researcher, Timothy Walsh of Cardiff University, defended the appellation, saying that it was a tradition to name such superbugs after the city of origin.
 
CP finds the advice against travelling to India nannyish, but the name itself is not uncool. Just look at the past lucky cities: Verona (Italy), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Seoul (South Korea) and Dusseldorf (Germany, although the superbug is only called the German Imipenemase1). Of course, one would rather be known by something else other than a superbug, but the Indian government should worry less: the name has now firmly put New Delhi on the medical map. 
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