First let me introduce myself: I am Ananth Krishna, a second year Law Student at NUALS, Kochi. I have been a subscriber and loyal reader of The Hindu since my pre-teenage years, believe it or not. From a very young age, The Hindu represented to me, a young curious student, a window to the world. Over the years, the newspaper became an inseparable part of my mornings. My parents fostered in me this habit an essential one that every citizen should have, and I am glad for it.
As I grew from an inquisitive child to a (young) adult, my ideas, perspectives and understanding of the world changed drastically, but not my regular reading of The Hindu. I am now more likely to disagree with the Editorials and the Open Editorials that come in the newspaper, but there is no doubt that my day is richer by reading the paper.
Having established the background (or rather, having established my credentials), I write to you for the first time to express my dissatisfaction and discontent with the reportage of the newspaper with respect to the suspension of FCRA licence of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
My discontent is not with the factual reporting of the matter, but rather the prima facie suspension of ethics and non-disclosure. (Though I might say the the quotes are mischievously placed. But that is not the matter of my letter.)
The Hindu is a well-respected name in the media and even more so in civil society. It is then more than reasonable that The Hindu maintains Ethical standards that are superior to the Industry. However, the coverage of this particular matter has to even a naked eye, contrived the ethical standards that must be maintained in an Newspaper.
I am of course, sir, a law student. I am in no way qualified to lecture you or anyone on ethics and mortality: I have neither the age, experience or knowledge. But, sir, I have imbibed from my parents and family a strong conscience. It is from that perspective that I write to you.
The Hindu, like many other English Language Newspapers, reported the suspension — “PHFI Loses FCRA Licence for lobbying” (April 19, 2017, April 20 on print) as reported by Ms. Vijata Singh & Ms. Vidya Krishnan. Like every other morning, I read the report and did not make much of it. It is only due to my usage of twitter that I became aware that Ms. Vidya Krishnan was a “Knowledge Transfer Consultant” in the organisation on which she reported, between 2012 -14. To me, this represents a violation of ethics. Why was the past association not disclosed to the readers? Will we be not richer for it, and poorer without it?
Is the reportage not compromised by Ms.Krishnan’s past association, Sir? Is it not a disservice to the readers of The Hindu that they were unaware of it?
Ms. Vidya Krishnan stated on Twitter that she had given Full Disclosure to her editor. (https://twitter.com/VidyaKrishnan/status/855361780876541953). In my (idealistic) understanding of ethics, Ms. Krishnan should have, if asked to do the reporting on the organisation in question, informed of her past association with the organisation, and her unwillingness to do the story on the same grounds.
Here, you were informed of the past association and found no need to disclose the past association of the reporter with the organisation. This, in my humble opinion is an egregious violation of ethics. How can a journalist provide neutral commentary and coverage on an organisation for which she has worked for in the past?
I subtweeted Ms. Krishnan’s twitter thread, stating : “ Who are you accountable to, as a journalist? To your reader or to your editor?” (https://twitter.com/Ananth_Krishna_/status/855644661074939904) to which Ms. Vidya Krishnan responded: “ To my editor. He answers to the readers. If u do find anything to back up ur BS accusations, feel free to mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org” (https://twitter.com/VidyaKrishnan/status/855657388132540416)
Now, I have made no accusation, I only asked whom a journalist should be responsible to — the reader or the editor, and I patently disagree with Ms. Krishnan’s viewpoint on the same. And I have made absolutely no “BS Accusations”, ( BS, I believe stands for Bull Shit)
Ms. Krishnan then, on 21 April/22 April (in print) interviewed the director of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the same issue: “Don’t think PHFI issue has anything to do with the Gates Foundation, says its director”. This again, in my humble opinion, represents a violation of ethics and the sanctity that should exist between the reader and the Newspaper.
Sir, my view of ethics and journalistic practice might be idealistic, or even wrong. But to a loyal reader like myself, this episode represents an infraction of ethics, a contravention of best journalistic practice.
I am a mere law student, a virtual nobody who has no knowledge of journalistic ethics and practice, but I am a loyal reader of The Hindu, and it is to express my dissatisfaction & discontent with the reportage of this matter that I write this Open Letter.
Ananth Krishna S.,