The Hindu believes it is the first newspaper in the history of andhar bahar gamen journalism to appoint a Readers' Editor. The Readers' Editor will be the independent, full-time internal ombudsman of The Hindu .

The key objectives of this appointment are to institutionalise the practice of self-regulation, accountability, and transparency; to create a new visible framework to improve accuracy, verification, and standards in the newspaper; and to strengthen bonds between the newspaper and its millions of print platform and online readers.

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The editorial acknowledged that some questions asked during post-match conferences are insensitive. This is vastly different from the multiple challenges posed by mental health issues.

One of the readers, Vasudevan, felt that the editorial was written before Ms. Osaka decided to quit the tournament. He wrote: “The editorial has jumped the gun by stating that Osaka ignored nuance, dished out a lame excuse and trivialised the serious issue of mental health. In hindsight, it is obvious that it is the editorial that has trivialised the serious issue of mental health by not taking cognisance of what a champion player like Osaka is going through. If one goes through her on-court interviews of the past, one would find that she never was comfortable, though the real reasons were never known. Instead of trying to understand the problem, as not all individuals are made equal, other Grand Slam tournament authorities also joined French Open authorities in warning an already vulnerable individual.”

I agree with Mr. Vasudevan. Editorials should exemplify perspicacity and in this context, Osaka’s subsequent statement makes the editorial seem churlish. She spoke of experiencing “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and said that she has “suffered long bouts of depression”. This needs empathetic listening. But having expressed my reservation about the editorial and flagging the concerns of readers, I must acknowledge that the opinion pages made quick amends.

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Preethi Ramamoorthy, who has covered Grand Slam tournaments, wrote a reflective article, “Asking the right questions” (June 3). She wrote: “There exists a larger question of what we expect from our sporting icons. Are we satisfied with them just doing their job — playing, winning — or do we want to get to know the person, the tactical genius, behind the champion? It takes a particular brand of mental fortitude to thrive in a punishing and lonely sport such as tennis. It is this trait that journalists most often want to probe and showcase.” She rightly pointed out that the ideal way to do this is through “long-winded, private chats”.

On the same day, the President of the Public Health Foundation of andhar bahar game, K. Srinath Reddy, wrote an article stressing on the need to look at the delicate subject of mental health more closely. He also documented the hypocrisy of sporting bodies. He wrote: “The French Tennis Federation did not cover itself in glory when it displayed an utter lack of empathy towards a vulnerable young woman who rose to the top of the game because of her immense talent and not because of her speaking abilities… To add irony and insult to injury, Gilles Moretton, the president of the French Tennis Federation, made a statement to the press about Osaka’s withdrawal and left without fielding questions. The incident lays bare deep hypocrisy.”

As an ombudsman, my special respect for sports journalism stems from the fact that it effortlessly straddles the two worlds of public interest and what the public is interested in. Even a moment’s lapse of empathy will derail this fine balance.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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Mehta had been consistent in his approach to provide space for critical voices. He had two sacrosanct lines — one, between the professional who can be subjected to savage criticism and the privacy of his or her family, and two, the difference between strident criticism and abuse.

His answer to Scroll.in was a version of an advice he gave to me for handling my new job as an editor. He said: “Editors and journalists tell everybody that different points of view must be allowed. But about themselves, they accept only one point of view, that they are god’s gift to journalism. I specialise in self-mockery because I come from Lucknow. I developed an early taste for self-mockery. I think to mock yourself, you have to have a certain confidence in your ability. Not everybody can mock themselves. So, in a way, I am paying a compliment to myself.”

But I did not know that Mahatma Gandhi had a similar idea about readers’ participation when he was running his newspaper andhar bahar gamen Opinion during his days in South Africa. The Mahatma’s grandson and scholar-administrator Gopalkrishna Gandhi on February 20 sent me a surprise note to mark the 115th anniversary of a correspondence between the Mahatma, who was then based in Johannesburg, and his nephew Chhaganlal K. Gandhi (CKG), who was managing andhar bahar gamen Opinion from Phoenix.

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According to Mr. Gandhi, the Mahatma’s letter on February 19, 1906 listed four core policies to be followed about letters to the editor. They were: “1) We should as a rule publish all letters against us. 2) We should be chary of long harangues. 3) We should consider who the correspondent is. If we feel that his correspondence must be accepted, it should be abridged, if lengthy. 4) We should take letters giving local news.”

Mr. Gandhi also provided a historical background to contextualise the missive. “Mansukhlal Nazar, the founding editor, had just died. And CKG was sending to his uncle all the letters received for publication, for him to do the selection. At one point, MKG [Mahatma] decided this practice should be discontinued, and so he gave to CKG the guiding rules that should govern the selection of letters for publication. Interestingly, the last ‘rule’ arose from an issue of interest to the people of Dundee, SA, in which an andhar bahar gamen barber, while giving a shave to an andhar bahar gamen merchant, left off in the middle to attend to a European customer, whereupon the andhar bahar gamen community decided to boycott the barber.”

I knew that the histories of andhar bahar gamen Opinion and the Phoenix Settlement near Durban, both established by the Mahatma, were intertwined. Nevertheless, I was ignorant of his edict to his editorial team. Learning by listening is never restricted to individuals. All the four estates of democracy — legislature, executive, judiciary and media — should never shut the doors to differing voices. Feedback often tends to be of a view that is less flattering, but it has the potential to point out lacunae often overlooked due to various reasons, including fatigue. When journalists listen, they not only learn, but also enrich and empower readers in more ways than one.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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the Press Council of andhar bahar game issued an advisory that read, “The Press Council of andhar bahar game has considered references received from various quarters by the Government about the responsibility of andhar bahar gamen andhar bahar onlinepapers in publishing foreign contents. The Council is of the view that unregulated circulation of the foreign content is not desirable. Hence, it advises the media to publish foreign extracts in andhar bahar gamen newspapers with due verification as the Reporter, Publisher and Editor of such newspaper shall be responsible for the contents irrespective of the source from which it is received.”

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Before addressing the stark nature of the advisory, it is important to understand the two roles assigned to the PCI: while it will remain a watchdog of journalistic ethics, it will also function as a shield to the freedom of the press. During the Emergency, the PCI was abolished and the Act that led to the constitution of the Council was repealed because the then government felt that the Council had taken the role of a shield to the freedom of press seriously. When the gory stories of Emergency’s excesses and its onslaught on independent press came out, the Janata Government decided to re-convene the PCI, to protect the right to freedom of press. In fact, the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, spoke at length about the need for an independent and unfettered press when he introduced the Bill to re-establish the Council.

If Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Information Minister during the Emergency, V.C. Shukla, had known that the PCI would issue advisories on the basis of complaints received from the government, without fully examining them and with zero consultations with news organisations, they would not have even abolished the Council. They felt that the Council will never surrender its shield-role. They felt that the Council, in a sense, exemplified the separation of powers. In order to implement the will of the Executive, the Council was abolished.

The advisory from the Council not only undermines the freedom of expression and the independent media, it also reveals how little thinking has gone into the process before issuing an advisory that is impossible to comply with. The term ‘foreign’ has a wide connotation, and it includes even international news agencies such as Reuters, the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse. It also covers a range of news organisations with which many andhar bahar gamen newspapers and magazines have syndicated arrangements. The fact is, newsgathering is an expensive exercise. By having an international arrangement, a newspaper not only manages to defray the cost, but also fulfils its fundamental goal of informing its readers without being hampered by the resource crunch. The act of verification is central to any credible news organisation. The editorial assumption of an andhar bahar gamen newspaper, when it subscribes to or gets into a syndication arrangement with a foreign news organisation, is that the source agency has verified and authenticated an item before it is put out in the public domain. If a newspaper has the resources to verify and fact-check every statement put out by the agencies, it would very well, in the first place, have appointed more correspondents rather than depending on an external source. It is fair to say that the PCI’s advisory has very little understanding of the political economy of the news gathering and news dissemination business.

One of the benchmarks for the independent functioning of any watchdog is to maintain a critical distance from all stakeholders. And, in the case of complaints against one arm, it is incumbent on the watchdog to share the details of the nature of the complaints. What does the PCI mean when it says ‘various quarters by the Government’? It is vital for the Council to understand the difference between an advisory and a gag order. Gag orders often become tools for prior restraint and have serious consequences for both free speech and a citizen’s right to receive information. Only a meaningful regulation exhales darkness.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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