Veteran journalist, columnist and author Kuldip Nayar was on Monday honoured with ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his contribution to journalism at the eighth edition of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence awards for years 2013 and 2014.
Nayar is a former editor of The Indian Express. During Emergency he was jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) for leading a protest against the excesses of the administration.
At a glittering ceremony attended by leading lights from diverse fields, Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley handed over the awards to 56 journalists for their exceptional reportage in print as well as broadcast media in various categories for years 2013 and 2014.
Speaking on the occasion, Jaitley said, “A big challenge which media faces even today” is from various people involved in other businesses also tend to control news organisations, and the editorial columns start “reflecting the obvious conflict of the different interests that they have.”
Jaitley said Goenka realised that newspaper business has to be a “standalone business”. To ensure that his newspapers are insulated from external influences, Goenka established real-estate centres in various cities to support his publication, the Union minister said.
This policy helped him during Emergency, where he virtually became the sole voice in favour of democracy, Jaitley said.
“We live in an era where mediocrity sometimes dominates.
To select excellence and reward it year by year, I think is a fitting tribute to him,” Jaitley said.
The newsreports which got the awards included from moving accounts of the 2012 Muzaffarnagar riot survivors, to a series of reports from Syria and Iraq on the havoc wrought by the Islamic State and from sterilisation deaths in Chhattisgarh to heart-warming accounts of young girls learning to play cricket in a Maoist-affected village in Jharkhand.
Speaking at the occasion, Viveck Goenka, chairman of the Express Group and the Ramnath Goenka Foundation said a record number of applicants this time– 700– and the quality of stories awarded showed that excellence in journalism isn’t in short supply.
Journalists, like economists, he said, have to be students of “human nature, of exuberance and fear”, especially at a time of disruptive change, Goenka added.
Among the winners, Radheshyam Bapu Jadhav of The Times of India bagged the Prakash Kardaley Memorial Award for Civic Journalism (2014) for his reports on illegal buildings in Pune and the fear of the residents, amid political apathy.
Richard Joseph of Rashtra Deepika won this award for 2013, for a story documenting life of children in tribal villages who drop out of school to support their families.
Jaitley, narrating his own personal interactions with Goenka, said that he was fearless and at one time had nearly 700 prosecutions against him, but was never cowed down.
Speaking in the context of the current state of journalism, Jaitley said Goenka was fearless and took pride in the fact that a newspaper is supposed to expose corruption and injustice.
Among the other prominent award winners were Hakeem Irfan and Raman Kirpal of DNA in the ‘Investigative Reporting’ category for year 2014, for their stories based on visitors’ log at 2 Janpath, the residence of then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha.
In the category of ‘On the spot reporting – Broadcast’ for 2014, Amitabh Pashupati Revi of NDTV won the award for his series of reports from Syria and Iraq on havoc wrought by Islamic State and also tracing the journey of 46 Indian nurses to safety.
In ‘On the spot reporting category’ for print (2013) Dipankar Ghose and V N Apurva won the award for documenting the Muzaffarnagar communal violence including exodus of victims and the social political situations.
Several other prominent award winners included Gary J Bass (for his book ‘The Blood Telegram’), Ziauddin Sardar (for his book -Mecca), Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News, Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV 24×7, Barkha Dutt (NDTV 24×7).
Other winners included Karma Samten Paljor (CNN-IBN), Shyamlal Yadav (The Indian Express), Tashi Tobgyal (The Indian Express), Chitra Tripathi (India News), Supriya Sharma (Scroll.in) and Dar Yasin (Associated Press).
The jury which selected the award winners included former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna, banker Deepak Parekh, ex-Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureishi, senior journalist Pamela Philipose and Sashi Kumar, a media personality.