Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 27 May 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on May 30, 2011

weekly 27 May

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L’express Weekly, 20 May 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on May 25, 2011

L’express Weekly, 13 May 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on May 13, 2011

pdf Weekly 13 May

The flipside of the press

In this edition, you will come across an interview given to us by
Craig White from the U.S. Embassy. He is not a journalist and is
not particularly critical of the hostile relationship government has
adopted towards the press. He thinks it is part of the game. However,
his verdict about the prime minister’s recent attack on the press,
particularly on our colleague, Raj Meetarbhan, is different. Couched in
diplomatic terms, the tone of the confl ict is qualifi ed as “disquieting”.
Before anyone jumps at our throats with the same mantra that the
U.S. has no lessons to give on a number of press related issues, we hasten
to say that it doesn’t. Craig White is the fi rst to admit that the press
in his own country is not perfect. He denounces the lack of critical
analysis it demonstrated during the Iraq invasion, for example, when
it followed the herd and went with the fl ow to avoid confl ict. Once
frenzy had been whipped up over the issue of weapons of mass destruction,
everyone had to ‘see’ them or face the consequences. Anyone
who has been in journalism realises how diffi cult it is to go against the
fl ow, question and rationalise. Confl icts are generally a good outcome
of that questioning. The confl ict here, however, has gone beyond the
acceptable norms necessary between two discreet bodies which often
relate to each other confrontationally. It has become frightfully personal
and has reached a point where something has to give.
One has to understand that until such time as automaton-operated
newspapers are invented, asking the press to be totally objective
is asking its journalists to let go of their humanness. When it comes
to expressing opinion, a degree of bias is inevitable in every position
editors take, in every thought they express, in every word they
put to paper. And, considering the diversity of newspapers, views,
opinions and interests which express themselves in a totally free
environment, the outcome ought to balance out in the end. The
prime minister has to accept that and live with it.
Naturally, no one likes to be criticised. Our elected representatives
are happy to use the press to improve their public image and
be in the public eye, but they abhor the fl ip side of it. Being in the
public eye implies that you may be criticised by the same media
which, at other times, celebrated other aspects of you. Hard as it is
to accept, it comes with the territory.
As a profession, we also have to do our mea culpa. We don’t often
do that. We are in the public arena: we question, criticise and demand
accountability. We accept that those holding the levers of state power,
who are regularly the object of our criticism and from whom we demand
accountability, can and do hit back. But personal attacks which
degrade human beings are unacceptable, particularly when proffered
by a prime minister who wants the press to publish the “truth”.
We can’t do that. We can aim for a higher degree of professionalism,
fairness, accuracy, rigour and respect for journalistic ethics. We can
condemn slipshoddiness, approximation, lack of checking one’s facts
and score settling. But we can only publish the truth as we see it for the
simple reason that we do not hold the “truth”. Nobody does. That is
the fi rst step towards mea culpa. It is a big lesson in humility. And we
all have so much to be humble about.
weekly@lexpress.mu

L’express Weekly, 6 May 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on May 9, 2011

pdf weekly 6 may

From silent obscurity
to outrageous fame

We did not have the opportunity to savour Mrs. Patil’s
decoration at the University of Mauritius last week as
the ceremony was overshadowed by an unexpected incident:
Aurore Perraud grabbing the headlines through her
comments and tears after she was prevented from walking on the red
carpet and sitting next to her PPS colleagues. We are not insensitive to
Mrs. Perraud’s tears. People have a different physical and psychological
pain threshold and we fully sympathize. We have never had the privilege
of wiping our shoes on a red carpet but we can make the difference
between a red carpet rolled out by the diplomatic service and a carpet
which happens to be red and which is thrown in by the University of
Mauritius. Had Mrs. Perraud done her homework, she would have
avoided herself a lot of embarrassment and would have avoided the
country such a bitter polemic. She would also have sat where her position
entitles her to sit. Rising from obscurity and being propelled to
a high position should not stop one from being humble enough to
realize that sitting in the Legislative Assembly does not entitle one to
ALL privileges. The protocol is an international convention and if our
MPs are going to cry every time they are not allowed to ignore it, then
it should perhaps be scrapped.
How an incident about a carpet and a mishandled seating arrangement
turned into a racist polemic involving the Voice of Hindu
and the Creole sectarian groups is honestly beyond the grasp of any
rational mind. If Aurore Perraud found in the humiliating incident
an opportunity to at last introduce herself to the public and talk
about her hairstyle, good on her. We are not, however, inclined to
follow her in giving a racist slant to the incident.
What I am incensed by is how some politicians use every opportunity
to gain political mileage. We, thus, suddenly have an MP who
has sacrifi ced her “children, family, career and entire life” to serve the
underprivileged; a rather inaccurate description of sitting idly in parliament
for a few hours a week and travelling business class at the expense
of the taxpayer. Claiming that she has devoted herself to “defending the
cause of equality and social justice” goes against her own statement that
what she has done so far is accept one public humiliation after another,
a price she must have found small enough to pay for frequent overseas
joyrides and drawing a salary for warming up her place in the silent
obscurity of the back benches of parliament.
But putting the drama of the awful shame of the sacrifi ced career
aside, someone who entered the National Assembly through the communal
back door as a ‘best loser’ can ill-afford to stand against discrimination
with such blatant hypocrisy. Some incompetent person may have
erred by directing Aurore Perraud to a seat reserved for a PPS which
she is not entitled to sit on, but defl ecting the issue to one of race and
hairstyle and trying to appear as a martyr is equally wrong. Mrs. Peraud
is free to wear the hairstyle she wants, and to give her the compliment
she has desperately been fi shing for, we fi nd it rather attractive. But
brazenly grabbing the opportunity to make the incident a racial battle
is ill-advised and we would be wrong to fan such fl ames. It is dangerous
for the country. It is unbecoming of an MP.
weekly@lexpress.mu

L’express Weekly, 29 April 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on May 2, 2011

Weekly 29 April

Soap operas and briani

We really do excel in the art of mass entertainment. The kind
which is most apt at delivering easy satisfaction and quick
gratifi cation. And, as an audience, we are all willing to be
entertained and cannot w ait for the next stunt.
Sometimes, there are mercies which we have to be grateful for as they
enhance the spectacle. Like the visit of the non-executive president of
India to our little island and the hullabaloo generated around it. Don’t get
me wrong. I am not opposed to the visits of statesmen and stateswomen
to our country. Quite the opposite. However, although we have historical
reasons to feel an emotional attachment to India, nonetheless we do have
to be rational in our acts.
First, our Leader of the Opposition offi cially declares that he has to
postpone the revelations he has to make about the “mega scandal” involving
the Patel fi rm. Very courteous, really. But unless he is confusing Patil
and Patel, I see no connection between a foreign president’s visit to our
land, albeit from India, and what he qualifi ed as a scandal which would
make the MedPoint one pale in comparison.
Then our dear Prime minister, unveiling Indira Gandhi’s statue engages
in a dithyrambic speech which makes the lady sound like the best
thing India has had since sliced bread. If Mrs. Patil was pleased to hear
about how wonderful Indira Gandhi was, millions of Indians, for whom
the late Prime minister was not exactly an icon of democracy and respect
for human rights, still bear the scars of her authoritarian rule. A state of
emergency, press censorship, dynastic nepotism and the trauma of forced
mass sterilisations resulting in an aversion to family planning ever since
are but a few of the remembrances of her legacy.
After this intensely entertaining week, you may feel an anti-climax as
the president who has graced us with her visit has left. Well, take heart:
May Day is round the corner and you will see our genius in action. While
in some countries, there is fear of violence as sometimes workers are
chased off the streets with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, on
our little island, we will see scores of workers as well as those who have
never worked in their lives, pouring out of their homes in large numbers
and gearing up for the free grub, booze and picnic. They will be brandishing
the colour of the party which has bought their sympathy in a
power game all too familiar. Economic crisis, world recession, infl ation,
eroded purchasing power, MedPoint, bookmakers getting away with
murder, who cares once one’s stomach has been rounded with a good
helping of briani, one’s senses have been numbed with beer and cheap
rum and one’s voice has become hoarse through shouting aboard the
free buses shuttling people around the island. Why worry about such
insignifi cant things? One is grateful enough for the recreation.
Let no one breathe that the celebration of Labour Day has its origins in
the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work,
eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest. The only recreation
many of us get is on May Day. As for work and rest, we have nothing
to complain about: we will not work for eight hours because we are not
foreign workers and we will not rest for eight hours because it is not
enough. So, let’s enjoy the entertainment while it lasts. And let the size
of the crowd dictate ki sanla ki mari, for that’s what May Day is now
all about.

weekly@lexpress.mu