Posts Tagged ‘Media’

• How has the repeal of Article 377 empowered the homosexuals?
I would like you to know that this Indian law was not known to many people, including those of the gay community. The fact is that in our country, religion plays a very important role. People were not aware about this law that criminalized homosexuality. They thought it is a sin, offense, crime etc. just because the society perceived it in that manner. And the society perceived it based on religion and the mindsets of the people in general. But since this law was decriminalized, most of the people came to know that this law once existed. After the court decision came, the amount of publicity generated by the media was widespread. It created a controversy, debates and discussions. This entire media publicity actually helped in mainstreaming homosexuality in the society. So, it was not about the law being decriminalized, but the publicity that created a lot of sensitization and empowerment in the community. One of my favorite quotes is that “Gay Rights cannot be won in the court rooms but in the hearts of the society.” See, I am very honest about my opinions. How many people in India follow the laws? Laws are made to be broken in our country. People don’t care much about the laws, what decisions the courts have made or what the parliament decides. If the mindset of the people is anti-homosexuality, then it does not make a difference if the High Court or the Supreme Court defies it. This decriminalization has definitely paved our way at Lakshya, my organization that works for HIV Prevention because this act was a serious obstacle towards HIV control in India. This law was being misused rather than being used. There are examples where my staff has been arrested by the Police. The irony is that they work for the Government of Gujarat, being paid salaries by the Govt. for distributing condoms for safe sex practices. The Police arrested them stating that it is against Section 377. We are here to save lives and the Police said we were violating the laws by encouraging homosexuality. So now that the law has been repealed, we do not have to face Police harassment. And we can now improve our strategies. In Gujarat, wherever we work, our HIV rates have fallen down and stabilized. Now there is no fear. 

• What is the role of media when it comes to homosexuality?

I must say that over the years, media has definitely changed its viewpoints. Earlier it used to give negative reports on homosexuality calling it abnormal and unnatural. This was the case especially with the vernacular newspapers. But my own coming out story actually broke the history of India, because I came out in a Gujarati newspaper in a Hindu fundamentalist state. It openly talked about homosexuality and not only that but it also brought out a very positive aspect of homosexuality. So, I think, this itself was a breaking news as for the first time in the history of India, a vernacular newspaper carried a positive story on homosexuality. This was a change in the role of media, after which other vernacular media also followed suit. In fact, through our organization, we follow one of the strategies called ‘Media Advocacy’, where the Government provides us with a budget. We are supposed to sensitize the media. We talk to them and clear their doubts on homosexuality. We seek their cooperation and support to bring out positive stories based on serious issues. This will help us in the long run not only in clearing the misconceptions about homosexuality but it will also make things easier for HIV control. So, I think, media has been sensitized but still a lot needs to be done. It is a continuous process as the people in the media keep changing! We cannot have the same set of people.

• What do you think about homosexuality being linked with religion, especially in India?

After I came out, a lot of people from the upper class came and confided in me. These include industrialists, business tycoons, political leaders, religious leaders, Government officers, people from royal families of India and abroad… if I start making a list, it would be a big directory! People actually write to me and correspond with me, they say ‘We wish we had guts like to you to come out, but we cannot. But we confide to you that we are gay and we fully support your cause. So when religious leaders say that homosexuality doesn’t exist, I know how many of they themselves are gays! You name the religion and the sect, I know each and every person from that particular sect who is gay! If I open my mouth and leak out the names, people will lose faith in religion. But I don’t want to do that, I have no right to do that. When a person has confided with me, I should maintain their trust. But I surely have a laugh when I see the religious leaders opposing us and they went to the Supreme Court. What is happening in the Supreme Court concerning our appeal is also very interesting. Though India is a secular country, majority of us are Hindus. Inspite of that, if you look at the petition that has been filed in the Supreme Court against the repeal of Section 377, out of the total 16 petitioners, there are just 2 Hindus. Others include 7 Christians and 7 Muslims. Now tell me, where is the proportion? If Hindus are majority in India, there should have been more Hindu petitioners. Why the Muslims and the Christians are more? This makes it very clear that Hinduism doesn’t have anything on record or any evidence to show that it is against homosexuality. We have Shikhandi in Mahabharata who was gay. Also, we have a several gay characters in Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Indian epics. We have this concept of Ardhnareshwari (Half Shiva and half Parvati). We have gay Gods and lesbian Goddesses in our Hindu mythology. Then where is the question of Hinduism being against homosexuality? Yes, Islam and Christianity are very clear – both the Quran and the Bible – say that homosexuality is a crime. And this is very apparent by the fact that the Supreme Court has majority of Muslim and Christian petitioners. I’ll give you another example of Nepal, which is just our bordering country. Nepal Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriages. It is not a secular country; it used to be a Hindu kingdom. I got a letter from the Minister of Tourism of Nepal saying ‘If you have any of your friends who want to get married, send them to Nepal. The Government of Nepal will ensure that they get married in the Hindu temple, by a Hindu priest; we’ll offer them a marriage certificate and send them to Mt. Everest for honeymoon! So, Nepal being a Hindu country has no Muslim and Christian population to protest against homosexuality. Also, they were never ruled by the Britishers, so they did not have a law that was criminalizing homosexuality. This is very nearby example! And Nepal is doing the right thing by promoting gay tourism. A debt-ridden economy like Nepal is going to earn a lot of foreign exchange by inviting gay and lesbian couples to come and marry. Of course, Nepal is worse than India when it comes to economy, but India has a lot to learn from Nepal. India has vast destinations, many geographical locations to offer, while Nepal has only snow. If India wants to encash upon this opportunity, it can earn crores of rupees as foreign exchange by promoting gay tourism.

• The fear of losing social acceptance is one big hindrance in coming out. So, what can be done to gain the support of the society?

To gain social acceptance for anything, one has to strive hard to sensitize the society. We need to bring out the facts, create awareness and clear the misconceptions. I’ll tell you, even when I came out, the initial reactions of some of the people were that they burnt my effigies. Even at that time, I had just one simple media comment. I said, “I don’t blame them. I would have done the same thing if I were at their place. What I blame is their ignorance.” Why should I blame them, because they are not even aware what it is to be a gay or to be homosexual? It is our duty to educate them. As and when I have educated them, media has supported me and people have changed their minds and behavior. So, this is the only solution – education, awareness – whether it is about homosexuality, HIV-AIDS or any other social practice.

• Many young Indians are still in the closet, waiting to come out as homosexuals. What advice do you give to them?

See, there are two aspects of ‘coming out’. The first one is coming out to your own self. This should be the first and foremost thing, as many people are still fighting to come out to themselves because of some or the other fears. My advice to them is that being gay is something very natural and normal. As it is to be straight, it is to be gay. It is just a question of one’s preference or orientation of being attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex. So one should feel proud rather than to have a guilt feeling. And come out to yourself first. And then, in case they wish to come out to their close friends, family or relatives, that is a very personal or secondary choice.

• What is your message to the society?

My message is very clear and simple. We are human beings; treat us with equality, respect and dignity. The way we respect the other people in the world, the same way we expect respect from others.

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Radio: Today and Tomorrow.

If I talk about today’s radio, it has a lot of possibilities. Radio is a modern tool for communication and at the same time it is extremely popular with the young generation. Youth has got busier these days and they have no time for the visual medium. They tune into the audio medium for faster information. Gujarat is an advanced state in terms of industries. Also there are a lot of people coming here for work; there are a lot of avenues too. And radio is a tool for the betterment of the people. So radio definitely has a brighter and wider scope, especially with reference to Gujarat.

How has Radio as a medium grown over the years?

Since last 75 years, we have conceived All India Radio. In the ancient times, i.e. in 1936, Radio had a different concept. The Maharajas of Mysore, Hyderabad, Vadodara and other places had their own Radio Transmitters. But now radio is a medium that is in the hands of the Common Man, it is a relation of give and take and a participatory medium. The listener has the option to interact and listen through even his/her mobile phones.

Journalism is rapidly being replaced by the online media. Do you think that anytime in recent future, online radio will gain more popularity?

Listeners already have the options of listening to the Radio through their mobile phones and the internet. They can listen as well as download the news through just a click. The programs too can be listened through Airnet. Also, when it comes to participation, you need to be one on one with the listeners, you need to build interaction and through this online medium, your listeners are not away, they can be with you.

Do you think Journalism and Radio are interlinked?

Infact radio is a part of journalism; we can say its audio journalism. Basically, journalism is divided into print, audio and video formats. So we can always say that radio is all about audio journalism. It covers everything that any other medium does.

What is your take on Commercialization of Radio for Entertainment?

Commercialization to some extent is good. Sometimes it becomes necessary for survival. But it should not be undertaken in a way that the basic motive of radio is marred. Also, commercialization has got certain specific norms all over the world. If one crosses those norms and is overdosing, then the very content of the program or entertainment is being murdered. So if these limits are followed then commercials are good for the awareness of the common man.

Do you think Privatization of Radio has adversely affected the popularity of A.I.R.?

In the beginning, privatization was taken as a challenge. Gradually we learnt to survive this competition in the audio world. However, A.I.R. has some positive points due to which it is much above the other private channels.

  • It is a Public Broadcaster. So it is MASS oriented and not CLASS oriented
  • It covers 99% of the population of India and 98% of the area, which is the widest reach in the entire world
  • A.I.R. broadcasts in 29 languages, 46 dialects and 12-16 foreign languages

Thus we have an edge over the others due to all these strengths.

How is A.I.R. playing its role in the development of the State?

It definitely won’t be any exaggeration to say that whatever has happened in the country by means of awareness, education has been through A.I.R. Be it agriculture, green revolution, science or any other field – A.I.R. has been the first promoter. It has helped people to know various things and this way it has moved on. Any undertaking is not possible without people’s support and any one person cannot do anything.

How has A.I.R. met people’s expectations? 

This question reminds of a meeting soon after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. All the officers present at the meeting decided that small TV sets should be provided to the rural areas as a part of disaster management. It was then that I put forward a request that instead of TV sets, transistors should prove a better option. TV sets require electricity which is often cut off in the aftermath of any disaster. Whereas radio is cheap, is easily accessible and does not require literacy unlike newspapers. So the point is even during any disasters, A.I.R. has stood the test of time and been the only source of communication for the people. Government messages, warnings and suggestions are broadcasted through this medium in times of emergencies.

Message from your desk for ‘The Namoleague Times’.

I wish that this e-paper becomes the most powerful and truthful voice for the common man. Truth includes journalism as well. It is above everything; it will surpass all and ultimately lead to victory of the common man. I wish Namoleague Times all the very best.
(From the interview with Smt. Sadhna Bhatt, Dy. Director, Regional Training Institute, A.I.R. Ahmedabad)

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What according to you is E-Journalism and how do you find its future?
Journalism is definitely about the print media. As for the E-Journalism it refers to the internet, mobile phones, TV channels, blogs and other such media. This reminds me of an article by Rupert Murdoch which says that the challenges before the future editor are to bridge the gap between the digitally immigrant and the digitally native people. Those born in today’s digital age are technology
friendly. The growth of Internet has been amazing in the past ten years. While newspapers took a whooping 43 years to reach a mark of 5 crore readers, radio took 12 years, TV took 5 years; Internet took only 1 year. Journalism faces the challenges of its own bias and ideologies and lack of interaction. While E-Journalism will definitely take over if it provides good content.

How would you list the roles & responsibilities of media?
Media has to more responsible than it is today in our country. It needs to stop the media trials that it undertakes may be because of the peer group pressures. Be it any case, media tries to dictate judgments even without studying the facts and figures, just to score over their rivals. This is really an irresponsible behavior that leads to disservice to the society as it does not provide a complete picture of the story. JOURNO + ANALYSM instead of JOURNALISM will soon be the motto.

Gujarat: 5 years back and forth
Since the past 7-8 years Gujarat has been vibrant in the true sense of these 3 pillars: best infrastructure, powerful law and order system and remarkable economic growth. Shri Narendra Modi says ‘Invest a rupee in Gujarat and you get a dollar in return.’  Be it roads, infrastructure, water or electricity, Gujarat has witnessed a remarkable change over the years. There has been focus on the rural sector equally that led to higher girls education, rural development and human development in turn.

Do you think that leadership has a role to play in the development of any state?
Leaders always have a vision and if I talk about Shri Narendra Modi, he has a vision to provide equal opportunities to everyone. He is concerned for the down trodden and aims to wipe tears from every eye. That’s the reason he visits all villages and is worried about all the parameters of development. Development is ultimately not only GDP, but the social development of all the strata of the society.

Your message on the launch of “The Namoleague Times”

My best wishes are always there for this new venture. Time has come to go global. Also I am sure this E-Paper will serve as a platform for people to know the realities. Many people have the habit of bashing an individual unnecessarily, I hope through this stage lots of clarifications will come and show the other side of the story to the people.

(From the interview with Shri Ajay Umat, State Editor. Divya Bhaskar)

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