Friday, April 25, 2014

India Post Live: How Safe Is Your Data?

I went on a new-news website called India Post Live to talk more internet issues... this time about localization of data servers and the issues that go along with it such as jurisdiction, privacy etc

http://indiapostlive.com/safe-data/

Its about 45mins. I'm discussing this mainly with Vinit Goenka.. BJP National IT Cell Co-Convener. The anchor is Ishan Russell.

You might have read that the BJP has indicated it will want more data servers installed in the country and also (perhaps) ask MNCs to locate their servers in India when it comes to power.

India’s elections: Hate speech and the “greatest show on Earth”

Electioneering for the Indian elections of 2014 has reached a fever pitch. Never before in the history of modern India has it seemed likely that the country is ready to cut its cord with the Congress Party’s Gandhi family, and never before has its chief opposition party, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) been projected as the sole inheritance of one man – Narendra Modi.

The “greatest show on Earth” – the Indian elections – is underway.  There are 37 days of polling across 9 states, with a 814 million strong electorate, and more than 500 political parties to choose from. The hoardings all seem to scream the “development” agenda, but unfortunately in India, this conversation seems to be skating on thin ice. Cracks quickly appear, and beneath the surface, political parties seem to be indulging in the same hate speech, communal politicking and calculations that work to polarise the electorate and garner votes.

Hate speech in India is monitored by a number of laws in India. These are under the Indian Penal Code (Sections 153[A], Section 153[B], Section 295, Section 295A, Section 298, Section 505[1], Section 505 [2]), the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 95) and Representation of the People Act (Section 123[A], Section 123[B]). The Constitution of India itself guarantees freedom of expression, but with reasonable restricts. At the same time, in response to a Public Interest Litigation by an NGO looking to curtail hate speech in India, the Court ruled that it cannot “curtail fundamental rights of people. It is a precious rights guaranteed by Constitution… We are 128 million people and there would be 128 million views.” Reflecting this thought further, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India, the bench declared that the “lack of prosecution for hate speeches was not because the existing laws did not possess sufficient provisions; instead, it was due to lack of enforcement.” In fact, the Supreme Court of India has directed the Law Commission to look into the matter of hate speech — often with communal undertones — made by political parties in India. The court is looking for guidelines to prevent provocative statements.

Unenviably, it is the job of India’s Election Commission to ensure that during the elections, the campaigning adheres to a strict Model Code of Conduct. Unsurprisingly, the first point in the EC’s rules (Model Code of Conduct) is: “No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.” The third point states that “There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”

This election season, the EC has armed itself to take on the menace of hate speeches. It has directed all its state chief electoral officers to closely monitor campaigns on a daily basis that include video recording of all campaigns. Only with factual evidence in hand can any official file a First Information Report (FIR), and a copy of the Model Code of Conduct is given along with all written permissions to hold rallies and public meetings.

As a result, many leaders have been censured by the EC for their alleged hate speeches during the campaign. The BJP’s Amit Shah was briefly banned by the EC for his campaign speech in the riot affected state of Uttar Pradesh, that, Shah had said that the general election, especially in western UP, “is one of honour, it is an opportunity to take revenge and to teach a lesson to people who have committed injustice”. He has apologized for his comments. Azam Khan, a leader from the Samajwadi Party, was banned from public rallies by the EC after he insinuated in a campaign speech that the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan had been won by India on account of Muslim soldiers in the Army. The EC called both these speeches, “highly provocative (speeches) which have the impact of aggravating existing differences or create mutual hatred between different communities.”

Other politicians have jumped on the bandwagon as well. Most recently, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Praveen Togadia has been reported as making a speech targeting Muslims who have bought properties in Hindu neighborhoods. “If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it… I have done it in the past and Muslims have lost both property and money,” he has said. There was the case of Imran Masood of the Congress who threatened to “chop into pieces” BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi – a remark that forced Congress’s senior leader Rahul Gandhi to cancel his rally in the same area following the controversy that erupted. Then there is Modi-supporter Giriraj Singh who has said that “people opposed to Modi will be driven out of India and they should go to Pakistan.” In South India, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekhar Rao termed both TDP and YSR Congress (YSRCP) as ‘Andhra parties’ and urged the people of Telangana to shunt them out of the region. The Election Commission has directed district officials to present the video footage of his speeches at public meetings, in order to determine punishment, if needed. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been served notice by the EC for calling Narendra Modi a “mass murderer”; a reference to his alleged role in the Gujarat riots of 2002.

Shekhar Gupta, editor of the national paper, the Indian Express has published a piece ominously titled “Secularism is Dead,” but instead appeals to the reader to have faith in Indian democracy far beyond what some petty communal politicians might allow. The fact that the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate is inextricability linked in public consciousness to communal riots in his home state of Gujarat has only compounded speeches over and above what people believe is the communal politics of the BJP that stands for the Hindu majority of India. In contrast, many believe that by playing to minority politics, the Congress indulges in a different kind of communal politics. And then there are countless regional parties, creating constituencies along various caste and regional fissures.
However, perhaps the last word can be given to commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta who writes of the Indian election: “But what is it about the structures of our thinking about communalism that 60 years after Independence, we seem to be revisiting the same questions over and over again? Is there some deeper phenomenon that the BJP-Congress system seems two sides of the same coin to so many, even on this issue? The point is not about the political equivalence of two political parties. People will make up their own minds. But is there something about the way we have conceptualised the problem of majority and minority, trapped in compulsory identities, that makes communalism the inevitable result?”

It is this inevitability of communal diatribe, of the lowest common denominators in politics that Indian politics need to rise above. This is being done, one comment at a time, as long as the Election Commission is watching. The bigger challenge lies beyond the results of 16 May, 2014.

http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/04/indias-elections-hate-speech-greatest-show-earth/

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Panel on Doordarshan: India, Internet - the way forward


I was recently on a panel on DD along with Dr Kamlesh Bajaj (CEO, DSCI) and Alok Prasad, ex Deputy NSA on "India and the Future of the Internet". Dr C Raja Mohan hosted the show on India and Internet Governance.

The links:

Part1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMU6y-NrZTE&list=TLrywsGJ8sqmZg9mbYCZlaJ9eq4Ew4UT1h

Part2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vARk4p4HXNU&list=UUKwucPzHZ7zCUIf7If-Wo1g

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Controversy surrounds India’s biometric database

Questions about the security of India's giant biometric database continue to be raised by privacy advocates

Established in 2009 by executive order, the Unique Identification Number Authority of India (UIDAI) has taken on the monumental challenge of issuing each resident of the country with a Unique Identification Number (UID), more commonly known as the Aadhaar card. The driving idea behind the card was to ensure that residents could have a singular identification card that can eliminate duplicate and fake identities and also can be verified in a cost effective manner. Biometrics are the primary method for identification, while other details such as addresses, family, and even bank accounts are linked to the card.

Recently, the UIDAI was in the news as it challenged an order by the Goa High Court to share biometric details of all enrolled Goa residents with India’s Central Bureau of Investigation in order to solve an investigation. The Supreme Court of India ruled that UIDAI did not need to share its data with any agency of the government without the consent of those in its database. In his blog, the former Chairman of UIDAI (and currently running for a seat in India’s hotly contested national elections) Nandan Nilekani wrote: “We have always stated that the data collected from residents would remain private, and not be shared with other agencies.”

An audible sigh of relief was heard in the media from privacy activists who were concerned that the data collected by the UIDAI would be easily accessed by any government agency once it was in the system. This concern for privacy and data protection isn’t completely unfounded. Indian media has reported on grave gaps in the data collection process. In March 2013, a Mumbai paper reported that data collected from residents in 2011 was still lying around in cupboards in a suburb, despite the area residents repeatedly reminding the authorities to take away the information.  The same state had, in 2013,  “admitted the loss of personal data of about 3 lakh [100,000] applicants for Aadhaar card”, an error that sparked concerns over possible misuse of the data, not to mention the trouble of having to register personal data all over again. According to the report, the data had been lost while uploading from the state information technology department to the UIDAI central server in Bangalore, Karnataka. Government officials tried to assure the public that the data was highly encrypted and could not be misused. However, this incident wasn’t unprecedented. Just the year before, veteran journalist P. Sainath of the Hindu had highlighted this issue in a talk, saying that: “You can buy that data on the streets of Mumbai. It’s already made its way there. What sort of national security will you have when your biometric data is up for grabs all around the planet? You outsourced it to subcontractors who have subcontracted it to further people. It’s now available on the streets of Mumbai, biometric data.”

Given that the government has spent Rs 3800 crore (around $600 million) on the project already, it is interesting to note that India has not yet passed a privacy law, a comprehensive data protection law and nor did the parliament pass the National Identification Authority of India Bill, which was rejected by a parliamentary standing committee on finance in 2011. As was reported at the time, the standing committee rejected the report on the grounds that the scheme had “no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation; and is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”. It also went on to raise concerns about privacy, identity theft, misuse, security of data and duplication during the implementation of the UID scheme, and cited global examples of similar schemes that were rejected.

However, it is useful to see the guiding principles behind the implementation of the scheme that made it so attractive to the Congress-led UPA II government. The spirit of UID seems to lie in two guiding principles; using Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to make government more effective, and entering the data game. In a recent interview to the Economic Times, Shrikant Nadhamuni, who headed technology for UIDAI is quoted as saying: “We wanted to move the ID game—from a state where some people had no ID and others had paper ID to something beyond even what Singapore had, in the form of smart cards, to online. Like biometric. Which is the future.”

The basis of the design of what was to become the UID was also laid out in the Report of the Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects, submitted to the Ministry of Finance in 2011, headed by Nandan Nilekani, a respected figure in Indian business and later to become CEO of UIDAI. Others involved with the report were the chairman of the Security and Exchange Bureau of India (SEBI), the secretary, Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India, the chairman of the privately owned IFMR trust which seeks to ensure that every individual and enterprise has access to financial services, and a few other experts on the subject. Many government officers constituted the secretariat. The report put out some revolutionary ideas about how to integrate private expertise into the public sector. It deduces that “the most important lesson that needs to be acted upon is that business change’ should drive the design and implementation of these projects”.
This was to be done by implementing a National Information Utility (NIU), which would be private companies with a public purpose: profit-making, not-profit maximising. The NIU would be flexible in its functioning, and the government would keep strategic control over the project. Private ownership of the project should be at least 51% and the government’s share at least 26%. Once the NIU is to become steady, the government would become a paying customer and would be free to take its business elsewhere. However, the report also admits that given the massive investments in building the NIUs, they would essentially be set up to be natural monopolies. At the time, the report had looked at the following schemes of the Indian government: Goods and Services Tax (GST), Tax Information Network (TIN), Expenditure Information Network (EIN), National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and New Pension System (NPS). The first Unique Project to take off, however, was the UIDAI.

This strategy raised red flags as well. Usha Ramanathan, an academic activist, wrote in Moneylife that: “In this set-up, we are witnessing the emergence of an information infrastructure, which the government helps — by financing and facilitating the ‘start-up’, and by the use of coercion to get people on to the database — which it will then hand over to corporate interests when it reaches a ‘steady state’.” She continues in the same piece that: “The NIU was not explained to parliament, and no one seems to have raised any questions about what it is. This, then, is the story of how the ownership of governmental data by private entities is silently slipping into the system.”
Controversies surround the Aadhar project. Nilekani, who was appointed Chairperson of UIDAI in 2009 by the current UPA government, and simultaneously given the rank of a cabinet minister, is increasingly in the news because rumours are swirling in India that a new government might choose to shelve the project. The card, that was envisioned to become an almost one-stop-shop in the future years regarding the delivery of welfare schemes and subsidies, is no longer mandatory to avail some of these, according to India’s Supreme Court. This is a setback to the government that considered the Aadhar card a method to plug “leaks” in the government delivery systems.  Despite this, reports of data leakage, and even stories of fake Aadhar cards making their way into the news, the current establishment seems hopeful. The deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission, Montek Ahluwalia, made a statement that the card did not require a legal basis to be used for transferring benefits to citizens, much in the same way citizens are not legally required to hold degrees to gain jobs.

The UIDAI project remains complex – a herculean task. The UK government shelved its identity card project because it was untested and the technology not secure, and because of the risks to the safety and security of citizens. With India in the midst of an election, it remains to be seen what will happen when a new government is formed, and whether the country can succeed in this task.

http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/04/controversy-surrounds-indias-biometric-database/

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Internet Governance Debates Gain Steam Within India

The conversation about internet governance has started making headlines in India over the past few months. Much of this can be traced back to the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, that broke the controversial news that US government had used top internet service providers and even content providers to carry out surveillance across the world. The same country, which had been extoling the virtues of the right to privacy among many other freedoms, had been caught abusing the trust of both its own citizens and of other countries across the world. Reactions were very sharp. German chancellor, Angel Merkel, livid that the Americans had been listening in on her conversations had even proposed building a secure European network as a reaction to US spying. Similarly, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, announced that the country would host its on internet conference in April 2014, as a reaction to ‘massive US electronic spying on its territory.’

In a run up to the conference in Brazil – now known as Netmundial – the body that assigns internetdomain names, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which till recently had been under the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made a big, although expected, announcement. The US was ready to give up control of ICANN and hand over its running to a multistakeholder model, which essentially means that in the new mechanism, all stakeholders of the global internet community will sit together to deliberate the future of any ICANN decisions once the transition is complete. When multistakeholderism in internet governance emerged, during the UN-led World Summit on Information Society in Tunis in 2005, the main reason was that governments pushed observers out of the rooms during certain talks, and civil society and business felt that especially when it came to a resource as open as the internet, as users they had a say in its development. At the time, multistakeholderism seemed like a novel “bottom up” type of governance, especially suited to the internet which has more than one stakeholder vested in its development. However, today, almost a decade later, many governments are wary of allowing business and civil society an equal seat at international negotiations, as this would mean that these groups could bind together out overpower certain state interests, for commercial or other purposes.

This includes India, which would rather have a government-led body at the international level. In fact, in 2011, India proposed a United Nations-led body to deliberate on internet issues in the international fora, an idea that was vehemently rejected by many civil society and business activists in India. The government has not changed its stance today, however, it is willing to give up its idea for a UN led body, but instead, does call for a government-led body at the international level.

A peek inside the government of India’s submission to Netmundial sheds light on the reasoning behind this move. Drafted by the Ministry of External affairs (perhaps putting internet governance squarely in the foreign policy domain now), it makes a few points, including:
  • Governance of the Internet is quite complex and involves range of issues of varied nature such as technical, legal, public policy, equitable access, privacy and security of the infrastructure and information. Given that the core infrastructure of the Internet is not protected by any international legal regime, it is important to shape a globally acceptable legal regime to maintain the openness, security and international trust in the Internet.
  • The management of Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organisations. Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of states.
Therefore, there can be no doubt, that unlike the US government’s position, the Indian government has not given a nod to multistakeholderism as the international mechanism for governing the internet. This is especially pertinent if internet governance negotiations are going to be added to the foreign policy bouquet of the Indian government.

There are many reasons for the differing positions. In a paper looking forward to the mechanics of the Brazil conference – using multistakeholder process – Professor Milton Mueller puts these differing positions in historical context pitting the government-led camp as “state actors who take a national sovereignty- oriented approach to global Internet governance. It includes a large number of developing countries as well as the large emerging economies such as China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa… These countries tend to be critical of US global hegemony and unenthusiastic, at best, about the so-called multistakeholder or private sector-led Internet governance institutions, which they see as creatures of the US.” The other group, Mueller writes, is “civil society and the private sector… roughly allied in their support for what they call “the multistakeholder model” (MSM). MSM refers to the native Internet governance institutions that are generally private sector nonprofits. The private sector contains representatives of the Internet technical community, including the Internet governance institutions themselves (ICANN, Regional Internet Registries, the IETF, W3C and the Internet Society), and multinational Internet and telecommunication businesses such as AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. European states, Japan, and of course the U.S. government are, for the most part, in this camp.”

In fact, according to reports, it can well be expected that the proceedings at Netmundial – using a multistakeholder process – will be a test to how that kind of system would even work. One of the main reasons for governments rejected multistakeholder (MSM) processes has been legitimacy. Popularly, according to MSM – ‘everyone gets a seat at the table.’ However, reports from Brazil have indicated that designing a system to ensure equal participation for all at Netmundial has been very tough, given the number of participants.

Back in India, it is certainly not the case that multistakeholderism has been rejected in its entirety. The government believes in multistakeholderism at home, and multilateralism abroad. Many groups have been formed to deliberate on these issues, and Indian civil society and business routinely hold talks and submit reports to the Indian government on their positions regarding various facets on cyber governance and security. In what might be a healthy sign, and quite indicative of Indian democracy, different groups within the internet governance space are already jostling for pride of place in international discussions. This is a far cry from what seemed to be two broad camps in Indian civil society discussions: those that agreed with the government’s view of government-led unilateralism, and those that promoted the multilateral way. Informally, the government of India has made it clear that it believes the civil society and business groups representing ‘Indians’ are not yet a diverse group and not representative of the larger country. To that end, it must be kept in mind by the government that they might not like everyone sitting at the table, or what they represent, however, that itself is the whole point of a multistakeholder approach. Indian society is only just adjusting to the online experience and in the coming years, one can expect more groups to emerge, making discussions on internet governance even more contested than what they are today.

In the end, India’s growing digital economy, its frequent law and order problems because of tensions in its diverse polity that the government maintains is fuelled by unchecked social media, and its goal to connect a billion people to the internet at a variety of price points are only some of the reasons the Indian state has chosen to espouse a state-led mechanism for internet governance. However, at the same time, one must remember that it is civil society and media outrage that led the Indian government to ensure the IT Act, 2000 (including the infamous section 66a) is not easily abused, and businesses including the US-owned Google that released transparency reports that help people understand the behind-the-scenes workings of the government. All actors have their place at the table, be it at the state or international level. It is not a satisfying meal without them there.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Book Review: What Makes Hindi Journalism Tick

I picked up Per Stahlberg’s book, or rather, his doctoral thesis, Writing Society through Media: Ethnography of a Hindi Daily with a lot of interest. A keen look into what makes Hindi journalism tick, especially seen through the lens of a journalist working in the Hindi heartland) is a fascinating topic. I used to work in a newspaper myself, have travelled in Uttar Pradesh, and been for a few media conferences with Hindi journalists from the state, and heard from them their opinions on the condition of journalism, the increasing trend of paid news and concerns over caste equations in the offices. From that point of departure, the book didn’t present new material to me personally, though I did enjoy revisiting media theory and some of Stahlberg’s observations about the nature of Indian journalism, and Indians in general.

However, that Stahlberg has chosen to deconstruct Hindi journalism in particular is a welcome choice. Especially given the times we live in, much attention is given to the ways of TV news media and social media. And in the big cities like New Delhi, where I live, not much is known about the vernacular media except that it carries highly local news. Analysing the quick growth of the vernacular media, Stahlberg credits increase in literacy as one factor, the new technology of the offset press, computer typesetting and computer modem as another, allowing vernacular languages to be printed with ease, and finally, a shift in the structure of ownership, with an increasing number of businessmen and politicians looking at the newspaper industry as a commercial venture. Another point that Stahlberg refers to in the book is how Indians, denied any real news during the era of the Indira Gandhi-led emergency, devoured the news once it returned to them. Another reason that led to the rise of vernacular journalism, and in particular Hindi journalism, was the rise of Hindi nationalism and the focus on promoting the Hindi language in Uttar Pradesh by both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.

Stahlberg spends some time tracing the history of newspapers in India, and in particular their relationship with the freedom movement, which is valuable to those who might not be familiar with the topic. Next, he chooses to focus on Lucknow newspapers and their overall ‘look’, describing the kinds of headlines, articles, photographs and snip- pets that dot the front page and subsequent inside pages. Ironically, or perhaps on purpose, there are no photographs to accompany these descriptions of the newspaper pages. He finds the papers divided into the geographies of Uttar Pradesh, India and the world, with most of the papers’ emphasis being on local- state news. He also finds that as much as New Delhi is an euphemism for the central government, Lucknow is used to convey the decisions of the State government.

Stahlberg refers to a ‘moderately sensational crime’ that was being reported in the papers, that of a headless corpse being found in a jute bag, later discovered to have been part of a ritual sacrifice in the house of a politician. Stahlberg comments that this moderately sensational story took precedence over a water resource dispute between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the announcement of a new chairman of a political alliance.

Stahlberg attempts to map society through the emphasis given to various kinds of information in the newspaper. Referring to the increased space given to feature stories, he concludes that the newspaper as a product is published as a ‘family newspaper’ with space for all members of the family to enjoy.

However, a lot of Stahlberg’s meat comes in his dealings with the mechanics of the newspaper and the journalists employed. It is no surprise that he finds it both difficult and enjoyable to describe the chaotic way in which the office of Dainik Jagran functions—the paper he focuses the rest of his attention on. He describes the working style of the editor, Vinod Shukla—‘all mail for every department in the building first passed over his desk. That was how he knew all the details of the business.’ To Stahlberg’s surprise, Shukla prefers to give his journalists unspecific designations so that they don’t feel entitled to anything in particular, but does not shy away from as- signing responsibility. He hires on the basis of a loyalty, and prefers candidates with no experience as he feels it will be easier for them to adjust with his personal style of functioning. In describing work routines, Stahlberg notes that most of the time editors ask for pitches from the reporters rather than handing out assignments. Some of them are, of course, and many grumble if that particular assignment is far away from time as it might prove to be too time consuming.

Next, Stahlberg follows reporters as they gather information, stopping in their prover- bial watering holes for information. He describes government offices and officials as crowded, with reporters hanging around gathering information. In his research, he notes that many journalists find joy in their proximity to powerful officials, and are able to call in favours from time to time. They even apply for government sanctioned housing, though few get it. The journalists in the Hindi papers are more cohesive—as he writes, ‘it is in no way an overgeneralization to describe the Hindi journalist as a quite young, male, Hindu Brahmin with a university education.’ Comparing them with their colleagues in English papers, Stahlberg also notes that there are far less women, and those from other religious communities.

Stahlberg also finds many journalists admit to falling into the vocation when they did not achieve some other goal—perhaps to join the Indian Administrative Service. Others view journalism as the family vocation. He

also observes the rate of attrition, with journalists constantly moving among newspapers, often moving cities. Stahlberg notes that it is extremely rare to see one kind of shift—that of journalists moving between English and Hindi publications—mainly attributed to the kinds of schools they went to. He says that often a senior editor moves papers, taking along his core team with him. In that one move, while one paper loses a core team the other gains it. Stahlberg also seems to find that an individual reporter does not suffer consequences because of an incorrect report, but that the editor seems to accept a vague institutional blame for it. Reports that have incited controversies because of ham-handed reporting have, in his view, not limited the future career of the reporter.

In the end, Stahlberg tries to understand how the mass media constructs its own reality—what the editor of Dainik Jagran would think it is headline news—and what the real status of Hindi news is in the country. Refer- ring to an interview that the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee chose to give to a Hindi daily over an English one, Stahlberg concludes that the importance of Hindi journalism is certainly growing.

The range of information given by Stahlberg is certainly interesting, especially as he is a Swedish researcher with no prior knowledge about India’s media industry. In trying to answer the question of what makes the vernacular press of the Hindi heartland tick, Stahlberg talks of the ‘closeness’ the Hindi press feels it has with its audience, therefore focusing on local matters, as well as the journalists’ own sense of pride at his/her byline.

Ultimately, the book is an academic overview—a dissection of a Hindi newspaper and the universe it inhabits—but it falls short of being a fascinating read. A few tidbits, such as the journalists’ apparent lack of competition with each other—even when from rival papers—is interesting but one can assume it extends only to those who are covering beats that involve attending many press conferences. One cannot assume the same for those doing investigative journalism. At the same time, while Stahlberg has painfully described the kinds of information placed in the newspaper and the space given to each section, I would have liked to see further analysis in why that is so. The same can be said for why recruitment of more journalists from different castes, genders and religions was not carried out; instead of just being told that it wasn’t.

In a sense, the book is a satisfying description but not a satisfying investigation.

 http://www.thebookreviewindia.org/articles/archives-2967/2014/April/4/what-makes-hindi-journalism-tick.html