The Telegraph
Sunday , May 20 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Private Eye: wicked as ever

Lots of Western magazines — from Hello! to Vogue, OK!, Maxim, FHM, GQ and Cosmopolitan — have found their way to India. Is it important that India in general and Calcutta in particular should now have a local version of Private Eye, the satirical and current affairs magazine which hits the newsstands every fortnight?

Since it first appeared in 1961, it has been the bane of people in power. Its cartoons are wicked. There was a time when Jemima Khan’s billionaire father, the late Sir James Goldsmith, as well as Robert Maxwell, the late and unlamented owner of the Daily Mirror, initiated an avalanche of criminal prosecutions with the aim of shutting down Private Eye. They failed because Private Eye’s loyal readership was not willing to see the magazine go down.

In giving evidence last week to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics, the columnist Peter Oborne said: “Private Eye has played a fantastically important cleansing function in the last 30 or 40 years with material that has not found its way into mainstream publications.”

One photograph in the current issue pokes fun at David Cameron who was in the habit of sending text messages to the red-haired Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive and the former editor of the News of the World and of The Sun.

The Prime Minister, who apparently signed himself “LOL” to Brooks, believing it stood for “Lots of Love”, asks: “What does LOL stand for?”

“Lots Of Lies!” is the reply.

He had signed himself “DC”. But to the question, “And what does DC stand for?”, the answer is a cruel, “Nothing at all!”

It is a wonder the cartoonist was not roughed up by Tory Party goons for outraging the PM’s modesty.

There are snippets under a column headed, “LOL: Lots of Leveson”, embarrassing to Andy Coulson, who resigned as editor of the News of the World and was later taken on as Cameron’s director of communications.

Coulson made The Sunday Times reduce the salary the paper had reported — 4,00,000 to 2,75,000. But Coulson was so “busy” he had forgotten to mention that he continued to hold shares worth 40,000 in News International.

Incidentally, there is a photograph of Cameron with Brooks, with the headline, “Cameron Tries Clinton Defence”, and a prime ministerial quote: “I never had textual relations with anyone.”

Racial abuse

The BBC and most mainstream newspapers have angered many Indians by calling the eight Pakistanis and one Afghan convicted of raping vulnerable underage white girls in Rochdale “Asian” — since the term “Asian” also includes Indians.

“The conviction of nine Asian men for grooming and abusing white girls has prompted strong, split opinions on whether race is an issue in such cases,” said a typical BBC news report.

The Daily Telegraph headline read, “Asian sex gang: young girls betrayed by our fear of racism”, but deep in her comment piece, Allison Pearson made the distinction: “First, it is an insult to Hindus, Sikhs and decent, integrated Muslims to classify those brutes under the catch-all title of ‘Asian males’. All but one are Pakistani Muslims who come from a patriarchal peasant culture that obviously regards young white British girls as easy meat.”

The BBC and other media should certainly beware of using the word “Asian” which does stigmatise Asian men who are not Pakistani.

But it would also be divisive and risk unleashing communal passions for Indian organisations and community leaders to make a point of publicly disassociating themselves from Pakistanis.

The Pakistani community — 99.99 per cent blameless — should be wise enough to reflect on the consequences of all this bad publicity and treat this problem as seriously as it would if Pakistani girls aged 13 were being groomed.

In memoriam

One of my heroes is James Cameron — I refer to the journalist, not the film director who made the 3hr 14min English-language Bollywood blockbuster, Titanic.

James Cameron, the journalist, died in 1985, aged 73.

“A wonderful man,” remembered Lord Swraj Paul.

Cameron was a much-respected foreign correspondent, who had a passionate relationship with India — both professional and personal.

He reported on Indian Independence — he apparently said something like, “India irritated me — I realised how much on my 28th trip!” And Moni, his third wife, was Indian.

Cameron’s Point of Departure, is without doubt the finest and best written journalistic memoir.

After Cameron’s passing, “a trust was set up in his memory to award an annual prize to a journalist whose work in the previous year had been ‘in the Cameron tradition’. An annual memorial lecture was also established.”

Prize winners have included Michael Buerk, John Simpson, Bridget Kendall, Fergal Keane, Lindsay Hilsum and Gary Younge.

In 2011, it was given to Alex Crawford of Sky News, mainly for her reporting from Libya.

In presenting the award, Professor George Brock, head of journalism at City University London since 2009 and a former senior reporter on The Times, said that each year the prize was given “to a British journalist working on international affairs who, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates James Cameron’s qualities in her or his work and shows professional integrity and moral courage”.

The James Cameron Memorial Lecture has been delivered by a distinguished group of speakers including Ben Bradlee, Michael Grade, Alan Rusbridger, Tony Benn, Greg Dyke, Sir Max Hastings and Wadah Khanfar ( former director-general of Al Jazeera).

This year’s lecture, on October 3, will be delivered by N. Ram, the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu.

I look forward to the lecture by Ram, who had spoken with much anger and emotion in London after M.F. Husain’s death a year ago.

Referring to the power struggle inside The Hindu, Brock has blogged: “Business pressures have been part of the complex intrigue which has been played out at the group’s headquarters in Chennai. I can’t pretend to explain the ins and outs of this internecine family/corporate struggle. So I hope that Ram has handed over to successors who will preserve his legacy.”

Metro man

Mamata Banerjee would approve. Boris Johnson modestly took the Jubilee Line on the London Underground after the unveiling of the ArcelorMittal Orbit last week.

“Do you mind, I’m chairman of Transport for London,” he said, when I asked about his chauffeur.

In contrast, Lakshmi Mittal and his family were driven away in their limousines.

Gayle force

The IPL was condemned as “India’s attempt to dominate the game” by Henry Blofeld, a commentator on the BBC’s Test Match Special on the opening day of the England-West Indies Test match at Lord’s.

As West Indies struggled to 243 for nine, the view was some of the West Indians playing in the IPL should have been serving their country at Lord’s.

Instead, Chris Gayle, described as a “maverick”, was at the Feroz Shah Kotla blasting 128 not out (13 sixes, 7 fours).

Tittle tattle

Hasnat Khan, 53, the Pakistani surgeon who was apparently the love of Princess Diana’s life, says he felt “violated” when he discovered his voicemails could have been hacked by News of the World journalists.

If true, his would be the first Pakistani phone to be hacked. If true, he could also claim a fortune in compensation.