Dressing up (and dressing down) as journalists

5 October 2009

The dressing up of plainclothes policemen as journalists representing a television station from Singapore to trap the Maoist leader Chhatradhar Mahato in West Bengal has resulted in a right royal kerfuffle.

Journalists groups in Calcutta have said the police action lowered the dignity of the profession. But there are also those who believe that if a journalist can wear many garbs for “sting” operations, there is nothing wrong in policemen dressing up (down?) as journalists to catch “anti-national elements”.

Obviously, it is easy to tilt at the windmills when there is a happy ending, but what when there is not?

In The Dawn, Karachi, Jawed Naqvi has a fine column on how the collusion between spooks and hacks has become legitimate in the era of embedded journalism.

how former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Afghan Mujahideen leader Ahmed Shah Masood met their end at the hands of killers who found access to their quarries with the help of media accreditation cards; and how Iranian leader Ali Khameini lost a hand to a bomb hidden in a journalist’s tape recorder.

Naqvi also narrates the story of Maloy Krishna Dhar, the additional chief of India’s intelligence bureau (IB), who infiltrated the underworld led by Dawood Ibrahim in the guise of a journalist.

Naqvi quoted M.K. Dhar as writing in his memoir Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled:

“I kept the director (of IB) informed, without going through the official channel of the Bombay unit of the IB. I was, in fact, freelancing in Bombay at my own risk, as a journalist from a reputed English daily. I had in my possession at least three faked identity cards of the leading papers, and one identity card of a TV channel. Obviously, our boys in the technical wing of the IB had manufactured these.”

Read the full column: Fourth pillar, fifth column

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