Indian Express vs The Hindu, N. Ram vs N. Ravi

25 March 2010

***

The Indian Express, Delhi, has a front-page “exclusive” on the fracas in the family controlling The Hindu, Madras.

The main points the Express story (also simultaneouly carried in its sister-business daily Financial Express) by media correspondent Archna Shukla makes are:

a) disagreements over the “proposed retirement” of publisher and editor-in-chief N. Ram;

b) the stripping of powers of his brother N. Murali as managing director of the company; and

c) Ram’s recent appointment of family members to the paper allegedly without the board’s consent: his daughter Vidya Ram as the new European correspondent of The Hindu Business Line and Narayan Lakshman as the Hindu’s new Washington correspondent.

N. Ram hit back within hours of the Express story, stating that he would launch “civil and criminal” defamation proceedings against the Express reporter, editor-in-chief, editor and publisher.

“These reports are riddled with demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions, some of them attributed to unnamed sources, made with reckless and malicious disregard for the facts and the truth. And this despite the professional courtesy I extended to the journalist and the newspapers by responding precisely and factually to five specific questions emailed to me on March 24 by Ms Shukla.”

Ram also put out the news of his seeking legal recourse to his 6,562 followers on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

If rumours of the family rift are true, this is the second round in the battle for control of The Hindu.

N. Ram was at the centre of the first one, too. In the early 1990s, then editor G. Kasturi had made way for Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy at The Hindu, while Ram was shafted off to edit Frontline and Sportstar.

Ten years later, Ram later teamed up with Kasturi to stage a return.

It now looks like payback time with Kasturi’s son K. Balaji being made managing director of the company at the February 20 board meeting, sharing wideranging responsibilities and supervisory powers over several departments: accounts, production, industrial relations, EDP, purchase of newsprint and other raw materials.

The Express story says Ravi and Malini Parathasarathy have now objected to the manner in which…

“Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members”.

As if to underline the substance of the Express story, N. Ravi revived his Twitter acount after four months to say what he thought of N. Ram’s tweet on (and threat of) the defamation case against Express.

And as if to leave the world in no doubt about who stands where in the undivided Hindu family, Malini Parthasarathy retweeted N. Ravi’s tweet, with her own tweet on Twitter.

Internecine family battles are par for the course in the Indian media. The Deccan Herald group went through it in the mid-1990s, as has the Indian Express reporting The Hindu strife, though both have found ways and means of dividing labour within the family without further bloodshed.

More recently, the Amar Ujala group was also in the middle of a messy family battle, which hit the headlines after some worthies including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla‘s son were caught passing a bribe.

What lends The Hindu vs The Indian Express legal battle an added edge is the abrasive nature of the two people at the helm: Hindu editor-in-chief Ram and Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta. (Ram came in at No. 70 in the Express powerlist published in January this year.)

Secondly, The Indian Express and The Hindu are at opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum. While the former is a gung-ho supporter of all things America (nuclear deal, GM foods, etc), the latter, under the CPM card-carrying Ram, is decidedly less so.

If the defamation case goes ahead, it will be interesting for more reasons than one.

The resident editor of Express in Delhi (responsible for news selection under the law) is Seema Chishti, wife of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

N. Ram and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat have been bosom buddies since their days at Madras Christian Loyola College, where they were together with home minister P. Chidambaram, now ironically seen to be close to Shekhar Gupta.

Meanwhile, as rumours of a fresh board meeting gain ground, clearly the sudden turn of events is causing much mirth in rival publishing houses, too, even if they share the same name as the paper that broke the story.

Aditya Sinha, editor-in-chief of The New Indian Express—the new name given to the southern editions after the Indian Express split following the death of Ramnath Goenka—does his bit to fan the rumour mills through his Twitter account.

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22 Responses to “Indian Express vs The Hindu, N. Ram vs N. Ravi”

  1. Sai Says:

    Hi
    I think N Ram and PC went to Madras Christian College School (then in Georgetown I think, later at Chetpet) not the college (MCC in Tambaram).
    After schooling, Ram went to Loyola College while PC went to Presidencey College, both in Chennai

  2. Yudh Says:

    “N. Ram and Prakash Karat have been bosom buddies since their days at Madras Christian College, where they were together with home minister P. Chidambaram”
    Nice, but wrong.
    Ram and P Chidambaram studied at Loyola College, not Madras Christian College. Karat is the only one from MCC, Chennai.

  3. tsubba Says:

    this be the sandai edition of the hindu?


  4. Wow! Such a comprehensive story. Hats off to you!!

  5. kangeya Says:

    The invisible elephant in the boardroom is the declining readership of The Hindu like all English language publications in India, compared to that of the Indian language publications that has been growing exponentially for several years now. The Hindu family is also evidently worried about the newspaper readership trends in the US and the likelihood of the habit spreading here. In Europe and the US, it is becoming v. difficult for newspapers that are pro-change to survive. In the US it is the liberals that are pro-change, while in India it is the Hindu oriented nationalists – the infamous Internet Hindus – who are progressive. These progressive groups are leaving newspapers for Web 2.0. Further The Hindu’s core which has always been the well educated TamBram is seeing a v.great dissonance between the paper’s professed beliefs and its shameless sucking up to the DMK/CPM/Congress etc. Circulation has been declining and the younger folk in Chennai are already switching over to DC and The Toi. Amidst the rumble Ram has been heedlessly pursuing a course that others see as disastrous. While TamBram big business has always been pro-DMK and pro-Congress – Chemplast, India Cements, TVS, Simpson, The Hindu, it is The Hindu alone that operates in the public sphere selling opinions. The others are cynical The Hindu isn’t! Unfortunately for the paper its audience almost entirely overlaps with the Web 2.0 audience in India. That portends doom for the paper. It is no wonder Ram is facing a revolt from the family.

    • K ANANTHA NARAYANAN Says:

      Excellent analysis. I want to switch over to some other news paper from The Hindu but TOI or DC are not available in Madurai, my area. I am totally disgusted about the way N.Ram is conducting the affairs and but for some tenders/advts. I would have long back stopped buying this paper. IT IS THE MOST UNHINDU in reporting etc. Let it be neutral but not anti-Hindu which I hate.

  6. Mysore Peshva Says:

    Excellent roundup. N. Ram seems to be a pussy and a hypocrite.

  7. Starshine Says:

    Can no one really see that these worthless tweets from n ravi and malini parthsarthy are ridiculous? Obviously not. Such a shame that such a long-standing institution has now become the target of mudslinging, especially from the random public viz Mysore Peshva

  8. Progati Says:

    “Criminal defamation”, or the criminalization of speech, is not something that any journalist or any humanist can ever support.

    I agree, such a law exists in our archaic books thanks to some old British laws. But it is an anachronism waiting to be repealed.

    The little country of Maldives recently repealed their Criminal Defamation laws. So did Cambodia.

    The world is moving forward, not backward. The Singapore Attorney-General has been intervening to prevent abuse of criminal defamation laws, recently in proceedings brought on by a swimming club, by a Global Indian International School, etc, quashing them after scrutiny.

    The Hindu had only recently carried an article by Justice V R Krishna Iyer for progressive reforms in our legal system.

    And the “progressive” N. Ram wants to use criminal defamation to silence another journalist ?

  9. Aslam Says:

    “The Hindu” is the Lanka for Ram now.Only the time need to be decided when, perhaps Venugopal as Hanuman(devoted disciple of Ram), will burn down ‘The Hindu’.

    But this Ram unlike Lord SreeRam does not realise that there is no Ayodhya where he can go back afther burning Lanka.

    A new addage in the English language that ‘Upendra’ of The hindu can use– ‘as hypocritical as N.Ram,the fighter for press freedom’……

    Followers of the Hindu can just pray ‘ rama rama ‘…. Oh no!!!! Its Krishna, krishna…….

  10. mps Says:

    Why is everybody bringing in the issue of freedom of speech and expression here? That is unnecessary. the Hindu has always upheld free speech and has fought for the same even in court, if you remember the tussle with Jayalalitha.

    The thing to be highlighted here is that the article carried in IE is NOT NEWS.There are plenty of issues that need to be covered but the IE decides to go ahead and publish the inside rift in a rival newspaper. That the IE, which proclaims to be the only saviour of journalism in India, has carried the story only to initiate an unnecessary smear campaign is obvious.

    It is ugly and embarrassing. And as a journalist, i definitely feel that this is NOT news. It is the worst form of slander and the IE has not made its readers proud by stooping to such base levels.

    What Shekhar Gupta makes insecure vis a vis N.Ram is beyond comprehension. But he should not have used the Newspaper, a trusted public sphere resource, to further his enmity.

    Uncool.

  11. Naran Says:

    The whole thing looks very much like a
    family squabble, with some members backing the present Editor-in-Chief and others wanting to have their own way. It remains to be seen how the family row will end. Its many readers will want The Hindu to continue its good work and provide them a comprehensive service as a leading newspaper. Is it asking for too much? What is clear is that some of the younger members of the Kasturi family have come to the fore and fighting for their ‘rights’, even if all of them are not really qualified to hold senior positions in the organisation.


  12. I agree with ‘mps’. In fact what Shekhar Gupta has done does not behove his stature, more so when in PTI where he himself is a Director, there is am ageing CEO (over 65 years of age) who is backed by him.

  13. Shotgun Murugan Says:

    One who takes the gun dies by the gun is the saying.

    The Hindu since long has literally been an extended propaganda arm of China and Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka is considered the most dangerous place for journalists in the world today, N. Ram was awarded the Lanka Ratna by the regime.

  14. trodden Says:

    “mps” — why is it not news ?

    If it is not news, then even this very report is not news.

    But you are drawn to it, right ?

    That is what news is: something interesting to the reader, something yet not known, and ultimately enlightening to know.

    It is enlightening to know about the process by which news itself comes about. That is why what happends behind a newspaper, such as Hindu or for matter the Indian Express, is extremely important.

    Don’t swallow what is handed to you, a little bit of curiosity on how it was cooked, and what ingredients went into it, will turn out to be healthy in the long run !

  15. kalacoat Says:

    Good move! N.Ram/The Hindu should make use of cyber defamation laws will be a better weapon against others exposing matters which need to remain hidden.

    e-Sys, an IT company has tried it with some amount of success:

    http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/singaporebased-it-firm-files-cyberdefamation-complaint/277160/

    Later e-Sys proved to be a fraud… but that is a different story (http://amit69.wordpress.com/2009/03/)

  16. wake up india Says:

    This is not surprising, first, given that it is India. The initial surprise that Mr N. Ram “a respected journalist” was reportedly threatening defamation suits, but you ignore that his role in this “battle” is essentially that of a Press Baron and predominantly internecine. (I do not deny the “public interest” angle to it though. All media happenings are of public interest).

    Someobody already mentioned Maldives and Cambodia having eliminated Criminal Defamation laws. Let me add Latin America.

    In 2009, Costa Rica has eliminated prison terms for criminal defamation. Argentina had already repealed criminal defamation provisions in the penal code, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal has annulled the harsh Press Law which penalized libel and slander and so on.
    (more here: http://cpj.org/blog/2010/02/latin-american-rulings-steps-against-criminal-defa.php )

    Whither India ?

  17. kangeya Says:

    N.Ram is a scotch ‘n soda socialist and a limousine liberal, though it must be said he is in The Hindu tradition always generous towards his employees. I will not remind everyone about his extravagance (among other things the A/C kennel for his favourite Spitzes, and the huge staff that keeps his Spitzes well fed.

    But his reckless and craven apologia for China, the Nepal Commie thugs and the N.Korean criminals of the Kim family will forever be a malus on his record of objectivity. Libel laws should be stricken off the books, and a newspaper if it is miffed should be afforded an opportunity to have its say on the pages of the publication that it is miffed with. Lawsuits? Ridiculous! Ram forgets that reporters aren’t expected to simply write up whatever their respondents utter. Reporters aren’t stenos and note takers.


  18. [...] part story of the battle between two major newspapers of India – The Indian Express and The Hindu (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Cancel this [...]

  19. sinhala_thug Says:

    It is unbelievable that no one is left out in the country getting corrupted by the lure of money and fame. Poor ram is no exception. When I learned, though albeit lately, that ram through muralidhar reddy has been acting and continues to act as the left hand of the srilankan thugs, I lost all intelectual respect that I had on him. Stopped subscribing to the hindu paper…. As a journalist, ram had been hand in hand with the sinhala international thugs.[...]

  20. Dilip Valunjkar/ Sathi Bal/ Sharmistha Banerjee Says:

    N Ram is the biggest fraud in journalism in Indian today. The Hindu is at the forefront of news censorship to build perceptions in the manner that its editorial wants. No wonder then that they screen all published matter including letters to the editor and publish only those that conform to what it feels conforms to its core ideology – pro-Left, Pro-Muslim and Pro-DMK (and Pro-Cong only relative to the Right Wing). Letters written to its editorial under a muslim name gets published but similar letters written under a hindu name seldom gets published. With all this N Ram has the gumption to take a high moral ground on the Radia Tapes issue. He is worse than any journalist you can think of, shamelessly sucking upto the Congress and DMK. The only way you can get rid of him is by not subscribing to his newspaper. Very soon that will happen….

    ***

    N Ram is one of the greatest journalists of our times. Absolutely moral and ethical. We should encourage him to continue as head of The Hindu.

    ***

    I had been reading The Hindu for years. I am awestruck by the daily’s declining standards of reporting both in terms of quality of news, quantity and a general sleight of hand with which it tries to build opinion by suppressing facts. Under N Ram’s leadership the newspaper has become a lobby for Maoists, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka and fraud parties like DMK in Tamil Nadu. It is completely taken over by the cynisism of today that is opportunistic reporting. Given this situation, N Ram taking a high moral standing on the Radia Tapes is nothing but a disgrace and utter hypocrisy.

  21. Karthik Says:

    N.Ram by his Heart is more a Sinhalese than a Tamilian and more a Chinese than an Indian.


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