Archive for the 'Issues and Ideas' Category

TV9 reporters ‘stung’ by their own operation

12 March 2014

tv9_d_k_shiTwo reporters of the 24×7 Kannada news channel TV9 have landed in jail after being arrested by Bangalore police following a “sting” operation in which they were reportedly trying to entrap a powerful and controversial Congress minister by offering him a bribe with secret cameras, went awry.

Deccan Herald reports that the police are also on the lookout for the channel’s Bangalore head, Mahendra Mishra.

The reporters—Shreyas, 28, and Shwetha, 24, both carrying identity cards of News9, the Bangalore-centric English TV channel operated by TV9—approached energy minister D.K. Shiva Kumar in a manner reminiscent of Operation Westend, which felled BJP president Bangaru Laxman over a decade ago.

The reporters claimed to be representing a fictitious London-based solar power based company called EnerGo.

After they had established initial contact, the reporters were invited by the minister to his residence on Sunday. At that meeting, the minister expressed his helplessness citing the model code of conduct but directed them to meet his officers.

According to Deccan Herald, at the third meeting on Monday, the duo allegedly offered the minister Rs five lakh in cash and asked him to accept the money. The minister grew suspicious and called up the police who rushed to his house. They found hidden cameras on frisking the two journalists and arrested them.

Addressing a press conference, the minister—a close aide of former chief minister S.M. Krishna—said that the duo had earlier met him with request to approve a file.

“I contacted the officials of the department, and learnt that no such file is pending with the department. I grew suspicious about the motive of these people. The two reporters, who came to meet me at 9 am, again came to my house at 3.30 pm. As I had suspicion about their activities, I had requested policemen to be present in disguise. When they tried to offer money, I asked the policemen to take them into custody.”

Following the arrest of its journalists, TV9 has conducted a relentless campaign through its channels, with the simple proposition: “Is it wrong to conduct sting operations?”, also the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has clearly stipulated guidelines for its members.

In 2011, the then power minister of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje of the BJP, had a duo arrested for nearly identical reasons, but they weren’t reporters.

For the record, D.K. Shiva Kumar’s inclusion in the Congress ministry has been a hot-button issue and activists have questioned his inclusion despite the cloud of corruption charges hanging over his head.

Also, for the record, TV9—whose tagline reads “For a better society”—has been relentless in its coverage of the corruption of Shiva Kumar, including his alleged links with the underworld. The minister has previously been known to have a keen interest in launching his own TV channel to temper the torrent of criticism.

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

27 February 2014
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M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left loses to AAP

25 February 2014
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Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras

The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.

Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.

“Two days ago, the Left held a Haryana-level people’s rally for a political alternative at Hissar. On the same day, AAP held a rally called much after the Left rally announcement at nearby Rohtak. The latter was widely covered by the corporate media while the former was hardly mentioned notwithstanding larger participation.

“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.

“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”

For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Photograph: courtesy Ganashakti
Read the full article: Sitaram Yechuri in HT
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

Amartya Sen on leaks, plants and Indian Express

25 February 2014

It ain’t over till the economist sings.

First, there was a report in The Indian Express on 18 February, headlined “Amartya Sen threatens to quit Nalanda University over funds’ queries.”

“At its crux is a massive Rs 2,727 crore financial package to the University over a period of 12 years. The finance ministry’s department of expenditure has asked the ministry of external affairs, the nodal agency for the project, the reasons why government rules should not apply to the project.”

The following day, the Nobel laureate responded in the columns of the paper.

“The Indian public is used to bad reporting in newspapers., but your report on Nalanda University goes beyond bad reporting to dishing out falsehoods. Without even talking to the person whose intentions are being reported (an odd violation of professional journalism by one of India’s leading papers), your reporter comments on my alleged intention—or threat—to resign, which is quite untrue….”

The reporter, Pranab Dhal Samanta, responded this:

“This news report was based on information which is a part of the government’s record, where Amartya Sen is recorded as having threatened to resign. This is available with the ministry of external affairs….”

Now, in an interview to The Telegraph, Calcutta, on 24 February, Sen weighs in again in response to the first question hurled at him:

There was a controversy over a report that you are resigning from the Nalanda board as its chancellor — something you have subsequently denied.

Amartya Sen: Not subsequently. I never threatened to resign. There’s a distinction between something which is called a “leak”, information which you are not meant to share.

And, there’s something called a “plant”, that’s a misinformation that is sent around.

In this case, it was a “plant”, not a “leak”. Somebody in the ministry of external affairs (MEA), a senior civil servant, who talked to some people completely made up the story.

Image: courtesy Nalanda University

When B.G. Verghese is drawn into row, it’s news

24 February 2014

Nobody is safe in the treacherous minefield that is Jammu & Kashmir. Not even B.G. Verghese.

The Magsaysay Award-winning editor of the Hindustan Times, who was sacked from the Birla-owned paper when he stated that Indira Gandhi‘s annexation of Sikkim was “less than proper” —and a welcome voice of sobriety in a mediascape populated by shriekers and attention-seekers—has been draw into a messy debate by a retired Kashmiri government officer.

Syed Mohammed Yasin, the former deputy commissioner of Kupwara, where 32 Kashmiri between 13 and 60 years of age were raped by Army men in 1991, tells the Kashmir Reader today, that the Press Council of India (PCI) team, which Verghese headed, did not do its job properly by giving a clean chit to the men in uniform.

“Yasin said the Press Council of India team led by senior journalist B.G. Varghese, which later gave a clean chit to the Army, had asked him to “save the soldiers in the national interest.”

“I told him (Varghese) ‘are you not ashamed of what your Army has done in Kunan-Poshpora?’

However, he started threatening me and my family. Even the Special Secretary tried to persuade me to close the case. However, I refused to do so. Later, I was transferred from one place to another but I never comprised over my report.”

Also read: A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

As the year ends, a lament for the media

How Arun Shourie slighted B.G. Verghese et al

How new rape law caught up with Tarun J. Tejpal

22 February 2014

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Tehelka founder-editor Tarun J. Tejpal has been in jail for over 80 days now on the charge of “raping” a junior colleague during an event organised by the magazine at a Goa resort. The Goa police have charged him on seven counts under the new rape law that came into effect after the Delhi gangrape in end-2012.

Meanwhile, there is a subtle but noticeable shift in the discourse in drawing rooms on the plight of the high-profile journalist, as the words “witchhunt” and “political vendetta” are bandied about loosely.

Is “a 10-year prison sentence for three minutes of non-penile misconduct in a moving lift*” just? Is politically correct India making a big issue of a “small offence”? Is the new law too harsh and far removed from the emerging male-female relationship in the modern Indian workplace, etc?

Those questions which were being asked sotto voce, have found open expression in chain e-mails and posts on social media. A former Tehelka journalist writes in a Pakistani newspaper that Tejpal’s “friends and family are going around meeting editors and opinion-makers to argue their case”.

Those questions also reveal ignorance and incomprehension of the new rape law, which, as The Times of India story (in image, above) demonstrates is being applied not just on Tarun Tejpal but also on other sexual offenders since it came into force in April 2013.

The women’s rights lawyer Vrinda Grover explicates Tejpal’s case in a column in Outlook*:

“In the case of Tarun Tejpal, it’s an aggravated rape because, by his own admission and by the statement of the complainant, he was in a position of dominance, trust and authority having known her father, as well as being her boss. These are statements of fact.

“The law has expanded the coercive circumstances to include these categories. Nothing dramatic has happened now, but everyone is getting very anxious.

“I’m very puzzled at the high level of anxiety from men in all professions. Is it really that men are doing this so rampantly that they are suddenly in panic mode? That they have been putting their body parts into women without their consent?

“In that case I have a word of advice to them: now this is the law, don’t do it, and if you do it, you will be arrested. And if the courts deem it fit, you’ll be punished. That’s a hard-won reality. The new law just clarified what consent meant. It said there has to be an unequivocal, voluntary agreement by word or gesture.

“In the case of Tarun Tejpal, the victim is saying to him, ‘Don’t do it, stop it’. How can that message not go across? If you continue to do it, then I’m sorry, it’s a crime.”

Former Tehelka journalist Shivam Vij takes up a couple of more bogeys being bandied about in drawning rooms, in the Pakistan paper, Express Tribune:

“Firstly, we are told about trial by media. What’s funny here is that when the Indian media began its culture of doing campaign activism for one or two cases, Tehelka had a key role to play. It was Tehelka that mobilised youth and TV cameras at India Gate to ask for justice for a murdered model, Jessica Lal. Tehelka even did a sting operation on the issue. Nobody wondered how the accused felt about such a trial by the media.

“Secondly, Tejpal wants a trial by media. Since his legal case is so weak — he’s admitted his crime on email — he knows the only battle possible to win is the media battle. His friends and family are going around meeting editors and opinion-makers to argue their case. They’ve also taken to Twitter to argue their case. A mass email was sent out by someone who used the victim’s photograph to say that she looks okay and suggests her allegation is false. Why would his reporter, who worked with him for four years, accuse him of rape?

“So, while the Tejpal campaign has the right to make its case before the media, the media does not have the right to ask tough questions of him? You ask him why his versions have been changing and it becomes trial by media? He wants the CCTV footage released to media and public so that we can voyeuristically watch and decide if the victim looks traumatised or not? That’s not trial by media?

“Then there is the issue of bail. Tejpal has been in jail since November 30 and hasn’t got bail. That is because bail in rape cases is difficult in India, for everyone. Asaram Bapu, religious guru far more popular than Tejpal, has been in jail without bail for far longer on rape charges. Why should the law make an exception for Tejpal?”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as Tehelka editor

Online appeal to protect Tehelka journalist’s identity

Jessica Lal, Tehelka, Bina Ramani & the media

15 February 2014

bird-in-a-banyan-tree-bina-ramani

It was in South Delhi socialite Bina Ramani‘s Tamarind Court restaurant that Jessica Lall, a “model who worked as a celebrity barmaid”, was shot dead in 1999 by Manu Sharma, the son of Congress politician Venod Sharma.

Initially exonerated of the charges, the case turned full turtle for Sharma following a sting operation by Harinder Baweja, then with Tehelka magazine. Manu Sharma was eventually found guilty.

As the owner of the restaurant which was the scene of the crime, Bina Ramani spent nine days in jail in the case. She has an interview with Tehelka this week following the release of her book Bird in a Banyan Tree:

You have been sharply critical of the role media played in the aftermath of the Jessica Lal trial. Yet, it was a Tehelka investigation that brought out the truth. Do you think media can ensure justice?

It is not a guarantee that the media can ensure justice but it can certainly carve the path to it. Conversely, it can derail justice when it becomes over-zealous about its point of view. The media in India is extremely powerful and can wield a lot of influence—it should therefore be thorough i its investigation.

For the record, the news channel NewsX is now owned by Kartikeya Sharma, brother of Manu Sharma, through his company Information TV.

The Sharma family’s Piccadilly group also now owns M.J. Akbar-founded The Sunday Guardian, whose chairman is Ram Jethmalani, whose interview with Karan Thapar is must-watch television.

Also read: Note to directors: It was Shammy, nor Barkha

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

11 February 2014

11Fir02.qxp

After a fiasco of an interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Mail Today reports that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will now go through “mock interview sessions” before further TV powwows to prevent further fiascos.

“The duration of future interviews will be around 30 to 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes as on Times Now. According to sources, this will focus Gandhi’s impact and would reduce the possibility of the exercise going off at a tangent.

“Senior Congress leaders will also guide the Congress vice-president on appropriate body language during interviews.

“Future interviews with Rahul will be based on broad themes related to political, social, economic and other relevant issues. Answers to possible questions related to these broad themes will be prepared in advance and given to Gandhi besides a detailed background briefing.

“The responses will be framed in such a way that they focus on Rahul’s political philosophy and Congress ideology, sources said.”

In the Indian Express, former Union minister and Rajiv Gandhi‘s speech-writer, Mani Shankar Aiyar questions the choice of Times Now for Rahul Gandhi’s arengetram on English TV:

“Why the most superficial anchor in English TV should have been chosen for Rahul Gandhi’s maiden interview is really for his media managers to explain. But every time Rahul attempted to drag the programme from banality to depth, the anchor stubbornly brought it back to the trivial and the episodic.

“This particular anchor has done more than all the other channels combined to dumb down the political discourse among the twittering classes. When I ask people why they watch him, the standard answer I get is, “Not for enlightenment, just for entertainment”. And that is really what the nation needs to know!

“So, it is hardly surprising that the interviewer bristled when Rahul gently suggested that he was being “superficial”. Of course, he was. It is not in this anchor’s nature to plumb the profound. I hope Rahul finds himself a more reflective anchor when he goes beyond the tiny English-speaking audience of that channel to the broad masses in Hindi and other Indian language.”

Grapic: courtesy Mail Today

External reading: 25 questions Rahul Gandhi has still not been asked*

* Disclosures apply

Is ‘corrupt, corporate media’ scared of AAP?

25 January 2014

After hailing the Aam Aadmi Party’s breathtaking rise to power, in fact after paving the way for it with its somewhat uncritical coverage in its Team Anna avatar, much of the mainstream turned against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after he sat on a protest at a public square this week.

In fact, The Times of India, which led the wide-eyed gee-whiz coverage initially, felt duty-bound to run a comically self-important front-page clarification, explaining the sudden change in the tone, tenor and texture of its coverage.

Why, asks Vikram Muthanna, managing editor of the evening newspaper Star of Mysore. Is it because the media has too many skeletons to hide?

“The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

“The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

“The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

“So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

“The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

“Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP who is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?”

Read the full piece: If AAP is anarchist, how about BJP?

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Mukesh Ambani ‘sues’ TV channels on Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Mukesh Ambani on sue threat

Should the media too come under Lok Pal?

Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

When a mainstream newspaper debates ‘caste’

23 January 2014

prajavani-jati-samvada-week-1-copy

Do caste experiences and untouchability really exist in India, particularly in urban and middle-class India?

The answer depends on who you ask although the usual newsroom tendency is to turn the nose away.

So, how do we find out beyond what we think we know?

In the first half of 2013, the mass-circulated Kannada newspaper Praja Vani, from the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald group, devoted its op-ed page to address the issue.

Christened Jathi Samvada, every Monday the op-ed page was anchored by two scholars: Prof Gopal Guru of the centre for political studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Prof Sundar Sarukkai of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities.

Every week, for 24 weeks, the professors wrote and edited articles on caste and posed questions on various themes for public responses. The two scholars report their findings in the latest issue of Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) and why they took up the project:

“One, we felt that there was a continued disconnect between academic writing on caste and society, and popular narratives around it.

“Reading news reports on caste or watching the news reportage on issues related to caste might make one believe that there has really been no serious intellectual reflection on the dynamics of caste.

“The public discourse on caste in these mediums ignores the rich sociological literature on this topic.

“An objective was to bring this sociological literature to the attention of the readers, thereby doing two things: one, expose the readers to these theories and empirical results which might then have some impact on the naïve beliefs about caste and, two, make the readers challenge these theories about caste from the perspective of their own caste experiences.”

For the record, on the birthday of the Constitution maker B.R. Ambedkar in April 2012, the entire issue of Praja Vani was guest-edited by the noted Dalit poet Devanoor Mahadeva.

Read the full article: Publicly talking about caste

Visit the Praja Vani archives: Jathi Samvada

Image: courtesy Barefoot Philosophers

***

Also read: Loksatta‘s ad without SRK, MSD or AB

Anybody here who’s Dalit and speaks English?

6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for the family

‘Our media only bothers about elite, middle-class’

Do we need quotas in the media?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

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