Posts Tagged ‘P. Chidambaram’

ET: a story and a clarification in age of PC

9 July 2012

So, how seriously does the Union home minister P. Chidambaram take what the (English) media writes about him?

Very seriously, it seems.

A clarification appearing in The Economic Times provides some evidence:

“A story on the recent Chhattisgarh encounter, ‘No probe into encounter: home secy’ (ET, July 3), said: ‘Last week home minister P. Chidambaram while interacting with the media in the national capital, had patted himself on the back for the encounter.’

“These words were not actually used by the minister. Any offence caused by the use of figurative phrase is regretted.”

For the record, the said encounter which was initially seen as a major victory against, now stands exposed with the majority of the victims turning out to be innocent villagers, many of them below their teens.

Did Chidambaram walk out of Express awards?

23 January 2012

The grapevine is that some ministers boycotted events in which media houses had chosen members of Team Anna for awards last year. Now, this item appears in the gossip columns of The Sunday Guardian.

Apparently home minister P. Chidambaram vamoosed from the Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards function organised by The Indian Express after he found that 2G scam-buster J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer had been picked for the best print journalist f the year.

Orders have been reserved for February 4 on Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy‘s plea seeking to make Chidambaram a party in the 2G scam, alongside A. Raja, who was felled by Gopikrishnan.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Also read: The Pioneer journo who brought A. Raja to book

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

SMS IPUB4 TO 51818 for journalist of the year

An Emergency-style witchhunt of the media?

26 November 2011

The top item (above) in the gossip column of The Indian Express today lends further credence to the conspiracy theory doing the rounds in Delhi that there may be a pattern to, and a devious intent behind, all that is happening to the media in recent weeks: the sweeping remarks of press council chairman Justice Markandey Katju, the notification of the Majithia wage board recommendations for journalists, the talk of regulation of the electronic media, the curbs on crossmedia ownership, etc.

And that in circa 2011—following the exposes of the gigantic scams and scandals that powered the anti-corruption movement—the Congress-led UPA government may have quietly ushered in a very sophisticated form of whiplashing and witchhunting the media, without the formal declaration of censorship as in 1975.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

B.G. VERGHESE: The declaration of Emergency in 1975

KULDIP NAYAR: Hindu and HT were were worst offenders

Is media resorting to self-censorship on Ayodhya?

22 September 2010

The run-up to the court verdict on the title suit in the Ayodhya dispute has seen plenty of activity built around the media. The News Broadcasters’ Association—the body representing private television news and current affairs broadcasters—has issued a set of four guidelines to all editors of member-news channels:

1) All news relating to the High Court judgment in the case should be verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgement uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation.

2) No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgement before it is pronounced ; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.

3) No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any new item relating to the judgement.

4) No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgement.

Citing the size of the court room, the media (print and electronic) have been kept away from the compound of the Allahabad high court, and the court has gone so far as to say that the media must not speculate about the verdict till it has a copy of the operational part of the order.

Now, the Union home minister P. Chidambaram has urged the media to “reserve judgement and not make hasty pronouncements.”

While the precautions are no doubt understandable given the preciousness of human life, a good question to ask is, is the Indian media resorting to self-censorship in order to present a better face? In the process of doing so, is it allowing itself to be told what to do and what not to do, thus depriving viewers of what they should know?

If all this passes muster in the name of “self-restraint”, where does this self-restraint vanish on normal days? Is the NBA’s call for self-restraint now an admission of the utter lack of it on regular days?

Was the killing and mayhem that followed the demolition of the Babri masjid by Hindutva goons, while BJP leaders watched in 1992, squarely a fault of the media? Conversely, if the media weren’t around for this and other stories, would India be a land of milk and honey?

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Why Karan Thapar stopped haggling with God

19 September 2010

Karan Thapar has a well-cultivated image of a tough, snarling, bulldog of a interviewer a la Jeremy Paxman.

All the aggressive, relentless questioning and eyeball to eyeball gazing with the crooked and the wicked of the world might leave viewers wondering if the man has a heart at all.

But the Devil’s Advocate has a human side, too. The tragedy, really, of losing a wife when young.

In his Sunday Sentiments column in the Hindustan Times, Thapar, 55, writes of his relationship with God and how it changed with the death of Nisha.

“Right up till my 30s I would often strike a deal with God. When I wanted something so desperately I was prepared to sacrifice for it, I would enter into an agreement: ‘I’m going to give up X, Y and Z and, in return, I want you to do A for me.’

“The change that occurred after Nisha’s death was small, simple but significant.

“From not knowing if God existed and thus being sceptical I switched to not wanting to risk he might be there and thus offending him. My new position became ‘I don’t know for sure but I’m prepared to accept he does exist’.

“From caution — or fear, if you prefer — was this new belief born….

“It’s now over 20 years since Nisha’s death and, except once, I haven’t bargained with God or, rather, with any of the Gods on my list of prayer. That phase is over. I’m now a believer except there’s no single name of God I place my trust in. I believe in God with a capital G and that means all his manifestations and avatars.”

Read the full column: Oh my God!

Visit his blog: Sunday sentiments

Also read: Did Karan Thapar stand a chance with Benazir?

From the desk of Shri Quickgun Chidambaram

Separated at birth: Karan Thapar and Keith Olbermann

93 seconds to knock 93 years of a hero’s life

‘Repeating bullshit doesn’t make it wisdom’

From the desk of Shri Quick Gun Chidambaram

7 September 2010

The Union home ministry under Palaniappan Chidambaram has been markedly different from that of his predecessor Shivraj Patil‘s. Gung-ho, proactive, media-savvy.

The minister himself pops up in chosen English TV studios now and then. The home secretary G.K. Pillai dashes off corrections, clarifications and assorted complaints.

Sometimes, Chidambaram himself shoots off a letter to the editor. In this case, to the editor of Hindustan Times, in response to a column by the TV interviewer Karan Thapar, on the controversial enemy property act.

Thapar’s “offending” paragraphs hinted at a potential conflict of interest.

“While this issue hangs fire what’s perplexing is P. Chidambaram’s role. In 2002, as a lawyer, he fought on behalf of a rival claimant to the Mehmoodabad property and lost. Eight years later, as home minister, his ordinance nullified the Supreme Court’s judgement. Should he not have recused himself from handling this issue?

“Sadly this is not the only crossed wire. As a lawyer Chidambaram presumably accepted that `enemy’ property can be inherited by an Indian citizen. As home minister his ordinance expunged that right. Isn’t this a sad and sorry situation? Doesn’t the government emerge poorly? And hasn’t Chidambaram behaved peculiarly?”

For the record, Thapar is one TV journalist with whom Chidambaram hasn’t sat down for a pow-wow for several months now.

Image: courtesy Hindustan Times

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.

Now, a kiss from Sikh widows, orphans, victims

7 April 2009

11770Step aside, Muntadar al-Zeidi.

Jarnail Singh is here.

Singh, a journalist with the world’s largest selling newspaper Dainik Jagran hurled at shoe at India’s home minister, P. Chidambaram (in picture), at a media conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

And like with George W. Bush, the missile missed the intended target.

While Dubya ducked in time and recovered to say it was a “Size 10″, the Harvard-educated Indian victim didn’t have to do much. He lent back to avoid it as the shoe (size unknown) whizzed past him to his right.

“Please take him away,” Chidambaram said.

While Muntadar’s shoe was a gift “from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” Singh, a defence correspondent described by friends as a “silent” type, directed his ire at the minister of the Congress party which presided over a grisly genocide against Sikhs, following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi, in 1984.

India’s premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation CBI), recently gave a clean chit to Jagadish Tytler, a politician accused of leading the mobs against Sikhs 25 years ago. Tytler is a Congress candidate for the coming general elections from the national capital, Delhi.

According to the The Times of India, the incident occurred when theturbaned journalist persisted with his line of questioning. Chidambaram told him “no arguments, you are using this forum…,” following which the journalist hurled his shoe.

An unapologetic Singh said he will not apologise for his action, though his manner of protest might have been wrong.

“My manner of protest might have been wrong, but I did not intend to hurt anyone,” he said.

Asked if he could have used some other manner to protest, he said, “for the last 25 years this has been happening. So what other method is left (to protest)”.

Also read: ‘A kiss from the widows and orphans killed in Iraq’

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflicts

5 January 2009

The media website The Hoot, created under the auspices of the Media Foundation and run by Sevanti Ninan, who writes a fortnightly media column in The Hindu, has this piece of media gossip today:

“Rumour mills in Delhi have it that Mint editor Raju Narisetti’s exit last month had something to do with the home minister’s displeasure over an anonymous letter from an IAS officer which Mint carried, and then re-carried. The Hoot ran into P. Chidambaram and asked him if it was true. His answer: “Who is the editor of Mint? I don’t know him. I have never met him and I did not know he had left.”

How would Mint, which set a high benchmark in media ethics under Narisetti’s stewardship, report the same incident which has conflict of interest oozing from every word?

“Rumour mills in New Delhi have it that Mint editor Raju Narisetti’s exit late last month had something to do with the Union home minister’s displeasure over an anonymous open letter to the prime minister from an IAS officer which Mint carried, and then re-carried in an open clarification. A Hoot correspondent ran into P. Chidambaram in the market/ at a party and asked him if it was true. His answer: “Who is the editor of Mint? I don’t know him. I have never met him and I did not know he had left. Hoot editor Sevanti Ninan is the spouse of T.N. Ninan, the editor of Business Standard, which competes with Mint in select markets. The couple own a minority stake in BS. T.N. Ninan started off as a sub-editor on the business desk in the Hindustan Times, which is owned by HT Media that also publishes Mint. Narisetti’s now-defunct blog, The Romantic Realist, referred to a BS column by its No.2 editor A.K. Bhattacharya, which markedly refused to name Mint while commenting on the original controversy involving Mint and the pseudonymous IAS officerAthreya‘, in its penultimate post.”

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

28 December 2008

avataraspxPRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Journalists at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group as “an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream”, are in a state of shock after the dramatic weekend announcement of the resignation of its founding editor, Raju Narisetti (in picture), less than two years after its February 2007 launch.

For the record, the well-regarded Narisetti, 42, maintains there is nothing more to the move than what an internal HT memo stated last week: that it is part of a “leadership transition that is aimed at leading the next phase of Mint” (which has an ongoing editorial arrangement with The Wall Street Journal).

Rajiv Verma, the CEO of HT Media, which publishes Mint, and in whose name the HT internal memo went out, told the media website, exchange4media:

“Raju had come from the US and he has been here with us ever since the paper was announced in 2006. He now wants to move back. However, as Advisory Editorial Director, his association with HT Media would continue.”

Senior HT staffers too claim that Narisetti was on “exit mode” for a while now, and Ranganathan Sukumar had been named as his deputy some months ago with precisely this possibility in mind. (The buzz is Narisetti is headed back to The Wall Street Journal, where he worked in its pre-Rupert Murdoch days, serving as its editorial head in Europe.)

However, the suddenness of the announcement has set journalistic tongues wagging, and there are quite a few within and outside the organisation who believe the exit may have had something to do with the publication of an opinion page article 19 days ago, by a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya (an inference subsequently refuted by Raju Narisetti on 4 January 2009, and termed as “irresponsible…lies”.)

***

In the article “An open letter to the PM,” published on December 10, the pseudonymous IAS officer wrote, among other things:

# “Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils…”

# “[Y]our government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with you…. at least now, when India is under attack on its own soil, please act. And if you can’t act, please get out of the way and allow someone more effective to run the country.”

# “As PM, can you not sack or transfer your national security adviser, the Intelligence Bureau chief, the Coast Guard director general, the navy chief—can you or can you not get rid of your entire top brass and send a signal down the line?”

# “Are you telling us you don’t know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer?”

Eight days later, the tone and tenor of the article clearly proved juicy enough for the BJP’s member of Parliament from Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, to raise it in a Lok Sabha discussion on the economic slowdown to needle the government.

In response, the new Union home minister P. Chidambaram, went for the jugular:

“He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer.

“All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author’s article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?”

Mint, which has made its editorial integrity its USP, did not let matters rest there. The paper carried “An open clarification on an open letter” on December 22 with the declaration “Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.”

And then Raju Narisetti himself joined issue the following day with an item on his Mint blog “A Romantic Realist”, with a piece entitled “On open letters and media ethics“.

The essence of the clarification and the blog post was identical. That while Mint‘s code of journalistic conduct doesn’t allow the use of “pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names…” the said piece had been discussed internally and carried “because the author’s proposed article raised significant and valid questions to spur a national debate.”

Narisetti’s clarification and blog post didn’t stop at that. They reminded Chidambaram of the long tradition of anonymous articles, including a standout one, 71 years ago.

“In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India’s most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru’s latent dictatorial tendencies and his “intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient”. Its author warned: “Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar.” There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.”

Were all members of Parliament and bureaucrats who spoke anonymously to the media “disloyal” or “cowardly”, Narisetti asked.

As news of the resignation made the headlines over the weekend, reader Ganesh posted this comment to Narisetti’s blog post:

“It came as a shock to me that Mr Narisetti is leaving. But, we, Mint readers, need a proper explanation on why Mr Narisetti is leaving? Mint has done some good reporting on other media. Now it is a test for Mint to report on itself.”

Whether Mint will treat Narisetti’s resignation in the same professional way it has employed to report the rest of the media we will soon know.

The Hindustan Times, as a group, has had a number of editorial casualties at the top in the last few years. One editor (V.N. Narayanan) left after he plagiarised 1,240 words of his 1,400-word Sunday column from a Sunday Times, London, column. And one other editor is said to have had to leave because he took on a high government functionary, who has also been mentioned in the article by the pseudonymous IAS officer. The reasons behind the resignations have never been revealed to the reading public.

(An earlier version of this piece carried inferences which have been since excised following a belated clarification from Raju Narisetti.)

Photograph: courtesy LiveMint

Also read: Raju Narisetti: ‘5 reasons to be optimistic of Indian journalism’

M.J. Akbar: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

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