Posts Tagged ‘Prakash Karat’

The curious case of N.Ram, DMK and Jayalalitha

24 May 2011

N.Ram, editor in chief of The Hindu, calling on Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha, in Madras, on Tuesday, 24 May 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: If a picture conveys a thousand words, the picture above should convey a couple of them, and then some more.

At left is N. Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, currently embroiled in a major row with his brothers N.Murali and N. Ravi (and their cousins Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan), over who should succeed him at the family-owned newspaper.

At right is Jayalalitha Jayaram, the newly elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu, whose AIADMK government in 2003, ordered the arrest of then editor N.Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, chief of bureau V. Jayanth, and special correspondent Radha Venkatesan for alleged contempt of the legislative assembly.

Then freshly installed at the helm, Ram turned the arrest order into a cause celebre.

Meeting Jayalalitha today may appear to be an entirely appropriate courtesy call, one which most editors think they are entitled to in the call of duty.

But is it too early to forget that Jayalalitha came to power on the back of the 2G spectrum allocation scam which has the who’s who of the DMK involved in it, and on which N. Ram has been under a targetted attack from his brothers and cousins of, a) being an apologist for the main accused in the scam, A. Raja, and b) of practising a strange kind of “paid news” by running softball interviews in return for ads in the paper.

The additional edge in the Ram-Jayalalitha picture is provided by WikiLeaks.

The Hindu, which scooped the American diplomatic cables pertaining to India from WikiLeaks, gladly ran a cable showed Trinamul Congress in poor light at the height of the election campaign in bengal. The insinuation that Washington wanted to cultivate Mamata Banerjee‘s party quickly became ammunition for the Left, with Ram’s Loyola Collegemate Prakash Karat even addressing a press conference on the issue.

The Bengal cable was published on 21 April; Bengal went to the hustings on April 18, 23, 27, May 3, 7, and 10.

However, the WikiLeaks cable that showed the fissures in the DMK between the Karunanidhi family and the Maran family were published only on Monday, 23 May 2011, a month and 10 days after Tamil Nadu went to the polls and ten days after the DMK had lost the election lock, stock and 2G to Jayalalitha’s AIADMK.

The best-case scenario is that The Hindu staff chanced upon the Dayanidhi Maran cable only after results day, 13 May. The worst-case scenario is not to difficult to imagine.

Amen.

Also read: The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

How The Hindu got hold of the WikiLeaks cables

External reading: Save The Hindu

After Athreya and Kautilya, enter “Chanakya”

16 May 2011

Six months after Vir Sanghvi said he had “suspended” his weekly column Counterpoint, in the wake of the Niira Radia tapes that had him dictating his weekly output to the 2G scam-tainted lobbyist for her approval, the Hindustan Times has announced a new column in the slot occupied by Sanghvi’s.

The byline: “Chanakya“.

In the inaugural column, Chanakya who describes himself “as an outside admirer of the Left”, suggests the purging of Prakash Karat after the Left defeat in West Bengal.

So, who could Chanakya be?

***

Hindustan Times has had a strange history with pseudonymous authors.

In December 2008, Raju Narisetti, the founder of Mint, the business daily launched by HT, exited the paper in the wake of an open letter by “a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya“, which attacked prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The open letter by the IAS officer led to a question being posed to the government by the opposition BJP in Parliament and an abrasive response from then home minister P. Chidambaram.

Narisetti wrote a blog post answering Chidambaram and then printed the clarification in the paper on the use of pseudonyms:

“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.”

Thanks to Niira Radia, “Chanakya” returns to Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

***

In his avatar as a columnist, the Union minister for forests and environment Jairam Ramesh wrote under the pen name Kautilya.

The former Congress prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was routinely referred to as Chanakya. Hindustan Times chairman Shobana Bharatiya is a Congress member of Parliament.

Also read: An open letter to the PM

An open clarification on an open letter

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.

Guess who monetised editorial space first?

2 November 2009

thepioneer

“Paid News”—editorial space being sold for a fee, without revealing to news consumers that it is an advertisement—is suddenly all the rage, with the Magsaysay Award-winning journalist P. Sainath weighing in on the issue.

In just the last week, the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has conducted a seminar on the topic*; the communist party leader Prakash Karat has dropped some pearls of wisdom; The Hindu has editorially commented on the issue and warned of a follow-up editorial; and media-watchers like B.V. Rao, formerly of the Indian Express, Star News and Zee News, and Mahesh Vijapurkar, formerly of The Hindu, have thrown fresh light on the subject.

But the phenomenon of “paid-for news” is really the institutionalisation of an individual transgression.

Individual reporters and editors with feeble spines—in politics, in business, in cinema, in sport; in English, Hindi and every language; in every part of the country—have always been available for grabs. They could be relied upon to mortgage their minds and do the needful in exchange for cash, cars, government accommodation, house plots, and other sundry benefits (as this news item in The  Pioneer hints at).

A whole band of editors and senior journalists were not loathe to calling up chief ministers (and other movers and shakers) for advertisements to shore up their bottomlines.

And several have done far worse.

In a way, they were only marginally different from “paid news” and are, in many ways, its precursor.

The key difference is that the bean counters in media houses have realised that, in a downturn, there is a small mountain of money to be made by monetising editorial space, and that advertisement as news can put some black on the bottomline. But can mediapersons have any objections over the institutionalisation of a retrograde practice without tackling the individual sins?

* Disclosures apply

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

Editor charges Indian Prime Minister of sabotage

30 June 2008

M.J. Akbar, who the grapevine says was ousted from the editorship of The Asian Age due to his staunch opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, goes for the jugular in his column in the Khaleej Times of Dubai:

“The Manmohan Singh government has been unable to bear the burden of an alliance with George W. Bush. The Congress encouraged the illusion, with the help of a cabal of analysts, publicists and lobbyists, that the Left was a lapdog rather than a watchdog, and could be either appeased by a bone or silenced with a stick. When the moment came to choose, the Congress stood with Bush instead of Prakash Karat.

“The official excuse for this decision is energy. But this is deception.

Dr Manmohan Singh deliberately sabotaged a much cheaper and more immediate source of energy for the country when he deliberately undermined the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, raising one false spectre after another to mislead the country, so that it would seem that there was no option but to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal.

“We have forgotten now that the first objection he raised, three years ago, was that financing would be a problem.”

Read the full column: War and consequences

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist

‘Media can’t be in a state of permanent war’

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