Posts Tagged ‘Raman Kirpal’

NYT, WSJ weigh in on Tehelka’s Goa controversy

11 November 2011

The controversy surrounding Tehelka magazine’s Goa conference, ThinkFest, had so far been largely confined to sections of blogosphere, which used an editorial page piece in Hindustan Times by the theatreperson Hartman de Souza, and Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal‘s response to it, as a trigger.

Only Deccan Herald among the large English dailies gave any play to the kerfuffle kicked up by remarks reportedly made by Tejpal at the end of the first day of the conference, that since they were in Goa, they could eat, drink, be merry and “sleep with whomever you want.” (Also see “Crusader turns Collector“)

Possibly because Tehelka‘s conference had international backers in Tina Brown‘s Newsweek and its sister website, The Daily Beast, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have both found the controversy over the location and sponsorship juicy enough to put out stories today.

***

Lydia Polgreen in NYT:

The slick and well-attended conference led some in the Twitterverse and blogosphere to wonder: had Tehelka sold out to India’s mining barons and real estate tycoons?

The festival was sponsored by some of India’s top corporations and held at a hotel allegedly owned by men in jail awaiting charges involving the 2G telecommunications scam.

Potentially even more damaging, Tehelka faced accusations that it withheld an investigative story about illegal mining in Goa in exchange for the Goa state government’s support for the festival, an allegation the magazine’s editors strenuously deny. A version of the article was later published by Firstpost, a news Web site….

Tarun J. Tejpal, Tehelka’s editor, said that he was unaware of who owned the hotel or any environmental violations in its construction when his staff scouted the location months ago.

“When we looked for a hotel that could accommodate the scale we wanted, we couldn’t find a single hotel that could find a hall that could accommodate 600 to 700 people,” until they found the Grand Hyatt, which was still under construction. “Much later on the virtual eve of the fest we began to hear of these other issues.”

By then it was too late to shift to another location, he said.

Essar, one of the corporations sponsoring the festival, runs huge mines in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere, and some press critics have accused Tehelka of softening its criticism of the mining giant in exchange for sponsorship.

Tejpal flatly denied this, and said it was spurious to claim that his magazine’s journalism was somehow suspect, arguing that no publication has done more to highlight the plight of India’s dispossessed than Tehelkha, which frequently runs exposés of corporate and political misdeeds.

“There is a kind of absurdity for these arguments,” Tejpal fumed. “At the end of the day, by that count, virtually everything in India is suspect.”

Lucy Archibald in the WSJ:

However, some of the controversy merits a closer look. Most contentiously, writing in the Hindustan Times, Hartman De Souza, the sexagenarian theatre veteran and activist, accused the Tehelka editor of compromising a story about Goa’s illegal mining in order to get a green light for the festival.

According to De Souza, Tehelka reporter Raman Kirpal visited the state in March and discovered the illegal mining of iron ore at several times the environmentally cleared rate. This allegedly amounted to an illegal profit of Rs 8 billion ($163.5 million). Subsequently, the state-appointed Public Accounts Committee reportedly put the figure lost by the state exchequer closer to Rs 3,000 crore.

De Souza contends that Tejpal delayed the publication of the story just when he was in talks with Goa’s Chief Minister Digambar Kamat about approval and sponsorship for the event. And so far no such story on Goa’s illegal mining has run in Tehelka.

The reporter has since left the magazine and published his story on Firstpost.com, where he has now taken up a staff position. Coverage of the mining scandal followed in various local media outlets.

Several Goan government officials, including Kamat, were allegedly castigated in the committee’s report…. As a result of all this, De Souza objects to the inclusion of the Goan government as a sponsor of the ThinkFest event.

Tejpal published a strong riposte pointing out that the reporter in question was fired by Tehelka “on account of poor performance.” He strongly rejected De Souza’s version of events, calling his article “bizarre and baseless” and its author “full of rage at the world, but no facts.”

He also pointed out that they “actively refused sponsorship from all the Goan mining companies.” The festival was partly sponsored by companies including Aircel, Essar and Tata Steel.

Photograph: courtesy Newsweek

Also read: A magazine, a scam, an owner and his Goan house

Tarun J. Tejpal: “We haven’t bent or violated any rule”

A magazine, a scam, an owner & his Goan house

28 October 2011

Be it the Commonwealth Games scam, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, or the demolition of Team Anna, it is increasingly clear that sections of the media are eagerly running with the wolves and hunting with the hounds.

In State after State, in story after story, media houses, owners and professionals are turning out to be players in the very stories they are supposed to be purveying, making nonsense of issues such as integrity, conflict of interest, and crossmedia ownership.

The unravelling mining scams in Karnataka and Goa are no exceptions.

In today’s Hindustan Times, the veteran theatreperson Hartman de Souza writes these telling paragraphs why it took so long for the Goan mining scam to see the light of day:

“The story that broke the skullduggery in Goa first appeared on Firstpost. Later, it was methodically pursued by reporters from Hindustan Times’ Mumbai bureau.

“But what many people don’t know is that the Firstpost story was first commissioned when the reporter concerned was working for another magazine*, which takes pride in being politically neutral.

“The story remained in limbo for two weeks. It saw the light of day only when the reporter left the organisation, took the story with him, made one more trip to Goa and uncovered some more irregularities.

“Environmentalists in Goa were, however, not puzzled by the said magazine’s reluctance to go after the Goa government and its home-grown mining barons, given that it had sent a reporter earlier and had blocked that story then too.

“The magazine’s proprietor had bought an old house in a Goan village. Even as I write this, he is bending rules to get the house refurbished into a new age spa. Just across the house was an old jackfruit tree, which was cut even when the inside of its thick turmeric-coloured centre was still gleaming with moisture.

“It’s anybody’s guess how many more old trees would have been cut inside the vast perimeter of the property to make way for lawns, garden and ponds. It doesn’t end there. The said magazine* will soon hold an ‘ideas’ jamboree in Panjim at a hotel which is owned by a mining company.”

Photograph: courtesy Hindustan Times

Read the full article: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

External reading: Everybody loves a good war

***

* Disclosures apply

***

Also read: Tehelka promoter’s woes just don’t seem to end

Moneybag MP says he didn’t turn off FW tap

Should media corruption come under Lokpal?

‘Editors are lobbying on behalf of corporations’

Media houses are sitting on plots leased at one rupee!

‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,442 other followers

%d bloggers like this: