Monthly Archives: November 2009

‘The Tribune broke Liberhan story 5 months ago’

The “national” media in India—a loose moniker that alludes to Delhi-based newspapers, magazines and TV stations—are routinely accused of picking up stories from the regional language press and passing them off as “exclusives” when no one is watching.

Fingers are now being pointed at the northern editions of The Indian Express which on November 23 “broke” the contents of the Liberhan Commission report on the demolition of the Babri masjid.

The “leak” resulted in the report, 17 years in the making, being hurriedly tabled in Parliament, and the paper published a mandatory ad on its pages the following day crowing its scoop.

But a group of anonymous journalists say in an email say that the Liberhan report contents were actually revealed by The Tribune, Chandigarh, almost five months earlier in two page-one stories (here and here) on consecutive days by Naveen S. Garewal.

This is the text of a chainmail doing the rounds:

The Indian Express is now claiming (see advertisement above) that the story on Liberhan commission indicting Advani others has been first reported by the Express.

This is nothing but lies.

The Tribune, a 127-year-old newspaper published from Chandigarh, broke the story on July 1, 2009. The Express only copied (a major portion of that the story) and passed it off as its own.

NDTV please note.

Should so-called ethical journalists not give credit to Tribune, which broke the story?

Be true to your profession.

Newspaper facsimiles: courtesy The Tribune, The Indian Express

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Why did the editor cross Kasturba Gandhi Marg?

So, why did Raju Narisetti suddenly leave Mint, the business Berliner launched by the Hindustan Times group, in December 2008, less than two years after the newspaper’s launch, and return to the United States?

***

# Was it because he was opposed to staff and salary cuts as proposed by the management, as insiders claimed?

# Was it because he had carried out his mandate of launching a credible newspaper and was ready to move on, as the management claimed?

# Was it because he had a tempting offer as one of the managing editors of The Washington Post?

# Was it because his wife was finding living in India more and more difficult?

# Or was it because an pesudonymous open letter to the prime minister by a serving IAS officer published by Mint had not gone down well with the HT management (whose vice-chairman Shobhana Bharatiya is a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the Congress), as the market speculation was (which Narisetti denied)?

There has never been a clear picture, but an indication that Narisetti and HT had parted reasonably amicably came recently when his name resurfaced on the paper’s tombstone as “Founder-Editor”.

Now, Narisetti has revealed a bit more of the circumstances surrounding his exit in a New York Times story by Heather Timmons on people of Indian origin who find it difficult to work in the country of their birth and then return home to the United States:

“Some very simple practices that you often take for granted, such as being ethical in day to day situations, or believing in the rule of law in everyday behavior, are surprisingly absent in many situations,” said Narisetti, who was born in Hyderabad and returned to India in 2006 to found Mint….

He said he left earlier than he expected because of a troubling nexus of business, politics and publishing that he called draining on body and soul.

Also read: Pseudonymous author spelt finis to Mint editor?

Shashi Tharoor isn’t the only Tweetiya in town

‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Prabhu Chawla’s son named in media bribery case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named advocate Ankur Chawla, son of Prabhu Chawla, editor of the leading English newsweekly India Today*, for allegedly acting as a conduit to pay a bribe to a quasi-judicial official for “a favourable verdict in a case concerning a media house”.

The Hindustan Times reports that junior Chawla represented one of the two feuding factions of the Hindi daily newspaper Amar Ujala, and had arranged for Rs 10 lakh to be delivered to the acting chairman of the company law board (CLB), R. Vasudevan, who has been arrested for taking the bribe.

The Times of India, quoting CBI sources, says Ankur Chawla had approached Manoj Banthia, a secretary with the Ujala management, with Rs 10 lakh to get the case settled in favour of the daily’s management. “Banthia kept Rs 3 lakh. Chawla’s name is also in the FIR.”

According to Press Trust of India, Banthia was nabbed while he was emerging from Vasudevan’s house in South Delhi after allegedly paying the bribe. A further sum of Rs 55 lakh was also recovered from the residence of the 58-year-old officer.

The Economic Times quotes a CBI spokesman as saying it was “a double-trap”, in which the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker were arrested.

Atul Maheshwari, managing director of the Amar Ujala group, has clarified he had no connection with the case, but Chawla’s house in upscale Defence Colony was raided and a file relating to the case was recovered “establishing his links with the case“.

Indo Asian News Service reports that Chawla, who was reportedly out of India for two days, has professed ignorance about the bribery but has said he will co-operate with investigators.

However, Financial Chronicle reports that Ankur Chawla was among the three arrested along with Vasudevan and Banthia. But the official CBI press release makes no mention of a third arrest, much less the name or pedigree of Chawla.

The Hindu reports that CBI has registered a case against Vasudevan, Banthia and Ankur Chawla under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 7 (public servant taking bribe other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act), 8 (taking bribe, in order, by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant) and other sections of the prevention of corruption Act.

To its credit, Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper owned by the India Today group for which Prabhu Chawla writes a weekly Monday column, gave the most space to the story among all Delhi dailies without, however, revealing the link.

It quoted the CBI spokesman as saying “an advocate acted as the conduit for giving this bribe,” and that “raids at the advocate’s house revealed documents belonging to multiple offices of the media house.”

Read the CBI press release here

* Disclosures apply

Journo who broke Dalai Lama story passes away

From The Hindu:

Guwahati: Veteran journalist Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa, who broke the news about the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet through Tawang in March 1959 and his seeking asylum in India, passed away at his Chandmari residence here on Monday. He was 87. He is survived by his wife Aparajita, a son and three daughters.

Rajkhowa was also the first Indian journalist to have interviewed the Tibetan religious leader.

The Dalai Lama’s request letter for asylum had reached Rajkhowa by mistake in Shillong, where he was based as the correspondent of the The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Guwahati.

The messenger, who carried the Dalai Lama’s request letter written in English, reached Rajkhowa instead of a government official to whom the letter was addressed and who was residing near the journalist’s residence.

Rajkhowa used to recall how he first copied the whole letter before sealing it once again for handing it over to the messenger for delivery to the official and thus broke the story about the Dalai Lama’s flight in The Assam Tribune.

Born in Phukan Nagar in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district, Rajkhowa started his career as a sub-editor with The Assam Tribune in 1946. Later he joined the Shillong office of the English daily in 1951. In 1973, he shifted his base to New Delhi and worked in different national newspapers.

Rajkhowa was also a member of the Press Council of India.

Photograph: courtesy The Assam Tribune

Read The AssamTribune obituary here

Read The Assam Times obituary here

The Paid News of India: a DD News docu film

MEDIA RELEASE: “Advertorial: Selling News or Products?“, a documentary film on the blurring of the line between editorial and advertising in Indian news media, will be telecast on Wednesday, November 25, at 10.30 pm on Doordarshan News.

The film, directed by journalist and academic Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (in picture), has been produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT).

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’

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

Eric Steward reveals Plan B to save newspapers

Reuters news agency throws kindly light on the kind of folk likely to respond to the prayers of newspaper publishers, managers, editors and journalists:

81-year-old Australian man goes out to buy a newspaper.

Takes a wrong turn onto a major highway.

Drives 400 miles in 9 hours.

Buys newspaper.

Read the full story: Lost man drives nine hours to get paper

CAMPAIGN TO FREE LAXMAN CHOUDHURY

India’s war on Maoists, described by prime minister Manmohan Singh as the “gravest internal threat” facing the country has begun to ensnare journalists too.

Laxman Choudhury, a stringer with the Oriya daily Sambad, picked up eight weeks ago because eight leaflets of Maoist “literature” addressed to him were found with a bus conductor, is still in jail.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: BBC journalists secure abducted cop’s release

There’s a new ism in town, Arnab-ism

Speak out. Sign the petition. Free Maziar Bahari