Business Standard, the financial daily edited by Sanjaya Baru, the former media advisor to the prime minister, carried an editorial last week on Ratan Tata‘s 2010 revelation that an “advice” to bribe a Union minister Rs 15 crore was what had put his group off from launching a private airline in the late 1990s.
“Name and shame, Mr Tata,” the editorial thundered:
“Very regretfully, this is no example of “whistle-blowing”, as some in the media seem to think. It would have been if Mr Tata had named the minister and made public his demands at that time.
“Even now, Mr Tata is blowing no whistle, he is merely whining and seeking to occupy high moral ground…. If business leaders of the stature of Mr Tata are willing to strike but afraid to wound, what can one expect of lesser mortals?”
Ratan Tata responded to the editorial in a letter carried two days later by BS, saying that he had made no statement claiming that a minister had approached him for a bribe, and that he was merely referring to a fellow industrialist who called the Tata group stupid for not meeting what he believed to be the minister’s “requirements”.
For good measure, Tata added:
“The Business Standard had, in years gone by, commanded my respect as a publication that reported news factually and stood above other publications that saw nothing wrong with misinterpreting news by taking statements out of context to serve their needs or linking news to advertising.
“Similarly, many of us have admired you, Dr Baru, as a journalist who would stand up for causes and be the moral conscience of the nation. I wonder what has happened to the Business Standard and to the Dr Baru that we all knew. If you still believe in presenting the public with facts as they are, I would expect you to publish my letter in its entirety, without editing out the parts that you do not like.
“I hope you can also say that you go to bed at night knowing that you have not succumbed.”
Sanjaya Baru’s response:
All news reports in the Business Standard are based on factual information. An editorial comment is the opinion of the editor. In this case the comment was based on published and unpublished information available with the editor. The Business Standard continues to adhere to the highest standards of journalism, believing that while facts are sacred, comment ought to be free but fair.
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