PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Three weeks ago, Tehelka magazine ran a profile on the father and son lawyer-pair, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, who are on the Lokpal drafting committee.
Authored by Rohini Mohan, the piece inter alia repeated the canard that had been artfully spread about the Bhushans: that they had been allotted two prime farm-house plots by Mayawati “for a song”; that they had evaded paying stamp duty on a mansion purchased in Allahabad; that a CD involving Amar Singh hinted at their dark dealings, and so on.
The following week, Tehelka set the record straight, running a two-page clarification by the author of the original article, acknowledging that the magazine had got “some things wrong” on three key counts (see the Bhushans’ 11-page, point-by-point rebuttal here).
The Tehelka clarification has elicited a response from prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s media advisor, Harish Khare, in the latest issue of the magazine:
“Please permit me to put on record my appreciation of your decision to print a detailed clarification about the excellent cover story on the Bhushans. The clarification in no way distracts from Tehelka‘s commitment to responsible and rigorous journalism but it certainly is a welcome departure from the self-serving arrogance that has regrettably become the preferred style among many media practitioners.”
Tehelka is not alone in the course correction.
# The Times of India which first carried a page one story stating that the CD was genuine—a day after the Hindustan Times‘ Vinod Sharma had dished out the same line on the basis of some unknown laboratory report—soon carried a story stating that the central forensic science laboratory (CFSL) had concluded that the CD was doctored.
# NDTV 24×7, which played no small part in the Bhushan smear campaign, asking repeatedly if the Bhushans should stay on the Lokpal panel despite the “evidence” against them, too, did an about-turn this week.
After the Supreme Court lifted a gag order on an earlier Amar Singh CD, correspondent Vishnu Som used the occasion to join the dots and show the verbatim lines in the two CDs to establish the point that the new CD had been cut and pasted from the old one, a point the Bhushans had been making from day one.
However, the key players in the “crude and disgusting character assassination” of the Bhushans (as Express columnist Soli Sorabjee termed the orchestrated campaign) continue to pretend as if nothing happened.
There has not been so much as a squeak from the Hindustan Times‘after the Chandigarh CFSL report showed the CD was doctored unlike its own prognosis.
For his part, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta uses the assembly victories of Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha in today’s paper, to explain his paper’s visceral opposition to what he calls the “Armani-Jimmy Choo “Revolution” of Jantar Mantar”, which resulted in the formation of the Lokpal panel with the Bhushans on it.
Gupta’s piece has a Freudian line in the first paragraph:
“Your best friends would catch you in five-star hotel lobbies and chide: ‘You defending the system? What’s wrong with you, you were such a nice guy?'”
Notwithstanding his Tehelka letter, let the record state that Harish Khare, a deputy editor at The Hindu before he joined Team Manmohan, has been at the receiving end of Express‘ barbs (here and here).
Also read: Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—I