Food inflation is hitting the media, too, and the Press Club of Bangalore has a new menu card with revised prices for the paper tigers who throng the best located watering hole in the country.
The “reverse-swing” done on Zee News by Jindal Steel is one of the most intriguing media stories in recent memory.
The steel company says it is suing the Subhash Chandra-owned network for Rs 200 crore for the demand of Rs 100 crore in lieu of advertisements allegedly made by its editors, Sudhir Chaudhary and Sameer Ahluwalia, to not telecast shows in relation to the coal allocation scandal.
In turn, Zee says it will sue Jindal Steel for Rs 150 crore for defaming the network by holding a press conference, releasing a CD containing video evidence of the reverse-sting, and making allegations of extortion against it and its editorial staff.
Meanwhile, The Times of India group, whose business paper The Economic Times and its advertorial supplements like Bombay Times and Delhi Times, were happily mentioned in passing by Chaudhary and Ahluwalia as indulging in “paid news” in the Jindal “reverse-sting” says Zee will hear from them.
Not surprisingly, Times CEO Ravi Dhariwal was on the mat at a CII event on Monday, with Amit Khanna of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Entertainment saying his company had been asked to approach Medianet by TOI for coverage of an film festival.
The last bit of news, published in the gossip column of the Indian Express on Tuesday, has been happily reproduced by First Post, whose parent organisation TV 18 is now part of the Mukesh Ambani group, as evidence of the “media-corporate war”.
Image: courtesy The Indian Express
A week is a long time for the media in Scamistan. The ripples caused by Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra‘s real-estate dealings have given way to the hera-pheri of BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s.
The veteran editor and columnist Virendra Kapoor writes in The Sunday Guardian:
You can be forgiven if you believe that Nitin Gadkari‘s is the only scam in town. Saturation coverage by television channels in the past couple of days should have ordinarily left no one in doubt that he is at the centre of the biggest scam of our times.
Even newspapers which have virtually become an extension of the ruling establishment seemed to have suddenly discovered merit in Gadkari’s financial shenanigans, splashing as front-page lead the alleged wrongdoing by his companies while being completely oblivious to the humongous misdeeds of the leading lights of UPA.
Admittedly, it is hard to take on the incumbent powers. Editors simultaneously charged with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the bottom-line, theirs and the paper’s, have to necessarily suck up to the corporate and political bosses — never mind the pretence in social and professional gatherings. But what of the cash-rich media houses straddling huge print and television empires?
Apparently, a strong word was conveyed that they should leave Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law well alone. Ministers, including I&B boss Ambika Soni, are said to have reached out to the media houses, gently suggesting that further interest in the doings of Robert Vadra and his multifarious business activities would be most unwelcome.
Now, when you treat journalism at par with selling soap cakes it is not hard to fall in line with the political establishment, is it?
So, the switch, instead, to Nitin Gadkari’s private companies.
Read the full column: Hammer Gadkari to save Vadra and other scamsters
Exactly a week after Newsweek decided to shut shop and on the eve of the reverse-sting that caught Zee News with its pants down, Clark Kent has walked off his job at The Daily Planet as the world’s longest serving reporter, bemoaning the state of journalism.
He would have completed 75 years of service next year.
“Why am I the one sounding like a grizzled ink-stained wretch who believes news should be about – I don’t know – news?” Mr Kent asked his publisher Perry White in a widely reported sting operation.
This is not the first time the temperamental reporter, who has often shown a penchant for wearing his underwear outside, has left the paper. When Galaxy Broadcasting bought The Daily Planet in 1971, Mr Kent had a short spell as a broadcaster before returning to the paper.
Mr Kent declined to answer queries but a spokesman for his PR company said:
“This is really what happens when a 27-year-old guy is behind a desk and he has to take instruction from a larger conglomerate with concerns that aren’t really his own… He is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but how long can he sit at his desk with someone breathing down his neck and treating him like the least important person in the world?”
There are no indications what the ageing reporter, who has been secretive of his family, plans to do next, but online speculation suggested he might opt for a career, well, online.
“I don’t think he’s going to be filling out an application anywhere,” his PR man said.”He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”
A spoof animation video from Taiwan, which imagines Mr Kent behind a McDonald’s counter, invited suggestions what other career options existed before him.
Also read: All fun and no work makes Tintin a good boy
On the last day of Dasara, Vijayadashmi—the day Lord Rama is rumoured to have defeated the demon-king Ravana, in newspaper parlance—The Times of India‘s chief illustrator Neelabh Banerjee presents a new ten-headed monster–from corrupt cops to cricket officials to doctors to businessmen to bureaucrats to politicians—to slay (Click to view a larger image).
Swapan Dasgupta on the silence of much of the media on the Zee News-Jindal Steel extortion case, in which the editorial staff of the Subhash Chandra-owned channel allegedly demanded Rs 100 crore in lieu of advertisements from the steel major to not publish stories in the coal scam, in The Pioneer, Delhi:
“The media didn’t react to the JSPL sting with the same measure of breathless excitement that greets every political corruption scandal because it is aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A thorough exploration of the media will unearth not merely sharp business practices but even horrifying criminality….
“Since the Press Council of India chairman Justice (retired) Markandey Katju is desperate to make a mark, he would do well to suo moto establish a working group to inquire into journalistic ethics. He could travel to a small State in western India where there persistent rumours that those who claim to be high-minded crusaders arm-twisted a Chief Minister into bankrolling an event as the quid pro quo for not publishing an investigation into some dirty practices.
“The emphasis these days is on non-publishing. One editor, for example, specialised in the art of actually commissioning stories, treating it in the proper journalistic way and even creating a dummy page. This dummy page would be sent to the victim along with a verbal ‘demand notice’. Most of them paid up. This may be a reason why this gentleman’s unpublished works are thought to be more significant than the few scribbles that reached the readers and for which he received lots of awards.”
Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee’s business head, has been removed as a member and office-bearer of the broadcast editors’ assocition (BEA) following the incident, of which Jindal Steel claims it has audio and video evidence.
Subhash Chandra too is named in the Jindal FIR along with his son Punit Goenka, and a Zee staffer Samir Ahluwalia.
Read the full column: Media, turn the mirror inwards
Read Sudhir Chaudhary response: Dear Shazi
Salman Khurshid, the Oxford-educated Union law minister, has taken the India Today group to court in Delhi, Bombay, Lucknow and London claiming damages of Rs 243 crore following Aaj Tak‘s sting operation that accused the trust run by his wife, former Sunday magazine journalist Louise Khurshid nee Fernandes, of a discrepancy of Rs 71 lakh.
But ranting on TV against pesky reporters or the threat to meet his detractors with “blood” are not only the excesses of the smooth-talking Khurshid. His supporters are no better.
In The Sunday Guardian edited by M.J. Akbar (who also wears the hat of editorial director of India Today), reporter Abhinandan Mishra writes of the reception he got in Khurshid’s constituency Farukhabad, when he had gone to investigate the truth behind the camps organised by Zakir Hussain memorial trust.
“Once done with our investigation, we moved toward our car to discover that a small group of men had gathered. One of them asked me the purpose of my visit. When I realised that I was verifying the credentials of the disabled, the mob got agitated and asked me to leave.
“They were shouting that I was wasting my time and was trying to malign “SalmanSahab“.
“I understood the gravity of the situation and did not wish to get into further arguments with the men and decided to leave Pithora. But a well built man in his early 30s started following us on a Bullet motorcycle. He started banging the passenger window asking my companion to roll down the glass.
“When we ignored him, he signalled to the driver to roll down the window. I obliged.
“What followed was a string of abuses and threats at me: “Tu nikal yahaan se. Tu Salman Sahab ka kuch nahi bigaad paayege. Farrukhabad se bahar niklo, batate hain tujhe (Get out of this place. You will not be able to do anything to Salman Sahab. I will deal with you once you step out of Farrukhabad).”
“We asked the driver to speed up.
“The next stop was Kaimganj. As I finished with the investigation and was about to exit the city, the second attack happened, much more ferocious and well planned. I heard a loud thud on the window and saw a man who appeared to be in his 40s attempting to break the glass.
“Threatening me, he shouted, “Kar li tehkikat? **&*&* kuch nahee kar paayega tu, kitna bhee likh le Salman ke khilaaf. (Are you done with your investigation? You cannot harm Salman no matter how much you write).” He then asked the driver to stop the car.
“I asked the driver to accelerate the car. However, the attacker caught up with us and shouted, “Bahar nikal tujhey batata hun. Tu yahaan se zinda nahi jaayega. (Get out of the car. You will not return alive from here).” He then raced ahead and parked his bike. We saw three people joining him and then starting to pelt stones and bricks at our car. They missed us narrowly because of the speed at which our driver was driving the car. They followed us till the time we entered the main city of Farrukhabad.
“I called up the superintendent of police, but the number was switched off. I then called up the assistant SP of the district, O.P. Singh, who said to my shock that I should have informed the police before going to these areas.”
“There’s one question that’s dominated the last week. It’s been asked again and again. Equally significantly, it’s been put by a wide range of people. “Do you believe Salman Khurshid?” My answer is simple and blunt: yes….
“I have three deeper reasons for believing Salman. First, I’ve known him since I was 21 and cannot believe he would forge letters or pilfer money meant for the handicapped. Second, I admire his willingness to subject himself to a rigorous interview less than two hours after returning from London. A man with a guilty conscious would have ducked for cover instead. Third, he wouldn’t sue for defamation if he did not have a credible and convincing defence. Oscar Wilde did that and look where he ended up!”
Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today
S. M. A. Kazmi, the Urdu and Persian language journalist arrested in March this year for his alleged involvement in the attack on the car of an Israeli embassy official in New Delhi in February, has been ordered by the Supreme Court of India to be released after seven long months in custody.
Not surprisingly, there is great cheer in the Kazmi family.
His son Turab, is quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying:
“The first call I made was to my mother who started crying over the phone when I gave her the good news. We are very happy because the truth is out and justice has been finally done. We want to thank the Almighty for giving us power to fight for injustice.”
Kazmi’s wife, Jahan Ara, is quoted by the Indian Express as saying:
“Ibadat mein hi time guzra hai in saat mahino mein. Humare liye aaj hi eid hai (These seven months have been spent in prayers. Today is Eid for us).”
However, behind the good news are signs of a sad and devious police plot.
Initially, many in the media merely doubted the police version of Kazmi’s alleged role in the attack. Now, it appears as if sections of the media are parroting the Delhi police version which doubts his very credentials as a journalist.
Kazmi read news for state-owned Doordarshan Urdu and did work for Radio Teheran and covered the Gulf War. But news reports carrying the SC order, citing the Delhi police, are revealing.
“Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication, was picked up after a probe showed that he had been in touch with the suspect who is believed to have stuck the magnetic bomb on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua’s car on February 13, according to the police.”
Hindustan Times correspondent:
“Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication before his arrest in the case, was picked up after Delhi police investigation showed he had been in touch with the suspect who is believed to have stuck the magnetic bomb on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua‘s car on February 13 this year, police said.”
The Indian Express quotes the court:
“The court said Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication, has acquired his statutory right to bail on July 17.”
Thankfully, The Times of India bucks the trend:
“The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi, a journalist who has been behind bars since March 6 in the Israeli diplomat car attack case.”
Image: courtesy Hindustan Times
Also read: Let the record show, Kazmi is not forgotten
External reading: Eid comes early for Kazmi family: The Indian Express
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, that great upholder of freedom of expression—think of cartoonists, college students, farmers and others who have been called “Maoists”—has some words of advice for journalists.
Image: courtesy Mail Today
Ramachandra Guha: 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist