Of all the documentaries built around the November 26, 2008 siege of Bombay, none has quite matched the buzz created by Dan Reed for Channel 4.
Partly because it was the first of the lot; largely because it contained eyepopping footage including of the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab (in picture) being interrogated.
In an discussion held in Delhi, reproduced by MOB (Milk our Bovines), Reed, 47, modestly shines the light:
Question: You managed access to some highly classified data that no one in India had access to. How come no Indian media got their hands on it?
Answer: Over the years I have found that being an outsider confers a strange advantage when approaching a seemingly impenetrable story….
The key was just persistence, an open mind, making friends with the right people, and above all believing (cheesy though it sounds) that you can do it – because as we all know if you believe it strongly enough, others will too.
I certainly don’t think the Indian media was incompetent, but very, very few journalists I met had the rigorous high standards, the passion and the persistence necessary to do first-class work. I believe this situation has arisen because many newspapers and TV stations in India simply do not prioritise factual reporting and rigorous research.
“Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” is an attitude by no means confined to the Indian media, but it is certainly prevalent there. The majority of the 26/11 stories I checked out in the Indian press contained major inaccuracies or errors. But then there were a few journalists whose work was nothing short of brilliant and who helped me a great deal.
“S. Hussain Zaidi (in picture), the brilliant and fearless Asian Age bureau chief in Mumbai (and author of the outstanding Black Friday book), became a close associate of mine on this project and his shrewd assistance, inside knowledge and encouragement were vital to its success.”
Photograph: courtesy Dan Reed/ Channel 4
Read the full interview here: The truth behind the Mumbai attacks