Tag Archives: Indrajit Gupta

Network 18’s right-wing swing on Caravan cover

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The December issue of Caravan magazine has a 16-page cover story on how the Raghav Bahl founded Network 18 has taken a turn towards right-wing politics after its takeover by Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries.

Headlined ‘The Network Effect’ and written by Rahul Bhatia, who authored the Arnab Goswami profile last year, the article chronicles a number of instances to underline the group’s rightward lurch.

# First Post editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan began attending Forbes India meetings in February 2013 as part of a planned integration.

“Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, Jagannathan yelled: ‘You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.”

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# “Last year, CNBC TV18’s Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Raghav Bahl’s book, was despatched to interview Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat.

“Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal.

“When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room.

“‘Why is he talking like this?’ the person recalled Modi saying. ‘Are we not paying for this interview?'” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi.”

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# “In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Raghav Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right.

“CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy editor Sagarika Ghose, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. ‘they believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?’ a person involved in the discussions said.

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# “‘There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Think India platform,’ former Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said.

Each channel, publication and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. ‘They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.'”

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# At the group’s senior management getaway in Macau in early 2013, “the editors’ mood sank further when Raghav Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister.

“Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Modi is the most important person.'”

“I spoke to the editor again in the middle of November. ‘It’s serious. They have started putting indirect pressure on editors to not criticise Narendra Modi,’ the editor said. ‘I think Think India was created to promote him.'”

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# “Early on November 9, Rajdeep Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Raghav Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders.

“‘Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes Indians have enterprise in our blood,’ the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said.”

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# “Network 18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention econmy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN.

“For four days in October and November 2013, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent thinktank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels.

“Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi for approximately 18 minutes.”

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

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The 10 bravehearts who stood up for Charu

Mugs

Top row: Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi;
Middle: Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh Krishnan, Cuckoo Paul;
Bottom row: T. Surendar, Debojyoti Chatterjee, Dinesh Narayanan

Other than when engineering pathetic palace coups or other execrable exercises, much of modern Indian journalism (and indeed corporate life), is increasingly about I, me, myself.

Journalists, otherwise flatulently pontificating on what’s wrong, are willing to stomach the gravest injustices under their cavernous noses as long as their positions, pay packets and other perks are safe.

How heart-warming, therefore, that a bunch of eight journalists (and two business executives) should have bucked the trend and chosen to fearlessly speak truth to power, in their individual capacities, on Charudatta Deshpande, the journalist turned corporate communications manager, who committed suicide in Bombay on Friday, 28 June.

Instead of pretending it wasn’t their business, instead of worrying about what their present and future bosses (and managers) might think of them, instead of worrying about how their lives and careers might be impacted, these fine journalists and executives put their hand up on behalf of a deceased friend and ex-colleague, wrote to the Tata bosses, and initiated a probe that, hopefully, will bring some justice to the family.

These, then, are the nine:

Top row (left to right), Indrajit Gupta, former editor, Forbes India; Gurbir Singh, senior associate editor, Businessworld, and president, press club of Bombay; Charles Assisi, former managing editor, Forbes India.

Middle row (l to r): Prince Mathews Thomas, senior assistant editor, Forbes India; Dinesh Krishnan, former director photography, Forbes India; Cuckoo Paul, senior associate editor,

Bottom row (l to r): Forbes India. T. Surendar, deputy editor, Fortune India; Debojyoti Chatterjee, corporate communications manager, Larsen & Toubro; and Dinesh Narayanan, senior editor, Forbes India.

ramkumarNow is also a good time to doff the hat to Krish Ram Kumar, the ICICI executive director, who too chose not to exercise his right to silence and instead wrote to the Tatas in his individual capacity, flagging many of the concerns raised by the nine.

Time, also, for the rest of us to remember Martin Neimoller‘s famous line:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also read: Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

Tatas deny they tried to sully name of Charudatta Deshpande

External reading: Remembering Charudatta Deshpande

Tatas deny they tried to sully Charu’s name

Tata Sons and Tata Steel have swung into damage control mode following the extensive media reporting of the murky circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of Charudatta Deshpande, the journalist turned corporate communications head of Tata Steel, on Friday, 29 June 2013.

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Charudatta Deshpande (second from left), with his wife and children, in happier times (via FB)

Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry has reacted to the impassioned letter addressed to him and his predecessor Ratan Tata by nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande.

In a letter to former Forbes India editor, Indrajit Gupta, one of the nine signatories to the letter who has offered to testify before an investigation committee, Mistry writes:

“Thank you for your communication of June 30th. I am deeply shocked at the sudden passing of Charudatta Deshpande. He was not formally with us at the time of his demise. But he was one of us in ways that go beyond the niceties of employment.

“We mourn for him and, at this time, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

“You have referred in your letter to allegations about how he was treated in the last few weeks before his end. We take these allegations with the utmost seriousness. We have put in place an appropriate mechanism to look into these and take necessary action.

“Let me assure you the Tata group does not and will not condone any action of the kind insinuated in your letter.

“Thank you once again for getting in touch with us.

“With regards,

Cyrus Mistry

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The Tata group has formed a four-member panel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of Charudatta Deshpande.

A press release issued jointly by Tata Sons and Tata Steel reads:

“Yesterday, Dr Mukund Rajan, the chief ethics officer of the Tata group, stated that the allegations relating to the demise of Charudatta Deshpande had been taken most seriously by the group and an appropriate process would be established to ascertain the facts.

“Accordingly, a committee chaired by Ishaat Hussain, non-executive director of Tata Steel, and including Mukund Rajan, N.S. Rajan, the group’s chief human resource officer and Bharat Vasani, the group general counsel, has been constituted to ascertain the facts.

“The committee has been mandated to convey its findings direct to the Board of Tata Steel within the next two months.”

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Earlier in the day, the Tatas also denied the insinuation contained in two letters that the Tatas had sought to “sully” Charudatta Deshpande’s name after his death:

“No Tata company would condone or authorize any action or behaviour as reported in sections of the media. As confirmed yesterday, we will establish an appropriate process to ascertain the facts and take action accordingly.

“We are shocked and distressed by his passing. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

“We also categorically deny any action by the company concerned and/ or its partners to sully the name of the deceased.”

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Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Tata Steel and suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

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The circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of journalist-turned-corporate communications expert Charudatta Deshpande in Bombay last weekend, has exposed the dark underbelly of one of India’s biggest corporates, and the stress, pressure and threats that hacks face when silence is no longer a conscionable option.

Deshpande, 57, had resigned in April as chief of corporate affairs and communications at Tata Steel, having held that job for a little less than a year; he was due to join the PR firm Ad Factors on July 1. He had previously served as general manager, ICICI Bank, and prior to that as senior general manager of Mahindra & Mahindra.

As a journalist, Deshpande had worked at The Daily, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, Business India TV, and the Business and Political Observer.

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A group of nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande (including the president of the Press Club of Bombay) has written to Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his predecessor Ratan Tata, urging them to institute a proper inquiry into the death.

In their letter, written in their individual capacities, Charu’s friends claim:

# Charu was being bullied into signing some documents/ bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

# Charu was being blamed for “facilitating” a story (in picture, above) in Forbes India and was under enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

# Charu was was under “house arrest” in Jamshedpur and that his cell phones were being tapped.

# Charu was being called and threatened by an unnamed mafia.

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In his individual capacity, ICICI executive director Ram Kumar, a well known figure in HR circles, has also written to the Tatas on the “disgraceful” manner in which Deshpande’s services had been terminated, and the “untold pressure and threat at Jamshedpur” in the weeks preceding his death.

The Economic Times reports:

“Ramkumar’s letter, referring to the claims of the people who met Deshpande in the four weeks preceding his death, alleges that he was “confined” for over two weeks at Jamshedpur.”

Amazingly, or perhaps not, nobody from the House of Tatas, who routinely clamber on to the high moral horse, called on Deshpande’s family for three days after the alleged suicide and Ramkumar has alleged in his letter that a PR firm tried to “sully” Deshpande’s name after the death.

On the other hand, ICICI Bank, where Deshpande had worked earlier, has facilitated a job for his son Gaurav, who graduates in two weeks’ time.

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Below is the full text of the letter sent by nine friends of Charudatta Deshpande to Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, on 30 June 2013:

Dear Mr Tata and Mr Mistry,

We write to you as the collective conscience of a group of friends and former colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande, a former Tata Steel employee, who committed suicide on Friday, June 28, 2013.

From whatever evidence we have gathered until now on the back of conversations with Charudatta in the weeks leading to his demise, and with those who knew him closely, Charu was placed under enormous stress and subjected to harassment by officials at Tata Steel.

Our understanding is it was this harassment that prompted him to commit suicide. This letter is an attempt to bring this episode to your attention and seek your intervention into instituting an urgent and independent inquiry into the matter.

Charu was head of corporate communications at Tata Steel. About a month ago, he resigned from the company. The events leading to his exit are relevant and we would like to place them before you for your consideration.

In April, a few months into his new assignment, Forbes India magazine ran a cover story “Remoulding Tata Steel”. The story is online here on http://forbesindia.com/article/boardroom/putting-the-shine-back-into-tata-steel/35049/0.

It attempted to chronicle the challenges facing Tata Steel at a time when a crucial CEO succession drama was unfolding.

The story was based on extensive and independent reporting that lasted more than five months. Soon after it appeared in print though, a distraught Charu got in touch with those of us at Forbes India and alleged officials at Tata Steel were placing the blame on him for “facilitating” a story they thought inimical to their interests.

He added he was subsequently grounded for more than two weeks; that for all practical purposes was “under house arrest” in Jamshedpur; that his phones were being tapped; and that he was being subjected to enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

Many of us have worked in the past at various newsrooms including at the Economic Times where he was a senior editor. We have also known him professionally in his stints as head of corporate communications at organisations such as ICICI Bank, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Steel.

We remember him as a thorough professional who placed a premium on the interests of the organizations he worked for. Each one of us can personally vouch that in his interactions with us, he has never behaved irresponsibly or tried to damage the reputation of the firms he represented.

Those of us who were at Forbes India when the story on Tata Steel was being researched are willing to testify on any forum that matters he conducted himself with integrity and responsibility.

What we also know of the events that preceded his death are outlined below.

1. He was in discussions with officials at Adfactors PR, with whom he was negotiating employment prospects. He told them he was being called and threatened repeatedly by a ‘mafia’ – a term he used constantly; and that his cell phone was being tapped.

2. He had informed a friend that he was being bullied into signing some documents/bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

3. Immediately after the story appeared, he was in constant touch over the phone with Indrajit Gupta, the founding editor of Forbes India. He confided in Indrajit Gupta and spoke of being confined for over two weeks at Jamshedpur, being harassed after the story appeared in the magazine, was not allowed to travel without permission, and articulated his concerns about his cell phone being tapped. Despite being advised to escalate the matter to higher authorities, including the Tata Headquarters at Bombay House, Charu insisted it would be futile and make things worse for him.

Whatever be the circumstances behind his exit, most of us assumed he would put the setback behind him and move on. However, he alleged the threatening phone calls he got even after exiting he company was causing him a lot of stress.

What transpired after Charu passed away was even more despicable. Even as the news of his demise trickled in on Friday evening, there were concerted attempts made by Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.

A senior PR official even insisted that he had visited Charu’s residence and confirmed the news of the heart attack, which turned out to be untrue. Some regional papers even hinted he had embezzled funds.

We believe this is an attempt to tarnish the reputation of a senior professional and take the focus away from the root cause behind his untimely death.

Discussions with Charu’s family have revealed he had no personal problems or disputes there. His brother-in-law Mahesh said Charu was extremely disturbed and depressed in the month before he finally quit Tata Steel. Mahesh also spoke of Charu confiding in the family he made a serious mistake in joining Tata Steel.

These apart, he also spoke of having been let down by the company on various counts and not being provided manpower and resources he was promised when he joined.

The Tata group has nurtured a long tradition of practising and upholding the highest standards of ethics and probity in public life. Nothing that we now do can redeem what has happened. But for the sake of justice, we would urge you to institute an inquiry into this matter.

If nothing, it will help bring closure to a traumatic episode for Charu’s family and his circle of friends. Equally importantly, an inquiry of this kind will go a long way to ensure episodes of this kind don’t occur again.

The all of us who have signed on this note would be willing to aid any inquiry process you choose to institute by providing evidence and witnesses with whom Charu had spoken to before his demise.

We trust the both of you will do what is right.

In anticipation,

On behalf of

Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi, Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh Krishnan, Cuckoo Paul, T. Surendar, Debojyoti Chatterjee, Dinesh Narayanan

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Photograph: via Facebook

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Also read: Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia‘s services

What Niira Radia told PAC on Barkha Dutt chat

Four lessons in journalism from the Tatas’ chief PRO

Tamil journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Nakkheeran journo denies wife worked for Radia firm

2G scam bribe was diverted to Tamil TV channel

Has media credibility suffered a body blow in 2G scam?

The journalist who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe?

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

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Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

Three of the four Forbes India editors, who were forced out of the fortnightly business magazine allegedly for demanding that the promoters fulfill their contractual commitments on employee stock options (ESOPs), have shot off legal notices to Network 18 and Forbes Media, demanding immediate reinstatement and settlement of dues and damages for loss of livelihood, reputation and mental harassment.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, and William Adamopoulos, CEO Asia of Forbes Media, have been named among the eight respondents, since Forbes India is a title licensed by the American parent organisation, Forbes.

The others named in the legal notice are Network 18 chief operating officer Ajay Chacko, editor-in-chief web and publishing R. Jagannathan, group HR director Shampa Kochhar, group general counsel Kshipra Jatana, and group CEO B. Sai Kumar.

Interestingly, neither Raghav Bahl, the controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18, nor Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, whose name was drawn into the controversy by the Bombay Press Club, have been named in the June 18 legal notice.

(Update: The managing director of Digital 18 Media is the chief recipient of the legal notice, which at this current time happens to be Raghav Bahl.)

The “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, was slammed by the Editors Guild of India as a move that cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

While the first three have sent the legal notices, the fourth has chosen not to contest the case.

The notices are seen as the first step before a full-blown court case which would test human resource practices at one of India’s largest media organisations.

The silence of the Press Council of India, created to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, has been defeaning, given the demonstrated propensity of its chairman Justice Markandey Katju to intervene in public debates.

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Forbes purge is a freedom issue: Editors’ Guild

External reading: Forbes will stick to its DNA: R. Jagannathan

Forbes purge is a ‘freedom’ issue: Editors Guild

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The editors guild of India has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan.

The guild has termed Network 18′s summary decision as lacking in “elementary courtesy” and that it cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

Below is the full text of the statement issued by guild president N. Ravi, former editor of The Hindu:

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“The editors guild of India is deeply concerned over the abrupt termination of four senior editorial team members of Forbes India including its editor Indrajit Gupta, managing editor Charles Assisi, executive editor Shishir Prasad, and director photography Dinesh Krishnan.

“The four senior journalists had worked with the magazine since its inception as part of the launch team, and their sudden removal without reasonable notice and even elementary courtesy cuts at the very root of editorial independence. (emphasis added)

“Basic security and protection from arbitrary action are essential if senior journalists are to go about their task with courage and fairness.

“Whether their termination is a reaction to their insistence on exercising their contractual rights to employee stock options (ESOPS) or is the result of an overall restructuring exercise undertaken by the company is a question to be settled in another forum, and preferably by way of negotiations leading to an agreed solution.

“Considering that senior journalists are involved in this dispute with a media house, the guild would reiterate at this stage that it is essential that all contracts should be honoured.”

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Photograph: Network 18 boss Raghav Bahl (courtesy Forbes)

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Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Bombay Press Club blasts ‘Forbes India’ purge

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The Press Club of Bombay has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan by the magazine’s India franchisee, Network 18.

The Club has termed the manner of the dismissals of the four journalists “nothing short of shameful”, and curiously , or perhaps not, drawn Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani into the debate.

The following is the full text of the resolution passed by office-bearers of the Club on Saturday.

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“On Monday, May 27 and Tuesday May 28, four of the senior-most editors of Forbes India – editor Indrajit Gupta, Managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan and executive editor Shishir Prasad – were summarily dismissed from service either by unilateral termination or through resignations extracted by bullying and threats.

“We understand the immediate dispute was over payment of ESOPs that had matured and were due to them, but the HR and business teams thought otherwise.

The method of ejecting them from the company was nothing short of shameful. (emphasis added)

“Journalists are not only messengers of news and information, but are the collective voice of civil society. They have a special place in our democratic polity, especially in the current times of stress and confusion. Surely, this team of editors which has served Forbes India since 2008 deserved better.

“We don’t rule out changes in business plan the Forbes India management may have wanted to make; but there is the way of discourse and negotiation.

Editors with 15-25 years of experience cannot be forced out with a gun on their head.

The episode has shocked journalists throughout the country and shown the Network18 Group in bad light.

“We will be writing to [Reliance Industries chief] Mukesh Ambani, who has a special position of influence in the media group, as well as to the Network18 Group’s MD Raghav Bahl, to appeal to them to reverse this decision and to enter into discussion with the editors so that an amicable solution is found.”

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Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out