Tag Archives: Karan Thapar

Salman Khurshid, India Today & Sunday Guardian

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.”

In the Hindustan Times, the Cambridge-educated television anchor and interviewer Karan Thapar gives Khurshid a clean chit:

“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

Brajesh Mishra, Outlook, Indian Express and DD

The passing away of the former national security advisor and former foreign service officer Brajesh Mishra last week has resulted in a welter of tributes, many very mushy, a few critical, but almost all of them throwing light on the uncomfortable influence that the Vajpayee aide held over the media—and the chummy friendship that some in the media shared with the high official in the PMO.

***

In his diary in Outlook*, Vinod Mehta recounts the role played by Mishra in ordering raids on the magazine’s proprietor after Outlook had exposed the wheeleing-dealing of Vajpayee’s “son-in-law” Ranjan Bhattacharya:

“I know one does not speak ill of the dead but try as hard as I might, I cannot think of anything nice or complimentary to say about Brajesh Mishra. All my exchanges with him were thoroughly unpleasant. Once after a few whiskies at vice-president Hamid Ansari’s house, he asked me why I had turned against Atal Behari Vajpayee.

“I responded by asking him why he had ordered the I-T raids on my proprietor’s residence in Mumbai and why he threatened me over the phone, denying a story given to us by the Vajpayee household, of how much Vajpayee disliked Arun Jaitley.”

In his National Interest column in the Indian Express, editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes:

“There was, however, one time when I saw him ruffled. And let me make a clean breast of it, even if it concerned The Indian Express. This was when the paper had carried a series of exposes embarrassing the Vajpayee government: the petrol pump scam, the scam on allotment of institutional lands to Sangh Parivar front organisations, and the Satyendra Dubey (the IIT engineer murdered while working for the NHAI by the mafia in Bihar) case.

“A top official in the State Bank of India, for decades this company’s bankers, told me — with a great deal of surprise and dismay — that he had got a call from “somebody” in the PMO to give the Express trouble. He said when he told the person the Express Group had “impeccably” clean accounts he was asked if he could somehow still give it grief. The banker was an old Express reader, loved the paper, and was aghast.

“I sought time with Vajpayee, and the tea had just been served when I said to him, “Suna hai, aajkal aap ne PMO se dadagiri shuru kar di hai.” I told him the story. And I must say Vajpayee looked genuinely shocked and swore he had not given any such instructions.

“Next day I was invited to Mishra’s office. “Arrey bhai, aisi baat thi toh… why didn’t you tell me first? Where was the need to go to boss? He has never pulled me up like this, and I am not used to it,” he said, now more rattled than annoyed. He promised that it was all “freelance” activity by a Sangh Parivar “busybody” who hung around in the PMO, “misusing” people’s phones, and that the “mischief” had been nipped.”

In his Sunday Sentiments column in the Hindustan Times, the TV anchor Karan Thapar writes of an interview he did with the Pakistani president Parvez Musharraf for Doordarshan six months after the Kargil war and three months after he had staged a coup, in the year 2000:

“When I got back from Islamabad I sent him a VHS of the interview. When I rang the next morning to ask what he thought of it he said he hadn’t seen it but his tone and manner suggested he had. What followed convinced me I was right.

“‘Have you told the press about this interview?’ he asked. The question surprised me because broadcast had not been cleared and I had no assurance it would be. Doordarshan, after all, is government controlled. ‘Yes, yes, I know that,’ Mr Mishra interrupted. ‘If I were you I’d let people know.’ Then, after a pause, he added sotto voce: ‘And tell them when it will be shown.’

“Now I was certain Mr Mishra was steering me. He was suggesting a strategy that would make it awkward, even difficult, to deny broadcast but without in anyway saying it would be cleared.

“Naturally, I followed his advice. PTI put out a small story that the interview would be broadcast the next day. The Indian Express front paged it. And then the drama began. A battle waged within the government over whether it should be shown. Various ministers — and the Army Chief — asked to see it. I assumed they all had a say in whether it would be cleared.

“At 7 in the evening I rang Mr Mishra. I could tell he was chuckling when he came on the line. ‘I know you’ve rung to ask if I’ve seen the interview. I haven’t but I’ll catch it tonight on TV.'”

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Tribhuvan Tiwari/ Outlook

The curious case of Karan Thapar & a flyover-II

After 17 articles on the City pages of The Times of India, Delhi, the 14 owners and residents on Palam Marg—including the media baron Aroon Purie and the TV anchor Karan Thapar—respond to the allegation that they objected to the expansion of a flyover becasue it threatened to eat into the service road in front of their mansions.

Image: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: The curious case of Karan Thapar & a flyover-I

The curious case of Karan Thapar and a flyover

One of India’s top voices, Lata Mangeshkar, earned a fair bit of negative publicity for opposing the construction of a flyover on busy Peddar road in Bombay because it threatened to disturb her peace of mind.

Now, one of India’s top TV faces is threatening to follow in her footsteps in Delhi.

On July 29, The Times of India reported that anchor Karan Thapar had opposed the expansion of a flyover in the posh Vasant Vihar area because it would eat into the service lane in front of his house.

“Arguing that this could become “a matter of life and death”, Karan Thapar has written to lieutenant-governor Tejendra Khanna, pleading that “at all cost the service lane between houses 1 to 8, Palam Marg (Olaf Palme Marg), must not be further reduced in width but retained at its present width.”

In the letter dated July 13, Thapar claimed he was speaking on behalf of other residents. “I know that Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief of India Today and Aajtak, and Harmala Gupta, daughter of late Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh, endorse and support the request I am making in this letter…”

“The reason this worries me is that even with the present width of 6m, fire tenders cannot with ease access houses on this stretch of the service lane.”

In a follow-up story on August 5, ToI makes mincemeat of Thapar’s claim, quoting residents in the area who see an attempt “to hold the city to ransom for personal benefit”.

“The claim that it will be a matter of ‘life and death’ as fire engines and ambulances will not be able to reach their house is bogus, as is clear from the fire chief’s statement,” said Ratna Sahai, owner of house no 10, Vasant Marg. “The original Rao Tula Ram flyover was meant to be longer and wider. But these people had used their clout to have this altered and truncated into an abbreviated two-lane flyover to protect their precious service lane.” This allegation had earlier been denied.

Refuting Thapar’s claim that he had approached the president of the residents’ welfare association, Gautam Vohra, president of Vasant Vihar RWA, told TOI: “I have never been approached by Karan Thapar regarding the flyover or any related issue. These people have never raised their voice on water or other problems faced by people of the area, nor have they taken any interest in addressing issues of greater public good.”

Rajni Mathur, resident of C block and RWA member, pointed out that these people had themselves reduced the public service road to beautify what they treated as private land. “These are just a few people who don’t even live here and have never come to the RWA. They have encroached upon the service lane with gardens, guard houses and parked cars. They are concerned about their tenants leaving rather than anything else,” she said.

External reading: Express Newsline

‘The New York Times’ calls Sibal’s Facebook bluff

Indian politicians are long used to happily denying what they said on record (and in front of cameras) without ever having their versions contradicted. Union telecommunications and information technology minister Kapil Sibal is learning the hard way that The New York Times isn’t write-your-pet-hate-newspaper-or-channel-here.

Last Monday, an NYT story which said “Big Brother” Sibal had urged global giants like Google, Facebook to “prescreen” user-content set off an online storm. The Congress party quickly dissociated itself from the minister’s remarks and Sibal was reduced to furiously back-pedalling before chummy TV anchors ever eager to oblige.

On Karan Thapar‘s “Devil’s Advocate” programme on CNN-IBN, Sibal said nobody from his ministry talked to NYT, nor did anybody from NYT talk to his department, and that the piece was based on Congress party sources.

Further, Sibal made heavy weather of a light-hearted comment made by an  NYT reporter at a press conference, even going so far as to suggest that the New York Times somehow wanted to get at him.

New York Times has responded to the charges and said it stands by the original story.

# The article posted on Dec. 5 notes, “Mr. Sibal’s office confirmed that he would meet with Internet service providers Monday but did not provide more information about the content of the meeting.’’ India Ink called three people in his office before posting the article: Mamta Verma and S. Prakash, spokespersons who said they had little information about the issue, and Ranjan Khanna, a secretary who was unavailable.  The article attributes no information to Congress Party personalities.

# The reporter who wrote the article, Heather Timmons, introduced herself to Sibal at a news conference the day after it was published with the phrase “just trying to keep you on your toes.” It was intended as a friendly nod to the fact that he may not have liked the story, but that nothing personal was meant by it.

Image: courtesy Outlook* (disclosures apply)

Read the full article: Our response to Kapil Sibal

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should Facebook be censored?

Editors’ Guild takes on Press Council chief

The Editors’ Guild of India* has responded to the remarks made by the chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, in recent interviews and interactions with the media.

Below is the full text of the editors’ guild response:

“The Editors’ Guild of India deplores the ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media and on media professionals by the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju. Mr Katju has been making negative statements on the media ever since he assumed office, but his comments in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, broadcast over the week-end, touched a new low.

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju thinks the media divides people on religious lines and is anti-people. He objects to TV channels that focus on cricket and other subjects that he disapproves of. He believes that journalists have not studied economics, politics, literature or philosophy, and he has a poor opinion of the media and media people (some of whom, as it happens, are members of the Press Council that Mr Katju chairs).

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju, after expressing such sweeping negative sentiments, has asked the government for draconian powers to impose fines on the media, to withdraw advertisements and to suspend the licence to publish or broadcast. The Guild strongly opposes such powers being given to the Council, especially a Council led by someone who it would seem wants to invoke “fear” in the media.

“The Guild wishes to draw attention to the fact that its attempt to engage in dialogue with Mr Katju has been rendered futile by Mr Katju, who however continues to express his tendentious and offensive views. The Guild wishes to remind Mr Katju that the Indian media is as diverse as it is vigorous, and that while it has drawbacks and shortcomings, on the whole it contributes to the strength of the Indian system.

“Press freedom is a bulwark for the Indian people against the onslaught of people in authority, and the Guild will firmly oppose the assumption of any draconian powers by a Press Council that was created with an altogether different purpose. Further, as the very name of the Council suggests, only the print media comes within the Council’s ambit. The issues and drivers of the electronic media are such that they call for separate regulation. Therefore the Guild firmly believes that the Press Council should have its brief limited to the print media, as it is at the present.”

T.N. Ninan, editorial director of Business Standard, is the current president of the editors’ guild. Coomi Kapoor, consulting editor of the Indian Express, is the secretary.

* Disclosures apply

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

The Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory body for “preserving the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies”, has a new chairman: Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s weekly programme Devil’s Advocate, Justice Katju, known for his “mayhem, humour and quotability” in the courtroom and his long, ponderous newspaper articles, lets loose:

Karan Thapar: In a recent interaction with newspaper and TV editors, you said the media have become irresponsible and wayward, and that the time has come when some introspection is required. Are you disappointed with the media?

Justice Katju: Very disappointed with the media. I have a poor opinion about the media. I mean this. They should be working for the interests of the people. But they are not working for the interests of the people and sometimes, politically, they are working in an anti-people manner.

You have said one of the basic tasks of the media is to provide truthful and objective information to form rational opinions. Is that not happening altogether or is it not happening sufficiently?

You must first understand the historical context. India is passing through a transitional period in our history. Transition from a feudal-agricultural to a modern-industrial society. This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.

Is that not happening in India?

No. Just the reverse….

Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.

You began by saying that you had a very low opinion of the media, that you were deeply dispapointed. I get the impression you don’t think very much of the media at all?

There are some very respected journalists…. General rut is very, very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have any knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.

So the media is in effect is letting down India.

Yes, absolutely. Because media is very important in this transitional period. The media deals with ideas, it is not an ordinary business, dealing in commodities. Therefore, people need modern scientific ideas. And that’s not happening.

View the full video: ‘Media deliberately dividing people’

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