Tag Archives: Twitter

A ‘mile-high experience’ for the hack-pack

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A picture tweeted by the prime minister’s office (PMO) of the media scrum accompanying Manmohan Singh, as he answers questions in mid-air on his way back home after a five-day visit to the United States.

Among those identifiable, Raj Chengappa, editor-in-chief of The Tribune, Chandigarh (in suit, ahead of mikes); Jayanta Ghosal of Ananda Bazaar Patrika (behind him); Vijay Kumar Chopra, editor, Punjab Kesari (front row, aisle); and Mihir S. Sharma of Business Standard (third row, window seat).

In all, there were 34 newspaper, magazine and TV journalists on board.

Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta & Gen V.K. Singh

For the second time in 18 months, the northern edition of Viveck Goenka‘s Indian Express (sold in the south as The National Standard) has been drawn into a blazing row between the Congress-led UPA government and the then (and now retired) chief of the Army staff, General V.K. Singh.

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In April 2012, the Express put out a front-page, full-page, eight-column, triple-decker banner-headlined story that on the day Gen Singh’s petition before the Supreme Court on his date of birth was coming up on January 16, 2012, two units of the Indian Army had moved towards Delhi

In effect, that Express story—bylined “by Shekhar Gupta, Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta, with Ajmer Singh“—was making the thinly disguised insinuation that the general had tried to stage a coup in the national capital but without using the dreaded “C” word.

The Express story was denied by defence minister A.K. Antony, and most newspapers punched holes in the Express story, but the paper stuck to its guns.

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Last Friday, September 20—five days after Gen Singh had shared the dais with the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Damodardas Modi—the Express front-paged an eight-column, double-decker, half-page story, by Ritu Sarin, that a unit set up by Gen Singh had, among other things, tried to topple the Jammu & Kashmir government headed by Omar Abdullah.

In effect, a “C” minor.

But unlike the first occasion, when the General was still in his uniform and constrained from speaking out on its veracity, this time he has let loose a volley of personal criticism on Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, who has a demonstrated record of top-flight reporting on defence matters, both at Express and his previous port of call, India Today magazine.

First, on Twitter, General Singh called Shekhar Gupta a “UPA stooge” and gave oxygen to a number of unsubstantiated charges on his assets and income-tax returns, even drawing Gupta’s spouse, Neelam Jolly, into the picture.

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Then, on the 9 pm news on television, after he had filed an application under the right to information seeking the Army report on which Express said it had based its story, General Singh went for the jugular, both against Express and its editor.

In an interview with Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Times Now, Gen Singh said:

“This paper first accuses me of trying to topple the government in Delhi, now it accuses me of trying to topple the government in J&K…. How did Indian Express know about it? If there is a leak (of the Army report) to a paper, why can’t it be made available to me?

“I don’t consider Indian Express a newspaper which can be believed. Sorry. A paper which can dub a movement of two units on simple mobilization as a ‘coup’ should be thrown out into the wastepaper basket.”

Express reported the latter criticism in its editions today, quoting Times Now, but conveniently excised the middle portion, which questioned the veracity of its April 2012 “C” report.

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Then, in an interview Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Gen Singh answered a few questions:

Who is behind this ‘motivated report’?

When I say motivated, I am only going by what the Indian Express has reported. With my previous experience of their putting out a ‘coup’ story, I feel it is highly motivated…. If a newspaper can have this report or parts of this report, I think I as a person directly affected must have a copy.

Sir, you have also today on social media made comments about the editor of the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta.

I don’t know if it is a personal battle for him. If a person comes to my house, has a meal, understands the situation, then goes and does a banner headline on spooking the government, and a coup, based on two units that moved, what was the agenda?

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In an interview with Nitin A. Gokhale, NDTV‘s defence editor, 17 days before the Express report, Gen Singh said:

(M)isunderstandings are created deliberately by people who hobnob with certain journalists, who seem to be having an axe to grind and there are some of them very prominent ones. Why the axe is there to grind, whether it is because they have been bought over or something else I really can’t comment on. But it appears quite obvious.

In this particular instance there was, you know, banner headlines. Army is spying, Army is bugging, Army is doing A, B and C…

I have tried to clarify it once earlier.  But I find same reports keep coming up. In fact this great paper called Indian Express had done the same report with just a minor variation of figure by the same reporter couple of months back. He has brought it up again, same thing no change in it, just a minor variation. So much for the journalistic talent that this paper has….

For a paper to say Rs 8 crore is missing, have they seen the logbooks? Have they gone through the details?  They haven’t. No, I think lot of things that this paper has been doing is totally wrong.

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While the rest of mainstream media stayed silent on the Twitter war between Gen Singh and Shekhar Gupta, it briefly popped up as a news item on NewsX, the news channel.

But, on social media, as the paper’s reputation was taking a pounding, the Indian Express scion Anant Goenka felt it fit to enter the debate (here, here).

#”To the haters: you can allege a variety of vested interests but our history shows we take up issues that no one else has the courage….

#”Fact is that Express is and has always been feared because we don’t care who hates us…I think our readers expect nothing less from us.”

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Update: NewsX, which put out a news report on V.K. Singh’s allegations against Shekhar Gupta, issued a clarification on 14 October 2013:

“News X would like to clarify that its report of September 23 in no capacity an endorsement of the claim or reflects the editorial view held by the channel with regard to Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekha Gupta. News X was only reporting the Tweets as put out by the General on his individual account.”

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Also read: What they are saying about Express ‘sue’ report

Adolf Hitler reacts to Indian Express ‘C’ report

Is the Indian Express a pro-establishment newspaper?

A “licence” for journalists is not a ‘sine qua non’

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Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari‘s proposal for a “common examination” for journalism students, with a “licence” to practice journalism at the end, gets the full treatment (a pocket cartoon and an editorial) from the Indian Express:

“There are enough closed societies where Tewari’s suggestion would appear commonplace, where governments are unconcerned by the dilemmas and predicaments that can follow from the publishing of ostensibly objectionable material because they seek to manipulate the information that is put out in the first place, ensuring in the process that nobody may presume to speak truth to power.

“Is it his contention that India find its place among them?

“Even as Parliament makes a justified claim to keeping the internal concerns of political parties out of the purview of the right to information, given their greater import to a healthy democracy, the minister cannot be unaware of the undemocratic content in his suggestion.

“It would be pointless to allow him an evasion by accosting him with questions about the specifics, such as: In the age of mass communication, what are the activities that a journalist’s licence would control? Blogging? Tweeting? A post on YouTube? A telephone text? And such as: why and how is it an urgent task before government to keep a check on journalism schools?

“The media today are diverse in their commitment to good and responsible journalism. Suggestions like Tewari’s can be seen as attempts to meddle, and hit the slippery slope to patronage and censorship.”

On Twitter, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Rajya Sabha member who owns two news channels, Asianet News in Malayalam and Suvarna News in Kannada, too punched holes in Tewari’s proposal:

The Biju Janata Dal Lok Sabha MP, Baijayant Jay Panda, whose family owns a cable television network and OTV, a news channel in Orissa, wrote:

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Read the full editorial: Slipping on the slope

Also read: Poll: common exam, licences for journalists?

External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

‘Media irresponsible in Kishtwar coverage’

The incidents in Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir on the eve of Id, the culmination of the holy month of Ramza, leading upto Independence Day, occupied plenty of media attention, as the BJP smelt political capital ahead of general elections.

The State’s chief minister Omar Abdullah sparred with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Twitter; her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, was disallowed from visiting the spot, and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, weighed in.

The issue threatened to get out of proportion till it was overtaken by other incidents.

The media doesn’t quite come out smelling of roses in the entire episode, writes Zahir-ud-Din, an editorial consultant with the Kashmir-based English daily, Kashmir Reader, in Deccan Herald:

“Contrary to established precedents, the media also behaved irresponsibly this time. Chief Minister’s statement (spelling out the number of Hindu and Muslim casualties) was carried prominently by all the newspapers. It became a Hindu-Muslim issue.

“The media in Jammu Kashmir has matured enough due to two decades of bloody conflict. By and large the media have behaved responsibly.

“For example, the Chittisingpora massacre was reported by one of the leading newspapers of the state without mentioning the faith professed by the victims. The intro of the story read: ‘Amid shock and utter disbelief the people mourned the killing of 35 Kashmiris at Chittisingpora, a hamlet in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.’

“Similarly the 1998 Wandhama massacre was reported with utmost responsibility.

“What, therefore, happened this time? Why did mediapersons resort to reckless and irresponsible reporting? Why was Chief Minister’s irresponsible statement carried prominently? This type of reporting is a serious offence under Section 153-A of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and if law is allowed to take its course, all the newspapers that carried the statement and the Chief Minister himself can be booked.

“A senior journalist while commenting on what he called ‘molestation of journalistic norms and ethics’ said a victim is neither a Muslim nor a Hindu.”

Read the full article: The ‘Bhoots’ of Bhunzwah

The nation’s moral compass before Mr Goswami

Priya Ramani, editor of Lounge, the Saturday section of the business paper, Mint:

“For residents of south Mumbai, in a faraway time before Arvind Kejriwal and Arnab Goswami, the taxi driver was this somnolent constituency’s only link to national politicking.

“In the short drive from Nariman Point to Malabar Hill, the Navbharat Times and Yashobhoomi reading taxi driver could introduce you to his India, one where citizens didn’t pay taxes and yet knew exactly what the government had been up to.

“His Mayawati vs Mulayam Singh monologue was tailored to the duration of your drive and the level of your interest. God forbid some English newspapers had convinced you that life in Bihar had improved dramatically with the rise of Nitish Kumar, he could easily provide the counter view.

“If it was your lucky day, he would dismiss the idea of a Hindu Rashtra with a cynical: All these political parties are useless. Everyone’s a %*@#%. If not, oh well, it was a healthy debate, certainly more so than those snappy Twitter altercations.”

Read the full piece: Playing spin the wheel

Reuters’ Modi interview: “Sensational tokenism”

Reuters‘ scoop interview with Narendra Modi published yesterday by the news agency, but apparently given 17 days ago on June 25, has created headlines for the Gujarat chief minister’s continuing lack of contrition for what happened under his watch in 2002.

And for his faux pas of comparing the victims to “kutte ka bachcha” (puppies).

On Twitter, Sruthi Gottipati, one of the two Reuters‘ journalists who sat down for the powwow has complained of the manner in which the interview has played out on Indian TV and in the newspapers.

But those who have been fighting Modi on the courts of Gujarat and Delhi have bigger problems with Reuters‘ interview than the “kutte ke bachcha” gaffe. They say Reuters “failed to, conspicuously, persist with any accurate, difficult or pinching questions.”

Here, below, is the full text of the press release emailed by the Business India journalist turned activist Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace.

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PRESS RELEASE: Seven days before Reuters published its [Narendra Modi] exclusive, a privilege denied by the PM-aspirant to an Indian news agency or channel, we [Citizens for Justice and Peace] had been contacted persistently by a Reuters correspondent.

Not Ross Colvin or Sruthi Gottipati who now carry the journalistic honour of grabbing moments with a man who rarely likes to be questioned, especially if the questions are persistent like say those of Karan Thapar in 2007.

Thapar keen to get to the bottom of what Modi actually felt about 2002, did not  simply casually record – as Reuters has done – Modi’s response but asked, insistently, whether Modi actually regretted the mass reprisal killings that had taken place, post-Godhra, on his watch.

Modi simpered, dithered, glared and admonished…when none of that worked, and Thapar persisted, Modi did what he does best.

He walked out.

Not so with Reuters, that managed its exclusive but failed to, conspicuously, persist with any accurate, difficult or pinching questions.

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The young man from Reuters who finally tracked me down in the Sahmat office at 29 Ferozeshah Road last week was clueless, he said, about Gujarat 2002. Apologetic about this ineptness, he kept saying that his bosses had asked him to track down the SIT report.

They had not bothered to contact us directly.

We insisted that he, read Reuters, do what fair journalism demands: look at the SIT clean chit in context; examine also the amicus curaie Raju Ramachandran’s report that conflicted seriously with the SIT closure and clean chit (opining that there was material to prosecute Narendra Modi on serious charges).

Both the SIT and the amicus were appointed by the same Supreme Court.

We insisted that Reuters examine the Supreme Court Order of 12.9.2011 that gave us the inalienable right to file a Protest Petition; we pointed out that Reuters must read the Protest Petition itself that we filed in pursuance of this order on 15.4.2013, peruse the arguments that we have been making before the Magistrate since June 25, 2013.

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We tried, as best as we could,  to communicate that Reuters should read the SIT clean chit in the context of these overall developments.

No, No, said Reuters that had possibly already bagged the interview by then.

Who says a politically important interview should address all developments and facts, in a nutshell, tell the whole and complete story?

Much better to perform a tokenism, throw in a few questions about 2002, not persist with questioning the man charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder and subvert criminal justice with the complexities and gravity of charges and legal procedures that he currently faces – and which are being argued in Open Court in Ahmedabad.

Easier to be glib, grab headlines in all national dailies including by the way the one in Telegraph which is the only newspaper to report that Modi used “kutte ke bacche” not puppy as an analogy for which creatures may inadvertently get crushed when a “road accident happens.”

Never mind that many have been convicted for criminal negligence when they drive and kill.

On business and development, too, while Reuters plugs the man themselves in the first paragraph of the interview, there are no real probing questions on foreign direct investment, the Gujarat government’s back out to solar power companies (reported two days ago in the Economic Times) and so on….

So, quite apart from the more than despicable “kutte ke bacche” comment that Modi reportedly made, quite apart from the fact that he chose Reuters for his debutante mutterings not a national agency or channel, what is truly tragic about the whole exercise is the compliant journalism that it reflects.

The Reuters interview is not a dispassionate or thorough exercise that attempts to genuinely probe opinions and views. It is a sensational tokenism.

Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace

Arnab Goswami finally—finally!—joins Twitter

Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has done the unthinkable.

After resisting the charms of social media for seven years, the social anthropologist from Oxford has joined his colleagues, competitors and compatriots in Twitterosophere, reports The UnReal Times. 

Above is a screenshot of his first tweet; below is his second.

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Read the full story: Arnab Goswami on Twitter

Follow Arnab Goswami on Twitter: @arnabgoswami

Also read: What is sans serif?