Questions, and More Questions : Journalism of Cowardice or Journalism For a Price?

journalism-of-cowardice-or-If a newspaper or an Editor starts peeping into drawing rooms and publishes false and imaginary stories, then such journalism must be called journalism of cowardice. Recently, the Indian Express published a story with the heading, “Secret Locations”. It was part of a regular column called Delhi Confidential. After reading the story one could conclude that V K Singh and Anna Hazare are two self-styled exponents of transparency. They always meet in secrecy as they are uncomfortable meeting openly and that Chauthi Duniya has been extremely supportive of the former

Army Chief V K Singh. This is what Indian Express wrote:

Secret Locations

It is interesting that General V K Singh and Anna Hazare – two self-styled exponents of transparency- always seem to meet in secrecy. The first rendezvous happened late at night on September 19 after Hazare’s acrimonious breakup with Team Kejriwal. At that time, Hazare is believed to have met Ramdev and Singh at the South Delhi residence of a Ramdev follower. The otherwise media savvy activist had clearly been uncomfortable with the glaring flashbulbs that night. The other equally secret meeting between Hazare and Singh seems to have happened at Golf Links on December 6, mediated by a Hindi journalist said to be close to the former Chief. The two apparently spent 20 minutes together without any aides. The venue of their meeting, one of the floors at 102 Golf Links, is incidentally rented by Chauthi Duniya, a Hindi publication that has been extremely supportive of the former Army Chief.

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Many believe that the Indian Express shares a strange symbiosis with Indian and American think tanks, has veered disturbingly close to the Government, be it in reflecting the UPA Government’s thrust for the Indo-US nuclear bill; its muscular approach to tackling the Maoist threat in mine-rich tribal areas; in demonising the Chinese, or in plumping for road, airport, dams, infrastructure and nuclear projects, overriding environmental and social concerns. Indeed, from being a paper deeply suspicious of big business, it has become the ‘go-to’ newspaper for corporate honchos seeking to put out their story.

 

Not only is the Indian Express story ill-informed and motivated, it is full of factual errors. It is also ‘insinuative’ and malicious in nature. Firstly, the report is not sure about the events. Neither the reporter nor the sub editor — whoever wrote this story as there is no byline — were present at the venues. It uses expressions like “believed and seems” for both the meetings. It is ill-informed because the first meeting was widely reported in the media. Just for the information of the Editor of the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, the second meeting did not last for 20 minutes – it lasted more than two hours. It is clear from the report that the newspaper does not have any idea even about the TV reports. So, why did Indian Express carry this story?
The most glaring mistake : in actuality, both the meetings were held at the same venue. The shocking aspect of this report is that an Indian Express reporter even called this newspaper’s Editor-in-chief,. Santosh Bhartiya. He informed the reporter that V K Singh and Anna Hazare were ‘my guests and the Golf Links flat was rented by Chauthi Duniya’. The matter would have stood closed at that. But the Indian Express went on to publish the report as if there was some conspiracy hatched at the meeting.
The story is not just factually wrong but it is aimed at harming and damaging the reputation of Chauthi Duniya and it’s Editor-in-Chief Santosh Bhartiya. It seems Shekhar Gupta is disconnected from reality. He never misses a chance to ‘connect’ this newspaper’s closeness with General V K Singh. Shekhar Gupta

should know that Anna Hazare and General V K Singh – neither of them is an arms dealer or a lobbyist of a ‘rogue’ truck. In fact, it would be an honour for any Indian to have them as guests. And also, given the levels of corruption from which India is suffering, any nationalistic Indian would want Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and General V K Singh to meets and fight against corruption. The people of India want them to meet and unite as they know that something good will come out of these meetings. The people who do not want them to unite are the ones who are the beneficiaries of the current corrupt system. But why did a newspaper publish a story about the visitors and guests of a newspaper office?

Indian Express Sues Open and Mehta for Rs. 500 Crore

The Indian Express has sent a legal notice to weekly news magazine Open and Outlook editorial chairman Vinod Mehta for allegedly harming the reputation of the daily, its editor-in-chief and three journalists of the newspaper. The notice seeks Rs. 500 crore in damages. Mehta had given an interview to Open in which he criticised a story in The Indian Express over an un-notified movement of army units towards Delhi in mid-January this year.
Mehta indirectly termed the source of the story as ‘some mischief-maker’ and the decision to publish the story a mistake of Himalayan proportions.
…..Reacting to the notice, Mehta said such issues were better settled in a debate rather than in courts. ‘The Indian Express is entitled to send a legal notice but I was hoping that this type of issue would be settled in a debate rather than in a court of law. However, I have no problem with the legal notice.’
The legal notice stated that the article in Open, headlined Mother of All Mistakes, was written ‘in the guise of an interview’ with Mehta so that defamatory imputations and statements could be published ‘while precluding the necessity of incorporation of the comments and response of those against whom such defamatory imputations and statements were made’.
…..The notice asks Open and Mehta to publish an apology retracting all allegations and to remit Rs100 crore each to the newspaper, Gupta and the three journalists as damages within 24 hours. The newspaper stood by the story and stressed that there was no suggestion of any coup attempt in the news report. The government had denied the story as baseless.
The legal notice quoted extensively from Mehta’s interview to make out a case of a direct attack against the newspaper and its editor.
‘It is the job of the mischief- makers to mislead papers, but it is the job of editors to detect the mischief and nip it in the bud,’ Mehta was quoted in the notice.

If we start writing about the profiles of visitors to some reputed newspapers, they will be ashamed of themselves. Has anyone ever done a story on the people who come to meet Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express building? Will it be called journalism of courage? But we do not indulge in a certain kind of journalism. It is not Chauthi Duniya’s style to peep into the drawing rooms of journalists and Editors. Chauthi Duniya has always stood for pro-people journalism and we never back away from the truth. We have been exposing big scams. We have received threatening letters and legal notices. But we never compromised national interest. Can this be claimed by Shekhar Gupta? We are able to ward off pulls and pressures because we do not represent a Punjabi or a Sindhi or a South Indian or any other lobby. Chauthi Duniya journalists are committed to honesty. We do not have houses in prime locations like Malcha Marg. We are not “close” to any industrial house or any other ‘big power’ that can gift us properties in the Sainik Farm area, or in Mumbai or in Park Lane in London or a villa in Spain. We do not claim anything big and nor do we have a friendly TV channel for “brand building”.
Why did Shekhar Gupta publish this story? He is a known opponent of people who are fighting against corruption. He does not like Anna Hazare, Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal. There are many reports and articles on the internet which are embarrassment for the journalists working in Indian Express. On the role of the Indian Express Pritam Sengupta wrote @sansserif that since the day Anna Hazare sat on the fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on April 5, demanding the constitution of a joint Government-civil society committee for the drafting of the Lokpal bill—and especially after he succeeded in his mission—The Indian Express has bared its fangs in a manner that few would expect any independent newspaper to do. At least, few would have expected an “anti-establishment”, “pro-people” paper whose tagline is “Journalism of Courage” to do. Over a 16-day period (April 6 to 21), through 21 news reports, seven editorials, 15 opinion articles, three cartoons and one illustration, almost all of them variations of the same theme, the northern and western editions of the Express (the southern editions are under a different editorial management after the Goenka family split) has left no one in doubt on whose side—and which—side of the debate it is. Against the sentiment on the street and in the homes and offices of its readers—and with the political-business-bureacuratic-fixer-operator cabal in whose interest it is to spike the Bill in whatever form it may emerge, by tarnishing its movers and shakers. The only place there has been any space for the other side in the Indian Express since the protest began and ended, has been in its letters’ column, with one letter (from a former Express staffer) getting pride of place on the op-ed page as an article.
As far as General V K Singh is concerned, the fight has turned into a personal one. It is also not hidden that the Indian Express has been carrying on a campaign against General V K Singh. To defame General V K Singh, Shekhar Gupta went to the extent of publishing a story which suggested that army troops were marching to Delhi to overthrow the Government and stage a coup. On April 4, 2012, the Indian Express reported on unusual movements by two army units which spooked the Government into thinking that a coup attempt was being made, given the tensions between the Army chief Gen V K Singh and the establishment. The story was immediately dismissed by the Government and defence experts. This episode shook the credibility of the Indian Express and its editor Shekhar Gupta. The story was condemned by all bringing disrepute not only to the Indian Express but also to the great Ramnath Goenka.
Shekhar Gupta sent a legal notice to Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of the Outlook group of publications, and Open magazine’s editor and correspondent, seeking Rs 500 crore as damages. Stating that an interview with Mehta headlined ‘Mother of All Mistakes’ and published in Open magazine, was ‘written, published, distributed and uploaded recklessly and without care and caution to harm and damage the reputation’ of the Indian Express journalists ( the army movement report in the Indian Express was written by Gupta along with correspondents Ritu Sarin and Pranab Dhal Samanta), the legal notice asks for the interview to be removed from Open magazine’s web site, to apologise prominently both on the web site and in the magazine, and to compensate each of the three journalists. One would expect that after committing such a gross mistake, the newspaper will take precautions in future. But it seems that some people never learn from mistakes. Many senior journalists were shocked at the action taken by Shekhar Gupta. Privately, they said that the level of Shekhar Gupta’s journalism is nowhere near even the level of Vinod Mehta’s feet.
The legal notice to Vinod Mehta by Shekhar Gupta is a dark chapter of Indian journalism. If he found Mehta’s statement inappropriate then Shekhar Gupta could have replied with facts and logic through his pen, to use an old idiom. The issue should have been debated through newspapers in the court of the people. To settle issues newspapers do not need legal courts. Journalists should recognise the power of words and his/her ‘pen’. It would have been a great service to journalism if Shekhar Gupta had replied to Vinod Mehta through an article. But he acted like Lt. Gen Tejinder Singh, who filed a defamation case against the Army Chief, but later, the CBI filed a case against Lt. Gen Tejinder Singh for offering a bribe of Rs. 14 crores to the former Army chief General V K Singh.
Ravinar rightly posted an article (Shekhar Gupta lays an Egg) @ mediacrooks.com “Despite his confrontations with President Truman, Gen.MacArthur was and remains forever a very popular General. The govt. probably realised that there is little they could do with Gen. V K Singh considering the immense popularity he has acquired as he took on corruption and the corrupt in the Army. Had they so desired they could have removed Gen. Singh but not tried to dent his reputation and popularity. Instead, there has been a lot of mud-slinging against Gen. Singh from the govt. and particularly the ‘anti-national’ media. Shekhar Gupta’s ‘failed coup’ is another attempt at that and nothing more. That the entire story could be a ‘plant’ is further reasoned by this article in the Sunday Guardian: “Senior minister Sutradhar of coup report?”. The question is : why didn’t Shekhar Gupta sue the Sunday Guardian?
The Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka was an inspiration for all newspapers, editors and reporters. Ramnath Goenka was known for his fearless journalism. His Indian Express was “Anti-establishment,” Even during the Emergency, the Indian Express challenged the autocratic regime. Ramnath Goenka always stood for “Pro People” journalism. It was against the exploitation of common people by the corporate sector. The Indian Express backed Jayaprakash Narayan‘s Bihar movement, and battled for civil liberties and human rights, sometimes at the risk of closure of the company. Ramnath Goenka was a crusader against Government corruption. The Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka has now taken a U-turn. It stands against the Anna Hazare and General V K Singh led people’s movement and damns all those who fight against corruption. The legacy of Ramnath Goenka has been completely annihilated – and I am using that word consciously.
Many believe that the Indian Express shares a strange symbiosis with Indian and American think tanks, has veered disturbingly close to the Government, be it in reflecting the UPA Government’s thrust for the Indo-US nuclear bill; its muscular approach to tackling the Maoist threat in mine-rich tribal areas; in demonising the Chinese, or in plumping for road, airport, dams, infrastructure and nuclear projects, overriding environmental and social concerns. Indeed, from being a paper deeply suspicious of big business, it has become the ‘go-to’ newspaper for corporate honchos seeking to put out their story. Ratan Tata‘s first interview after the Radia tapes hit the ceiling was with Shekhar Gupta for NDTV‘s ‘Walk the Talk’. And for a paper deeply suspicious of power, the paper now publishes arbitrary “power lists”, without ever revealing the jury or the methodology behind the rankings.
Those who know Delhi’s power game were not surprised when Shekhar Gupta was decorated with the nation’s third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, by the UPA Government in 2009. The question that arises is: are all these concentric circles somehow linked in the Express’s astonishingly one-sided campaign against the anti-corruption movement and the people behind it? Does he have the backing of only the Indian Government or does he also have covert backing from some other foreign power?


Secret Deals with Dozens of Media Organisations and Journalists

US-based security think-tank Stratfor spied for the Dow Chemicals on the activists of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, WikiLeaks alleged today as the whistleblower website started publishing millions of confidential emails of this prominent private intelligence analyst group.The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011, WikiLeaks said.
WikiLeaks alleged that these files reveal how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. “Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world,” it alleged.
The whistleblower website said that Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists. WikiLeaks, claimed, to have also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including USD 1,200 a month paid to the informant “Geronimo” , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.
WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations, including the Hindu from India. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails.
(Source : Outlook.com )
Interestingly, one of the files (http://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/1149294_confed-fuckhouse-.html) suggests that the Indian Express editor, Shekhar Gupta, is Stratfor’s only contact in India.
(Source : Hardnews. com)

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