At a time when of much of what the media dishes out is what its subjects want to put in the public realm, a scoop Q&A interview has become a prized trophy in journalism. Undiluted and straight from the horse’s mouth, it is a direct dialogue between the interviewee and the audience.
But can the interviewee make use of the situation and peddle scurriolous, malicious bazaar gossip to sell a book? Does the interviewer have no role to put the accuser to greater scrutiny other than acting as a stenographer? And is it OK for the media to air whatever charges an interviewee makes as long as it seems to be doing the correct thing of getting a couple of talking heads to defend the “victim”?
These are the questions that arise from Karan Thapar‘s interview with the former Pakistan foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan, son of dictator General Ayub Khan, in which Gohar Khan indicates that India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was a Pakistani spy, who sold India’s 1965 war plan to the enemy.
Journalistically, of course, the interview is an explosive scoop. However, merely because a loose-mouthed Pakistani says it on air and on camera, does it necessarily make it credible? And can it be repeated ad nauseam without giving a chance for the “accused” and ailing soldier to respond?
CNN-IBN, the channel which aired the interview, has tried to back-pedal by getting military officers and politicians to defend Manekshaw. The interviewer himself—who had recently conducted an interview with Lieutenant General J.F.R. Jacob who suggested that Manekshaw didn’t know how to fight—has sought to convey that he isn’t doing a hatchet job on behalf of the military establishment miffed at Manekshaw getting Rs 1.6 crore in back wages.
But can a 93-year-old man’s pride and prestige as the icon of Indian heroism, for liberating Bangladesh, be demolished in 93 seconds flat by a media seeking sensational headlines?
Cross-posted on churumuri
By the current standards of television journalism, will CNN-IBN call Dilip Sardesai a match-fixer because several crores of unaccounted money were found in his residence in the mid-1990s as long as it gets a few of his former colleagues to vouch for his integrity? The answer to that question should tell us whether it is right or wrong on Sam Manekshaw.
Gohar Ayub Khan, not CNN-IBN, made the accusation, sure, but good journalism requires journalists to use their lenses and microscopes, and to separate the wheat from the chaff. Airing it just like that means they are only being what Indira Gandhi accused them of being during the Emergency: glorified stenographers.
We are a country desperately scarce of heroes. To treat Sam Bahadur who gave us India’s greatest moment of pride this way is a shame, not just on Gohar Ayub Khan, the son of a general, but on our media which, in the quest for a few TRPs, has given his accusation the oxygen that will help him sell a few hundred copies of his book.
Could this be a carry over of some issue Karan Thapar’s dad had with Sam when Gen. Thapar was the Chief?