The Barkha Dutt kerfuffle has sparked an amusing sideshow, featuring a quick-on-the-draw strategic affairs specialist and the editor of a soon-to-be launched financial newspaper.
B. Raman, a former additional secretary of Research & Analysis Wing, who currently heads the quaintly named “Institute For Topical Studies in Madras, wrote a 12-point defence of Barkha Dutt last week.
And, as is the norm with him, mailed it to everyone on his mailing list with the standard instructions “You may like to see” or “For use on your website”.
In his original post, Raman took on his namesake, N. Ram of The Hindu for attacking Barkha after the Niira Radia transcripts showed her “stringing along” the lobbyist.
“Barkha has been asked by her critics as to why in that case she did not write about the use of [Niira] Radia by the DMK to influence the Cabinet formation. This is an unkind question—- as unkind as asking N.Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, as to why he allegedly let himself be used by the Tamil elements from Sri Lanka as an intermediary with Rajiv Gandhi when he was the Prime Minister in the 1980s? As unkind as asking N.Ram as to why he played down the stories of the mass anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet in 2008? As unkind as asking N.Ram as to why for many years till recently he blacked out references to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in the columns of his paper. As unkind as asking him as to why he used to give publicity in his paper to the despatches of the Xinhua, the news agency owned by the Chinese Government. Ram should be the last person to throw stones at Barkha.”
Among the worthies who received Raman’s point-wise note was Prem Shankar Jha, the former editor of the Hindustan Times and the Ambani-owned Business & Political Observer, who is to be the editor of Financial World, the business daily to be launched by Tehelka.
Given that the Niira Radia tapes are all to do with big business (Tatas, Ambanis, Mittals) influencing policy decisions, etc, you would think that it would interest the editor of a business paper.
Well, think again.
Editor Jha shot off a response to Raman that should be made required reading at grammar and punctuation classes.
Dear Mr. Raman,
I am not going to post a comment on your blog on Barkha dutt. But I must warn you , out of respect for your writing that you are doing yourself considerable damage by minimising wher9 and by imnplication, other journalists’ involvemenr as intermediaties in government formation. That journalists do getinvolvedas intermediaries in affairs of state from time to time , is not unusual.The key issue is whether they do so in the national interest or in the private interest of a minister or a political party jockeying for power , when the purpose of that jockeying is to secure lucrative ministries.
I have great respect for your writing and have been intending to use your postings regularlu in theFinancial World ( Tehelka‘s daily paper, which starts next month) . I would be deeply disturbed if you become controversial and your credibility suffers, on such a trivial issue, whenyou have so much to contribute to the public’s understanding of the threats that India faces.
With warm regards
Pre,m Shankar Jha
Editoy Financial World
In turn, Raman responded in a way only Raman can:
“Thanks, Mr.Jha. You are welcome not to use my writings in the Financial World. Warm regards. B.Raman”
hahah! lovely… and instructive.
Now a Spook question’s Journalistic ethics ?
Looks like Journalistic ethics needs a deeper study. Possibly a Doctorate through the existing Govt funded universities in India. It is turning out to be sickular.
I found the points Mr. Raman raised to be quite insightful.
1) Like he pointed out, journalists / editors have often been used as go between by politics. In this particular instance, Radia wanted Barkha / Vir to convey the DMK’s position (vis a vis Raja) and also wanted to know the Congress views. I am sure the Maran lobby within the DMK also must have been sending various feelers to the congress. The Congress too must have been trying to determine what the DMK higher up wanted and would be comfortable with so as not to upset their ally in anyway.
A politician will use whatever source he has to determine what the others are upto – are journalists in India only discovering this now!?
So what’s the big deal there? As he pointed, you shouldn’t judge a person by what his thoughts or what he / she does in private, but by their actions.
And their reporting indicates no bias. Both of them have been very vocal against Raja.
(Now, hey, if your reporting is secular and centrist and if that makes you a ‘Congress’ mole than these two aren’t the only one!).
2) Why aren’t the journalists doing their REAL job – following up the story!? Why where the tapes leaked and who benefits by it!?
I guess it’s easier sit on your desk to write a 500 word essay on journalism ethics then to actually step out and do some work.