Search Results for “karan thapar”

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

Even after a quarter-century or thereabouts of television interviewing, Karan Thapar‘s competitive edge has far from dimmed.

In his weekly column in the Hindustan Times (whose failed TV venture Home TV he helped set up in the 1990s), Thapar takes offence at the Indian Express and Mail Today for not crediting him for an interview with Union minister Kamal Nath; in fact going so far as to accuse them of “unethical practices”.

Briefly, Nath told Thapar for his CNN-IBN show Devil’s Advocate on September 7 that the CBI was well within its rights to question the PM in the coal scam if need be.

The interview, he says was recorded at 1 pm on Saturday; by 3 pm CNN-IBN began running news clips; by 3:15 pm excerpts were placed on IBN Live, the channel’s website; and by 5 pm emailed to the press, including Express and Mail Today.

Thapar writes:

“Imagine my surprise when on Sunday (September 8) I discovered that the Express and Mail Today had done identical interviews, with Kamal Nath making exactly the same point.

“Was this a coincidence? Or was it just conceivable they had seen the news clips and the excerpts and decided to put the same question to Kamal Nath so they could claim he had given the same answer to them as well?

“In other words, had they cleverly converted our interview into their own?

“Curious but also upset, I telephoned the minister. He confirmed my suspicions. Shortly after CNN-IBN began running news clips, the papers contacted him and asked the same questions about the PM and the CBI….

“I felt this was unethical. In fact, to be honest, it felt like ‘theft’. So I smsed a complaint to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of the Express, and Sandeep Bamzai, the editor of Mail Today.

“Shekhar didn’t respond. Sandeep did. He accepted what had happened was “bad form” and promised a clarification on Monday (September 9). It appeared on page 24. If I hadn’t known it was coming, I would have missed it….

“But these days honesty, it seems, is a diminishing virtue. On that count, sadly, journalists can’t claim to be very different from politicians.”

For the record, Thapar acknowledges that Press Trust of India, Business Standard and The Hindu carried Thapar’s interview, duly crediting CNN-IBN.

Also, for the record, Shekhar Gupta hosts the Walk the Talk interview show on NDTV that competes with Thapar’s Devil Advocate.

But the questions are obvious: can a TV interviewer who sends out a press release before an interview is aired claim exclusivity if a newspaper approaches the same interviewee with the same questions? Are Union ministers like Nath really “exclusive” material?

Read the full column: Honesty is a diminishing virtue

Advertisements

Karan Thapar says ‘sorry’ to L.K. Advani (twice)

Karan Thapar (right) with L.K. Advani in happier times at a Hindustan Times leadership summit, in 2011

It isn’t often that journalists, especially the bold-faced names, descend from their ivory towers to admit they may have hurt a politician’s feelings. It’s even rarer to hear them say ‘sorry’ for having done so. But twice in the past week, the interviewer Karan Thapar has found the inner reserves to publicly do so, and on both occasions to the same man: L.K. Advani.

In a profile published in The Hindu, Thapar spoke of the break down of his friendship with the BJP leader and former deputy prime minister, whom he has interviewed a number of times for his BBC and CNN-IBN shows.

“But after one interview, soon after his Jinnah remarks [in 2005], Advani was not happy and wanted Thapar to re-shoot the show. Thapar saw no reason to do so, and despite many requests, chose to be a ‘rigid, honourable journalist’ and telecast the footage.

“‘Since then,’ Thapar says, ‘the trust has gone. We did an interview in 2009 too, but after eight minutes he said he did not want to do it.’

“Looking back, Thapar wistfully says, ‘I saw it purely as a journalist, but the fact is that there was another relationship with him and his family, which I had used for my journalism. I had called his daughter to fix me an interview with him as soon as he took over as home minister. She did it.’

“It was in that backdrop, of past intimacy and informality, that Advani may have made the request. Almost seven years after the incident, Thapar is not sure if he made the right call in hurting a person he respected otherwise, bringing home the dilemmas journalists covering the powerful often face.”

In his weekly column in the Hindustan Times, Thapar went a step further:

“Over the years that followed Mr Advani gave me more interviews than perhaps anyone else. I got his first as home minister and several as deputy prime minister. More than that, I was always welcome when I called. Mrs Advani and [daughter] Pratibha made me feel special.

“Alas, it all unravelled in 2006 when I did an interview Mr Advani didn’t like. He asked if I would re-do it. I refused. I thought journalistic integrity required a firm stand forgetting I’d only got the interview because I was considered a ‘friend’.

“Thereafter our relationship was never the same. Mr Advani continued to take my phone calls and was always courteous but the old link had snapped.

“Today I realise I was wrong. Maybe even arrogant, which is worse. And so it’s my turn to apologise. It’s taken me seven years but the memory of Mr Advani’s phone call, made 22 years ago, has given me the strength to say sorry.

“Alas, I’m aware it’s now too late. This time, however, I’d really like to be wrong.”

With Advani now in the eye of the BJP storm following the elevation of Narendra Modi as the chairman of the BJP’s election campaign committee, the apology couldn’t have come a day too soon.

Photograph: courtesy Hindustan Times

Poems on News Anchors: this week, Karan Thapar

In the latest issue of Open magazine, Madhavankutty Pillai continues his series of poems on news anchors. This time, the TV anchor Karan Thapar gets his attention:

O, obstreperous weasel

Unregenerate blight

Cowering from the shock

Of my hair’s white

Prise your eyes

From my neon necktie

Prepare your deceits

Get ready to fight

 

This is how we will go

I shall ask and you shall lie

I shall tell you not to lie

I shall tell you what to tell

The how and when and why

I shall put it to you thus—

‘Let me put it to you thus’

And you shall put it to me thus

 

This index finger that I stab

Two inches from your face

Is the line I draw for you

Turn neither left nor right

Nor sputter nor stall

Allow me to make you crawl

To that overwhelming question:

What made you come here at all?

Also read: Why Karan Thapar stopped haggling with God

Did Karan Thapar stand a chance with Benazir?

Separated at birth: Karan Thapar and Keith Olbermann

Karan Thapar‘s new year resolution

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

Why Karan Thapar stopped haggling with God

Karan Thapar has a well-cultivated image of a tough, snarling, bulldog of a interviewer a la Jeremy Paxman.

All the aggressive, relentless questioning and eyeball to eyeball gazing with the crooked and the wicked of the world might leave viewers wondering if the man has a heart at all.

But the Devil’s Advocate has a human side, too. The tragedy, really, of losing a wife when young.

In his Sunday Sentiments column in the Hindustan Times, Thapar, 55, writes of his relationship with God and how it changed with the death of Nisha.

“Right up till my 30s I would often strike a deal with God. When I wanted something so desperately I was prepared to sacrifice for it, I would enter into an agreement: ‘I’m going to give up X, Y and Z and, in return, I want you to do A for me.’

“The change that occurred after Nisha’s death was small, simple but significant.

“From not knowing if God existed and thus being sceptical I switched to not wanting to risk he might be there and thus offending him. My new position became ‘I don’t know for sure but I’m prepared to accept he does exist’.

“From caution — or fear, if you prefer — was this new belief born….

“It’s now over 20 years since Nisha’s death and, except once, I haven’t bargained with God or, rather, with any of the Gods on my list of prayer. That phase is over. I’m now a believer except there’s no single name of God I place my trust in. I believe in God with a capital G and that means all his manifestations and avatars.”

Read the full column: Oh my God!

Visit his blog: Sunday sentiments

Also read: Did Karan Thapar stand a chance with Benazir?

From the desk of Shri Quickgun Chidambaram

Separated at birth: Karan Thapar and Keith Olbermann

93 seconds to knock 93 years of a hero’s life

‘Repeating bullshit doesn’t make it wisdom’

Why is BCCI rolling out the red carpet to one “ultra-friendly English news channel”—India Today TV if you really want to know its name?

fullsizeoutput_2e78

Girilal Jain, the late editor of The Times of India, used to say that, in India, politics sets the pace and everything else follows in its wake.

So, just like some news channels are completely in the thrall of some political parties, some news channels are also the go-to stations for cricket bosses.

After the Board of Control for Cricket in India issued show cause notices to cricketers K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya for off-colour comments made on the TV chat show Koffee with Karan, The Telegraph reports that BCCI bosses are themselves not beyond reproach.

Lokendra Pratap Sahi, the veteran cricket writer, points out that the former Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, the Supreme Court-appointed administrator Vinod Rai and the CEO Rahul Johri are guilty of “breach of protocol”…

“…giving permission to an ultra-friendly English news channel for interviews immediately after a historic Test series win.

“The news channel, which kept quiet right through the inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against Johri, was alone given the okay to interview head coach Ravi Shastri, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, man of the series Cheteshwar Pujara, and bowling coach Bharat Arun.”

Two members of the support staff of the team are quoted as saying:

“That news channel got permission from the higher authorities. It had to be implemented.”

“Why is Vinod Rai doling out favours to one news channel and one news agency?” writes Lokendra Pratap Sahi, while pointing out that the woman cricketer Mithali Raj‘s email had been leaked to the same news channel.

***

It takes no genius to come to the conclusion that the “ultra-friendly news channel” in question is India Today.

India Today bossman Aroon Purie is a neighbour of Vinod Rai’s (and Karan Thapar‘s) on Palam Marg in New Delhi’s plush Vasant Vihar locality.

And the reporter in question is Boria Majumdar, who left his post at Times Now in dramatic circumstances at the height of the Lalit Modi-N. Srinivasan kerfuffle, and joined India Today on a consulting basis.

If nothing else, The Telegraph story shows what a minefield cricket reporting has become in the era of big bucks, where reporters openly align themselves with players, administrators (and indeed sponsors and advertisers).

Jessica Lal, Tehelka, Bina Ramani & the media

bird-in-a-banyan-tree-bina-ramani

It was in South Delhi socialite Bina Ramani‘s Tamarind Court restaurant that Jessica Lall, a “model who worked as a celebrity barmaid”, was shot dead in 1999 by Manu Sharma, the son of Congress politician Venod Sharma.

Initially exonerated of the charges, the case turned full turtle for Sharma following a sting operation by Harinder Baweja, then with Tehelka magazine. Manu Sharma was eventually found guilty.

As the owner of the restaurant which was the scene of the crime, Bina Ramani spent nine days in jail in the case. She has an interview with Tehelka this week following the release of her book Bird in a Banyan Tree:

You have been sharply critical of the role media played in the aftermath of the Jessica Lal trial. Yet, it was a Tehelka investigation that brought out the truth. Do you think media can ensure justice?

It is not a guarantee that the media can ensure justice but it can certainly carve the path to it. Conversely, it can derail justice when it becomes over-zealous about its point of view. The media in India is extremely powerful and can wield a lot of influence—it should therefore be thorough i its investigation.

For the record, the news channel NewsX is now owned by Kartikeya Sharma, brother of Manu Sharma, through his company Information TV.

The Sharma family’s Piccadilly group also now owns M.J. Akbar-founded The Sunday Guardian, whose chairman is Ram Jethmalani, whose interview with Karan Thapar is must-watch television.

Also read: Note to directors: It was Shammy, nor Barkha

HT, Mail Today, and Kumar Mangalam Birla

Hindustan Times headline: “Coal Scam: CBI books former coal secretary, K.M. Birla”

Mail Today headline: “CBI registers 14th FIR in coal allocation scam”

On the morning after the central bureau of investigation (CBI) named industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in the coal allocation scam, the news is the page one, lead story, in The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, The Pioneer, Business Standard….

But not the Hindustan Times or Mail Today.

HT which belongs to the Birla family (chairman Shobhana Bhartia is daughter of K.K. Birla, whose brother B.K. Birla‘s son was Kumar Mangalam’s father, Aditya Birla) consigns the news to a single column story on page 10 in its Delhi edition.

Mail Today has it on page 25. The tabloid belongs to the India Today group, which is part-owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla, who bought a 26 per cent stake in his personal capacity, in India Today‘s holding company, Living Media in May 2012.

Mint, the business berliner which is owned by HT Media, has it on page one with a single-column story leading into page 3.

Also read: HT wedding unites Birlas and Ambanis

Zee News, Jindals and the silence of the media

Lokmat sets up the freedom of the press statue

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

‘People know TV news is just entertainment’

Pratap Bhanu Mehta president of the Delhi-based thinktank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:

Karan Thapar: How do you view the Indian media? Do you share justice Markandey Katju‘s concern, that by and large it is obsessive, it is narrow-minded, it focuses on middle class – urban concerns, ignoring the real problems that affect India such as poverty, such as joblessness.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: My concern is not so much the issues it covers. It is that whatever it does, with a few exceptions, it is not bringing sufficient rigour and it is not performing frankly the function of being an honest broker in very, very important debates. The media is failing Indian democracy, I would agree with justice Katju to that extent.

Thapar: I know you are not a participant on television debates but do you watch them or do you find them off putting or irritating?

Mehta: You watch them in the way you would watch an entertainment show. In fact my own sense is that I think people are very wisely making the distinction that news is entertainment. It is not news.

Thapar: But of course it should not be entertainment at all.

Mehta: But of course it should not be. It’s exactly that confusion of roles that is crippling us.

Thapar: So TV debates may be entertaining but in terms of informing, educating, illuminating, they fail.

Mehta: Actually they are quite dangerous because they present a false construction of what public opinion is.

Read the full interview: Pratap Bhanu Mehta

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

Poems on news anchors: this week, Barkha Dutt

In Open magazine this week, Madhavankutty Pillai continues his occasional series of poems on news anchors. This week, the face of NDTV 24×7: Barkha Dutt, the host of We the People and The Buck Stops Here.

Ye destitute widow, acid attack victim

Forgotten spy, despairing cripple

Who was once trapped in rubble

And ye burnt in a stock-market bubble

This comforting hand I lay on your shoulder

Time to the pan of the camera’s girdle

Give me your grief just for a moment

Let us spread it before We The People.

 

Some would say why I would say

Some would say for what I say

But know me You The People

Not by my late tribulations

But by my fine emulations

A career of honed expressions

My hysterics have drowned howitzers

My voice can be louder than bombs

I have a naughty glint to start

The motors of the Bollywood mouth

A furrowed brow for the minister

For every novelist two paras by heart.

 

I am the tallest poppy

Mistress of every beat

Battler of troll and twit

Editor, intellectual, analyst

Anchor, correspondent, critic

And and and and and

Some would say that’s a lot of me

But all ye upstarts

Why don’t you just let me be

Photograph: courtesy Verve

Also read: A poem for Karan Thapar

A poem for Sagarika Ghose

 

Poems on anchors: this week, Sagarika Ghose

In Open magazine, Madhavankutty Pillai continues his occassional poems on news anchors. This week, his ode is directed at Sagarika Ghose, the host of Face the Nation on CNN-IBN:

Salutations, mistress of the echo

Blest with the force

Of eyes widening

until they greet the other

Of eyebrows leaping

like trampoline artists together

Reveal to us thy secret

How do you make

An answer’s last line

The next question

In the exact same words

Without a moment’s break

Goddess of ceaseless blinks

Queen-consort

Of the nightly misgivings

Anguished liberal voice

—notched up somewhat—

Guiding us from the rink

Loudest of the loud

We offer thee our ear drums

Partake it as oblation

Be generous with thy mercies

Rain down quiet on us

Shanti (blink) Shanti (blink) Shanti (blink)

Also read: Poems on anchors: this week Karan Thapar

Sagarika Ghose: 21st century media is an amoral being

Don’t ask me, ask her. Don’t ask me, ask him!

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

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

The fears over what happens when a big business house with deep pockets and political influence across parties funds a big media house to legitimise its hitherto-hidden media interests, are coming true even before the controversial Reliance Industries -Network18/TV18-Eenadu Television deal can be inked.

Obviously, the political class is silent. Obviously, TV18’s competitors won’t touch the story for reasons not difficult to imagine. Obviously, The Hindu won’t even publish a media column for reasons not difficult to fantasise.

But there has been no serious discussion of the implications of the deal on the media or on democracy in the mainstream media. Not on any of Network18’s usually high-decibel shows since the tie-up was announced on 3 January 2012. Not even on Karan Thapar‘s media show on CNN-IBN, The Last Word.

Print media coverage too has at best been sketchy. Even the newspapers and newsmagazines which have attempted to probe the complexities of the menage-a-trois, The Economic Times and The Indian Express, Outlook* and India Today, have barely managed to go beyond the numbers into the nuance.

Rajya Sabha TV, the newly launched television channel of the upper house of Parliament, has filled the breach somewhat with a no-holds barred discussion on the subject.

Anchored by Girish Nikam, a former Eenadu reporter who wrote five years ago on Eenadu‘s travails, the RSTV debate—with an honourable mention for sans serif in the third segment—flags all the important issues raised by the deal and underlines the role public service television can play in the service of the public when the corporate media gives up—or gives in.

Some of the comments made by three of the four participants on The Big Picture:

S. Nihal Singh, former editor of The Statesman: “My first reaction [on reading of the deal] was that it was time for India to have a really good anti-monopoly law for media, which is the norm in all democratic countries in the world, including the most advanced….

“The press council of India is totally dysfunctional because of the new chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who is baiting the media, who doesn’t believe in conversing with the media, or exchanging views with the media.”

***

Madhu Trehan, founder-editor of India Today and director, content, of the soon-to-be-launched media site, News Laundry: “It need not have happened if the government and corporates were more alert. One person owns much too much….

“Already every policy is decided by corporates as the 2G tapes (of Niira Radia) show. Not only is it dangerous that Mukesh Ambani will be deciding what policy will be decided, as you know has happened in the past, but he will also decide whether we can talk about it, or criticise it or expose it….

“Why is Reliance interested in media? It is not for money; it is obviously for influence. Rupert Murdoch was endorsing PMs and Presidents in three continents. Now we have the richest man in the country owning the largest network. Yes, there is an independent trust, but I don’t believe that. The purpose is to control the media. You are influencing policy, you are influencing how the government decides, and now you are going to decide how the people will hear about about you and the government….

“When a politician or a government spokesman speaks, we don’t believe them, but when somebody like Rajdeep Sardesai or Sagarika Ghose speaks, or anyone at IBN7 or TV18 comes on, we presume we should believe them. Now there is a big question mark [when RIL has indirect control over CNN-IBN]….

“In a deal of this size we are looking at very subtle plants of stories, subtle angles, subtly putting things in a certain way so that people think along in a certain way for a particular way. I don’t know if anyone can shut the door. It’s too late.”

***

Dilip Cherian, former editor Business India, head Perfect Relations: “Globally we have seen when big capital enters media, that is exactly what we are about to replicate for ourselves.

“Oligopolistic tendencies are visible in global media today, whether it is Silvio Berlusconi or Rupert Murdoch, the fact is they exercise humongous influence not on media but politics. Are we headed down the same road? At this time, the answer seems to be yes. Is it good? The universal answer from the question is that it isn’t, not just because it affects the quality of news but because it affects the quality of politics….

“The entry of big capital is not new or news. What has happened in this case is a big distinction between foreign investment and domestic. Because of 4G, because the same business house owns the pipe, owns the content, there could also be another issue of monopoly. If I were the owner, I would say there needs to be a publicly visible ombudsmanship [to dispel the doubts]….

“There is room for concern, there is room for elements of self-rgulation. As a country we are not able to legislate for two reasons. One because of the influence business houses have on policy making. And two, when you bring in legislation (on regulation) up, the other group that is affected are politicians who own media houses of their own. You are talking about now a coalition of forces which the public is incapable of handling. You won’t see Parliament doing the kind of regulation they should, in an open manner, because there are interests on all sides.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

‘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?

‘Justice Katju’s remarks not wide of the mark’

In all the primal breast-beating over the new Press Council chairman’s sweeping generalisations, few journalists have tried to sanely dissect Justice Markandey Katju‘s remarks. Indeed, as a tweet ironically noted: “Most of the articles opposing Justice Katju’s interview actually end up proving whatever he said about the media there.”

Kumar Ketkar, the editor of the Marathi daily Divya Marathi, took on the pashas of political correctness on television but was shouted down. The veteran Bombay-based opinion writer Sidharth Bhatia attempts a more nuanced parsing of Justice Katju’s observations in today’s Asian Age.

***

By SIDHARTH BHATIA

Anyone who is concerned about the Indian media scene today, whether he is connected to it as a practitioner or as a consumer, would probably agree with many of the comments made by Justice Markandey Katju, the new chairman of the Press Council.

In an interview to Karan Thapar — who chose to play just a straightforward questioner rather than a provocateur — Justice Katju was sharply critical of the media; among other things, he called it obsessed with frivolous matters (filmstars etc), invidious in its approach and anti-people.

These are harsh words and sweeping generalisations but cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Justice Katju has a very poor opinion of the Indian media. He lists three ways in which it is not serving the interests of Indian society: it diverts the attention of the Indian people from real problems (economic issues) by over-focussing on trivia, cricket, Bollywood and the like; it divides the people by highlighting, without evidence, the connection of organisations like the Indian Mujahideen moments after a bomb blast, which subtly conveys the message that all Muslims are terrorists; and instead of enlightening citizens, it propagated superstitions, astrology and the like.

Justice Katju does not mince words in the interview: “The majority (of people in the media), I’m sorry to say, are of a very poor intellectual level… I doubt whether they have any idea of economic theory or political science, philosophy, literature. I have grave doubts whether they are well read in all this, which they should be.”

This is strong language coming from anyone, and when they come from the man who will preside over the Press Council, which often hears complaints against the media, they assume an extra edge. They clearly set the tone of what his tenure will be like.

Those who have been used to the Press Council being a generally benign, even toothless body, would do well to pay attention to what he thinks.

Now much of what Justice Katju says is not new.

In media circles, the falling standards of the profession have been a subject of discussion for a very long time. For example, it is almost universally admitted that younger journalists joining newspapers, magazines or television channels are much less aware of Indian history, politics and society than their counterparts a few decades ago.

This can partly be blamed on the education system, which relies more on rote learning than on genuine enquiry. A system where students can and do get 99 per cent marks can only be an assembly line where talent and intellect is measured by grades which reflect a good memory and little else.

To cater to the demand for journalists, colleges have eagerly taken to offering media courses at the bachelors level, but without the requisite faculty; a lot of the output of these courses is, to put in bluntly, rubbish. But such is the need in a sector that has grown exponentially over the last decade and more, that almost everyone lands a job soon enough, writing or thinking skills be damned.

There are scores of channels and hundreds of publications looking for staff and the general tendency is to just take what you can get and then hope that they will learn something on the job.

The bigger question is, what of the job itself?

Regrettably, Justice Katju’s remarks about the frivolous nature of the media are not wide of the mark. Though it is wrong to paint the entire media scene with one brush — the “media” can include the serious as well as the trashy channels, the quality papers as well as the rags — the perception is that TV channels are about hyperbole and the newspapers are dumbing down news.

The person holding the remote control sees either panellists shouting at each other, film songs, filmstars airing their views on everything, cricket and astrology. And this is on news, not entertainment channels. One often hears viewers ask — why do correspondents get so breathless while reporting, why do anchors shout so much? Bollywood stories make it on the front pages and the supplements are of course full of glamour.

But this is not the whole truth.

There are sober anchors as well as serious and competent reporters (and good journalism too). Many TV channels give us top quality stories on the “real issues”, many newspapers write on important matters that concern the polity. But, as any mediaperson will tell you, perception triumphs reality and Justice Katju is articulating the common perception.

As a judge and as an erudite and analytical mind, one only wishes he had taken a more balanced and nuanced view instead of blindly hitting out at the profession.

The Editors’ Guild has come out with a condemnation of Justice Katju’s remarks. Media practitioners also need to point out to Justice Katju and other critics that such broad brushstroke criticism does not do justice to the many thousands of journalists who do a good and honest job.

The average journalist is not on television, not a columnist with his or her picture in the papers, not someone who regularly hobnobs with the rich and powerful at seminars or parties. Tucked away in small papers (and big too) are journalists who do their work with great competence and sincerity. They do know about history, economic theory, literature and poetry and do understand the role of the media in a democratic and changing society. They do not hanker after sarkari titles or parliamentary seats or even television panel discussions.

Justice Katju wants stronger powers for the Press Council, which he wants to rechristen the Media Council so that television can be brought under its purview. In extreme cases, he wants to suspend licences of publications and channels. This may sound wonderful and path-breaking but is not the silver bullet that will change things overnight. Journalists are not going to become smarter, wiser or more mature.

The media is not going to shed its so-called obsession with trivia.

What is more, managements, who too have some responsibility at the state of affairs, are not likely to mend their ways. All it will do is to set up an antagonistic relationship between the media and the council; the early signs that this will happen are already visible.

Any attempt to “reform” the media and make it more professional will have to be a long drawn, process-driven affair. As chairman of the Press Council, Justice Katju can definitely contribute to that transition, but not if he is holding onto his prejudices and carrying a danda.

(This piece was originally published in the Asian Age and is reproduced here with permission)

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

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Has Justice Katju been appointed by Josef Stalin?

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’

Also read: What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

H.D. Kumaraswamy will become PM one day: astrologer

How the BJP raised witchcraft to statecraft

The only place black magic works is in your mind

How Big B has pushed India to regressive, new low

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

%d bloggers like this: