Search Results for “the sunday guardian”

‘The Sunday Guardian’ goes after its pet-hate (P. Chidambaram) for the ‘coup’ report in ‘The Indian Express’. But Rediff had reported the story 22 days earlier and the Army itself had held a briefing.

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The Indian Express‘s front-page, full page, three-deck, four-byline, eight-column banner story in 2012—hinting at an attempted “coup” against the Manmohan Singh government, but without using the C-word—has come back to haunt the newspaper five years on, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemingly raising the issue in his last address to Parliament.

Modi hinted at a report in The Sunday Guardian of February 3 (above) which claimed that “the top leadership of the UPA-II government had informally indicated to the Intelligence Bureau” to implicate the then Army chief General V.K. Singh for the alleged coup attempt, to take attention away from the corruption scandals dogging the government.

“A few months later, despite the IB categorically reporting that there was absolutely no chance that Gen Singh would carry out any coup, this fiction was “leaked” to the media [Indian Express], which carried the story as was narrated to it by the political leadership, which also included a leader who occupied a top Constitutional post later in his career,” The Sunday Guardian reported quoting anonymous sources.

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On Wednesday, BJP MP G.V.L. Narasimha Rao picked up The Sunday Guardian story and detected an attempt to “defame the Indian Army”. His press conference was reported by the Hindustan Times (below), among others, but not The Indian Express.

On Thursday, Gen Singh said he had written to Modi, seeking an investigation into a false story about an “attempted military coup” that had been allegedly planted in the media.

“Yesterday, I wrote to the PM that this was treason and such people need to be exposed by a high-level inquiry,” Gen Singh said.

In the Lok Sabha, without naming The Sunday Guardian, Modi referred to the C-report in his general harangue against the Congress, in his last speech before the general elections of 2019, saying it was a “sin to accuse the Army”.

But that was enough for The Sunday Guardian to claim validation.

Screenshot 2019-02-07 11.05.40

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The Sunday Guardian was launched by Ram Jethmalani with M.J. Akbar as its founding editor. The paper later passed into the hands of Kartikeya Sharma, who owns the NewsX channel and whose brother Manu Sharma was jailed for the murder of Jessica Lal. (Their father Venod Sharma, a former Congress MP, flirted with the BJP in 2014.)

M.D. Nalapat, the editorial director of The Sunday Guardian, said after the PM’s speech, on NewsX:

“We all know who the politician referred to by the paper is. A very senior minister who held very important portfolios.”

The former Union minister P. Chidambaram is a constant target of The Sunday Guardian and NewsX, on which BJP MP Subramaniam Swamy is a regular.

Chidambaram, more than The Indian Express, appears to be The Sunday Guardian‘s immediate target, although NewsX panelists blithely referred to “arms agents” and the “arms lobby” targeting Gen Singh with the coup allegation.

Astonishingly, this week’s Sunday Guardian report is no more than a rehash of a news item carried by it in the week after The Indian Express report in 2012.

Seven years ago, too, it had suggested the same thing about the story and the source:

“Sources involved in tracking sensitive developments claim that a senior minister of the UPA government was the mastermind of the April 4 front page item in a daily newspaper about a suspected coup attempt.

“The sources claim that the minister is connected – through his close relative – with the defense procurement lobbies gunning for Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh, and that the decision to “trick the newspaper into running a baseless report was to drain away support for General Singh within the political class”, who could be expected to unite against any effort at creating a Pakistan-style situation in India….

“According to these sources,the minister in question “is well-known to senior journalistic levels of the publication” that ran the coup report.

“A military source was “surprised that the newspaper in question ran such a story,in view of the high level of competence of its senior staff”, but added that ” a senior minister being the source of the initial information would explain their belief in the truth of the report”.

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The Indian Express story—authored by its then Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, with reporting from Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta and Ajmer Singh—was denied by the defence ministry the very day it was published, but the paper stuck to it saying it had been six weeks in the reporting.

Gupta now edits The Print website; Samanta and Singh are with The Economic Times.

Equally ironically, the Army manoeuvre which was perceived and reported as a “coup attempt”  was reported by Rediff.com’s “R.S. Chauhan” 22 days before The Indian Express—on March 13, 2012.

The Army itself held an official briefing on the manoeuvre two days after that—on March 15, 2012—in Agra.

Rediff.com reported:

“India’s elite Parachute Brigade, based in Agra, has of late practised two quick manoeuvres designed to test its readiness for quick armed intervention in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

“According to top sources, the 50 Independent Para Brigade played out two different scenarios depicting the need for a quick operation almost akin to the situations that obtained in Maldives last month and the consequences of the mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (now Border Guards, Bangladesh) two years ago.

“During the exercise, elements of the brigade travelled by road from Agra to Delhi to link up with the Indian Air Force base at Hindon on the outskirts of the capital, since the recently acquired medium lift transport aircraft, the C-130 Js are stationed there.”

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In September 2013—five days after Gen Singh had shared the dais with Narendra Modi—The Indian Express once again 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.

General Singh then 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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In an interview with Arnab Goswami, then 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.”

It was against this backdrop that Gen V.K. Singh made his biggest contribution to the public discourse: the sexist slur “presstitute” to describe media personnel.

Gen Singh is now a “junior minister” in the Modi ministry.

Chidambaram writes a weekly column in The Sunday Express.

Shekhar Gupta is president of the Editors Guild of India.

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

Adolf Hitler reacts to Indian Express ‘C’ report

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Why Jethmalani started ‘The Sunday Guardian’

The well known criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani on his increasingly testy relationship with the media, at an interaction with journalists of the Indian Express:

Pragya Kaushika: You have criticised the media but you have invested in a new paper, The Sunday Guardian. Why this sudden interest in the media?

Ram Jethmalani: It was due to my disenchantment with the press. I am a habitual writer but nobody has been publishing my articles. So I started this paper with a sense of total frustration with the press….

Vinay Sitapati: You criticised the media, but a large part of Ram Jethmalani is a media creation. You are constantly invited to TV news channels.

Jethmalani: Media does invite me but they invite me for opinions which they like and they also invite me because they think that more people will view their channel.

Sitapati: Many of the views that you give are picked up by millions of people and surely some of it is designed to be that way?

Jethmalani: I am not finding fault with the press. Yes, it is a two-way relationship.

Illustration: courtesy Outlook

Read the full exchange: ‘The greatest milestones of law…’

Also read: Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

A bigger masthead than the previous week

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

Will The Sunday Standard set the Yamuna on fire?

Dummy editions of The Sunday Standard, the weekly newspaper from the Madras-based New Indian Express group, have begun doing the rounds. The eight-page dummy printed on standard newsprint seems to suggest that the 21st century weekend paper will have a conventional, 1990s design.

Edited by former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, the paper was originally slated to be launched on March 20, and is now rumoured to see the light of day in “early April“.

The Sunday Standard will compete with M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian, and the Crest edition of The Times of India for weekend readership. Former India Today executive editor, the cartoonist Ravi Shankar, is among the more familiar bylines in the dummy issue of The Sunday Standard.

The Sunday edition of the original Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka used to be sold under The Sunday Standard masthead, before the split in the family. The old title is being revived by the south-based Manoj Kumar Sonthalia to gain a foothold in Delhi in a manner that will circumvent the no-compete clause with the north and west-based Viveck Goenka.

When Union ministers date journalists, it’s news?

From Buzzword, the gossip column of The Sunday Guardian:

There’s more sleaze in Congress cupboard

Congress leaders are in a state of shock over revelations on Digvijay Singh‘s secret love life with a married TV journalist. They are worried that more such skeletons will tumble out of their leaders’ cupboards.

There are indications that BJP supporters may soon release sex and sleaze information about two Central ministers involved with two journalists.

Also read: When a magazine editor marries a starlet, it’s news

When a politician weds a journo, it’s news

When a filmstar weds a journalist, it’s news

Another (woman) journalist bites stardust

ET Now anchor to wed ex-cricketer’s son

‘Modi Wave’ can also touch a CPI(M) newspaper

deshabhimani

From Buzzword, the gossip column of The Sunday Guardian:

The Communists in Kerala were left red-faced when the CPI(M) newspaper Deshabhimani carried a full page advertisement by Narendra Modi‘s Gujarat government. The advertisement, highlighting Gujarat’s Mahatma Gandhi Swachchata Mission, features a huge Modi portrait.

When taken to task, the newspaper management defended their act by saying it was a government advertisement.

The associate editor of the newspaper went ahead to say that it did not matter if the ad was from the Narendra Modi government, or from Mamata Banerjee or Oommen Chandy. However, CPM bosses have told the newspaper to stay away from accepting all Modi advertisements.

External reading: Madhyamam

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

 

Jessica Lal, Tehelka, Bina Ramani & the media

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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

The UPA minister who is a TV news editor is…

Virendra Kapoor in The Sunday Guardian:

BENDING THE MEDIA

There is this senior minister in the UPA government, who is so sensitive to what the media says and writes about him that he invariably gets on the phone to the media owner to complain against even a passing mention which may not be too complimentary about him.

Like the other day, he SMSed a popular television anchor, asking him to immediately replace a panellist debating the Assembly election results because what the panellist said about the fallout of the outcome on the minister’s own re-election chances was highly pessimistic.

Of course, the anchor retained the said panellist for the entire duration of the programme.

Mohun Bagan fracas claims ‘Pratidin’ editor?

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Nora Chopra writes in The Sunday Guardian:

A major fight has broken out among some Trinamool Congress leaders. Mamata Banerjee‘s blue-eyed boy, Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh was thrown out of the office of Pratidin newspaper by its staffers last week.

Ghosh, who used to be the deputy editor of Pratidin, was told that his service had been terminated.

The newspaper is owned by Trinamool’s Tutu Bose and his son Srinjoy Bose, the party’s Rajya Sabha member. Tension between Srinjoy Bose and Kunal Ghosh has been rising over a period of time, and various allegations had been levelled against the latter.

The immediate reason was the campaign unleashed by Ghosh holding the father-son duo responsible for the three-year ban imposed on the Mohun Bagan football club by the all India football federation. Tutu Bose is the president of Mohun Bagan, Srinjoy is the vice president and Ghosh is looking for a foothold in the club.

It is believed that before sacking Ghosh, the father-son duo had taken the CM into confidence. But soon after, during Mamata’s trip to Jangalmahal, Ghosh was by her side.

Read the full column: Buzzword

Also read: How a Hindi newspaper editor became an MP

How Rajeev Shukla became a minister

External reading: Mamata‘s men flaunt their degrees

New health cards for PIB accreditated journos

Good news for journalists with bad hearts, lungs and kidneys, from the gossip columns of the Sunday papers.

From The Telegraph diary:

Manmohan Singh has decided to extend a helping hand to journalists. The Centre has accepted a long-standing demand by scribes that new health cards be issued to accreditated journalsits.

These health cards will help ailing journos get treatment at leading hospitals in the Delhi and national capital region at heavily subsidised rates.

Congressmen must be hoping that the noble gesture would help tame the torrent of scathing comments about the government’s performance.

Nora Chopra in The Sunday Guardian:

The Manmohan Singh government has accepted the demand of accreditated journalists for health cards. The cards will ensure that they get heavy discounts at leading hospitals such as Fortis, Medanta and Escorts in Delhi and the national capital region.

Whether this ensures good press to the government remains to be seen.

Everybody loves writing about Pankaj Pachauri

It is not often that the same piece of political gossip appears in three different newspapers in two different cities on more or less the same day. But in the snakepit of power that is the nation’s capital, it is all in a day’s work, especially if concerns the media advisor to the prime minister, Pankaj Pachauri.

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JANUARY 6

Diarist Nora Chopra in The Sunday Guardian:

All is not ‘theek hain‘ for PM adviser

Pankaj Pachauri is in major trouble. The communication adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had organised the telecast of Dr Singh’s infamous “theek hai” speech. Pachauri was even present during the recording. But if his colleagues in the Prime Minister’s Office are to be believed, he did not check the final version of the speech that was telecast, although it was his job to do so.

Earlier, the information and broadcasting ministry and the Press Information Bureau would check what would be telecast, but now it’s Pachauri alone who is responsible for it. Many in the UPA say that Pachauri should have been extra careful, particularly after the Prime Minister’s off-the-record comments on Bangladesh got uploaded on the PMO’s website. That incident ensured the ouster of Pachauri’s predecessor Harish Khare from the PMO.

Pachauri has been apparently asked to give an explanation on how the goof-up took place.

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JANUARY 6

The Telegraph Diary

Under watch

The lacklustre statement of the prime minister on television on the Delhi gang-rape case was followed by an even timid “theek hai”, but that has not stopped fingers from being pointed at Pankaj Pachauri, the PM’s communications advisor.

Pachauri is believed to be responsible for the telecast as well as the goof-up because he, reportedly, was present when the recording was done.

The Prime Minister’s Office now accuses him of clearing the final version of the recording without editing the last bit that has caused so much embarrassment to the PM. Now that there has been a slip, Pachauri is also being blamed for the previous fiasco that had the PM’s off-the-record comment on Bangladesh being uploaded on the PMO website.

The call for Pachauri’s head has grown louder with heads already rolling in Doordarshan. Incidentally, these are not those of the honchos. Most believe small fry have been sacrificed at the altar of the bigger ones. Any way, following the incident, the director-general of news at DD is now seen sitting in the newsroom monitoring the news personally. If you see the newsreader stuttering, you should know the reason.

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JANUARY 7

Grapevine in the Hindustan Times:

Getting his wires crossed

After Pankaj Pachauri‘s entry into the Prime Minister’s Office as communications adviser, the link between Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh and the information and broadcasting ministry had weakened. Pachauri kept the Press Information Bureau (PIB) – that had earlier bought two special audio recorders to crosscheck the PM’s speeches and remarks before their release – at bay.

He soon became the final authority as far as communications from the PMO were concerned. But after the recent ‘theek hai‘ goof up Pachauri seems to be in troubled waters. Also, the current information and broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari enjoys a far better rapport with the PM than his predecessor and meets Singh frequently.

Not quite theek hai here.

How did Robert Vadra vanish off the front pages?

A week is a long time for the media in Scamistan. The ripples caused by Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra‘s real-estate dealings have given way to the hera-pheri of BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s.

The veteran editor and columnist Virendra Kapoor writes in The Sunday Guardian:

You can be forgiven if you believe that Nitin Gadkari‘s is the only scam in town. Saturation coverage by television channels in the past couple of days should have ordinarily left no one in doubt that he is at the centre of the biggest scam of our times.

Even newspapers which have virtually become an extension of the ruling establishment seemed to have suddenly discovered merit in Gadkari’s financial shenanigans, splashing as front-page lead the alleged wrongdoing by his companies while being completely oblivious to the humongous misdeeds of the leading lights of UPA.

Admittedly, it is hard to take on the incumbent powers. Editors simultaneously charged with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the bottom-line, theirs and the paper’s, have to necessarily suck up to the corporate and political bosses — never mind the pretence in social and professional gatherings. But what of the cash-rich media houses straddling huge print and television empires?

Apparently, a strong word was conveyed that they should leave Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law well alone. Ministers, including I&B boss Ambika Soni, are said to have reached out to the media houses, gently suggesting that further interest in the doings of Robert Vadra and his multifarious business activities would be most unwelcome.

Now, when you treat journalism at par with selling soap cakes it is not hard to fall in line with the political establishment, is it?

So, the switch, instead, to Nitin Gadkari’s private companies.

Read the full column: Hammer Gadkari to save Vadra and other scamsters

‘Mail Today’ rises in the land of ‘The Daily Mail’

Making use of the five-and-a-half hour time gap, Mail Today, the tabloid daily from the India Today group, has expanded its footprint to the United Kingdom.

Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie explains the move in a note on page 3:

“Targeting the large south Asian population in London, Mail Today wants to connect with the diaspora by bringing the best of Indian news packaged in a modern avatar. It gives us great pleasure to bring a slice of the new rising India.”

Both The Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian launched by M.J. Akbar, currently editorial director of India Today, have editions out of London.

Did Chidambaram walk out of Express awards?

The grapevine is that some ministers boycotted events in which media houses had chosen members of Team Anna for awards last year. Now, this item appears in the gossip columns of The Sunday Guardian.

Apparently home minister P. Chidambaram vamoosed from the Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards function organised by The Indian Express after he found that 2G scam-buster J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer had been picked for the best print journalist f the year.

Orders have been reserved for February 4 on Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy‘s plea seeking to make Chidambaram a party in the 2G scam, alongside A. Raja, who was felled by Gopikrishnan.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Also read: The Pioneer journo who brought A. Raja to book

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

SMS IPUB4 TO 51818 for journalist of the year

Is UPA hitting back at ToI, India Today, DNA?

There has been plenty of buzz in recent days that the Congress-led UPA government has quietly begun hitting back at the media for the manner in which it has exposed the scams and scandals, and for the proactive manner in which it backed the middle-class led “Arnab Spring”.

There have been rumours, for instance, of the Union information and broadcasting ministry actually proposing a ceiling on the number of minutes a news channel can show a specific news event and so on. Now, as if to show that the messenger is indeed being wilfully targetted, these two stories have emerged in the last two days.

Exhibit A: Nora Chopra‘s item in The Sunday Guardian (above), which talks of the government making things difficult for cross-media groups like The Times of India and India Today.

Exhibit B: DNA editor Aditya Sinha‘s column, in which he links a 10-day stoppage of government advertisements to his “mass-circulating” paper to the paper’s stand in the Anna Hazare episode.

“We advised ad-sales to seek an appointment with I&B minister Ambika Soni. It was a pleasant surprise when the ad-sales executives immediately got a slot to meet the minister.

“Soni was pleasant enough. She told our guys she was unaware of any DAVP action; but in any case the government was rationalizing the flow of ads to English and language newspapers.

“Her body language, according to the ad-sales team, suggested otherwise. And then, during a general chat about the newspaper, she came to the point: she said that DNA ought to look at its coverage over the past few weeks and introspect….

Soni’s statement led us to infer that our Anna Hazare coverage was being punished by a suspension of government ads, and that Soni met our ad executives just to ensure the point was driven home.”

For the record, a point Sinha artfully sidesteps, DNA has been in the government’s crosshairs for an incendiary and imbecilic column written by the Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy after the July 13 bomb blasts in Bombay.

For the record, DNA is part-owned by Subhash Chandra‘s Zee group, some of whose journalists (present and past) played a key role in the media management of Hazare’s fast.

And, also for the record, Ambika Soni traces her Congress origins to Sanjay Gandhi, whose role in ushering in press censorship during the Emergency in 1975, has been long documented.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full piece: Ambika Soni‘s arm-twisting

External reading: DAVP wants balance sheets

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show

Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

The TV anchor who’s caught Omar Abdullah’s eye

Nora Chopra, the diarist/ gossip columnist of M.J. Akbar‘s weekly newspaper, The Sunday Guardian, gives a delicious little rumour floating around in Delhi some more oxygen.

“If the Delhi grapevine is to be believed, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and his wife Payal are getting divorced by mutual consent.

“The reason behind the break-up is apparently a TV anchor from the State, who the 41-year-old CM wants to marry. The anchor is a divorcee and has been in two live-in relationships since her divorce. But the marriage is being opposed by his father Dr Farooq Abdullah and his party, the National Conference, as the lady is not a Muslim. The NC wants Abdullah to marry a Kashmiri Muslim girl….

“Omar had married Payal, the daughter of Major General Ram Nath (retired), a Sikh, in 1994, four years before he entered politics. He has not visited his Akbar road residence in New Delhi, where Payal lives with their two sons, for the last six months. When asked by this columnist, a close Omar Abdullah aide said on the condition of anonymity, ‘All I can say is that they are separated.’

“Mixed marriages are common in the Abdullah family. Farooq Abdullah had married a British lady, Omar Abdullah’s sister Sarah is married to Sachin Pilot. But conservative Kashmiri politics has not allowe these women to make Srinagar their home.”

Update 1 (15 September): The Delhi Times supplement of The Times of India too has jumped into the picture, with a story that claims that the separation of Abdullah and his wife of 17 years, Payal, “can now be safely assumed to be official status”.

“…people Delhi Times spoke to confirmed the fact that the split had been coming for a while, most of them declined to comment on the speculation over the reason behind the split. They did, however, affirm that talk of Omar’s remarriage is on.

“In that context, there are two names doing the rounds – one, a friend of Omar, supposedly his choice (a highprofile mediaperson), and two, a choice preferred by his dad and his party, the sister of politician Nasir Aslam Wani. Wani, believed to be a confidante of the CM, is currently J&K’s minister of state for Home.”

Update 2 (15 September): Meanwhile, Omar Abdullah has responded to the speculation on his Twitter account, posting four messages within minutes of each other, and promising a “separate statement” shortly:

# “Have seen with dismay and anguish the growing tide of speculation in the media about my private life and the status of my marriage

#”While it’s true my wife and i have separated, speculation about the motives and my future actions are unfounded, untrue.

# “stories abt my remarriage are completely false, concocted. It’s a pity, while repeating these lies, no effort was made to ask me the truth

# “I appeal to the media to please allow me and my family privacy. Am sure you will appreciate that i have not let this affect my work

Photograph: Omar Abdullah with wife Payal and their children in happier times (courtesy The Telegraph)

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Everybody loves a good affair between celebrities

In love? Married? A threat to national security?

‘Don’t you have anything more serious to write about?

The journo married to the Rs 100,000 crore heir

In all the wide-eyed reporting on the gold tumbling out of the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, reporters have (generally) missed out on one delicious fact: the fact, that one of our ilk is married into the erstwhile royal family of Travancore.

That lucky somebody is M.D. Nalapat (left), former resident editor of The Times of India in Bangalore and Delhi, and the eldest of the three sons of the late poet Kamla Das.

‘Monu’—as Nalapat is known—is married to Thiruvathira Tirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the 12th princess of Travancore.

By a happy coincidence both husband and wife have a column on the discovery of humongous caches of gold in Padmanabhaswamy temple in the latest issues of the newsweeklies: Monu in India Today, and Lakshmi Bayi in Outlook.

Despite their extraordinary wealth—the discovery is now valued at between Rs 100,000 crore and Rs 500,000 crore—the erstwhile princess and the commoner had a simple, civil wedding, and the buzz in media circles has long been that it cost them all of Rs 125.

In the late 1980s, Monu, who was then at Mathrubhumi, was at the centre of a share-swap deal with The Times of India, an arrangement through which the English daily was to print from Kerala and the Malayalam daily from Bombay.

Opposition to the deal from Mathrubhumi shareholders led by the paper’s current chairman and managing director M.P. Veerendra Kumar saw the deal crumble. Consequently Monu and his two brothers Chinnen Das and Jayasurya Das were accommodated in The Times.

After leaving The Times, Nalapat is currently a professor of geopolitics at Manipal University and writes a weekly column in M.J. Akbar‘s The Sunday Guardian. For her part, Lakshmi Bayi is a published poet who also played a part in the Mallika Sherawat film, Hisss.

‘The most prolific journalist of our times’

Khushwant Singh on his Illustrated Weekly of India protege M.J. Akbar, in The Telegraph, Calcutta, the “unputdownable” Calcutta paper founded by Akbar in 1982:

M.J. Akbar must be the most prolific journalist of our times. He heads the editorial board of India Today, edits The Sunday Guardian financed by Ram Jethmalani, and writes for many other papers including The Times of India. He frequently appears on television channels and has over a dozen books to his credit. His latest is Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan. He is tireless and highly readable.

“I take credit for some of Akbar’s achievements, like a father would of his son’s successes. Akbar started his journalistic career as a trainee picked by me. He met his wife-to-be in my office and nominated me the godfather of his daughter. Few people could be closer than he and I.

“Despite our closeness, I went woefully wrong on one important issue. I had assumed that, like me, he was an agnostic. He is a devout Muslim. He fasts throughout the month of Ramzan but celebrates Id-ul Fitr in my home. He has performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

“He has many years to go before he retires. By the time of his retirement, I expect him to have done much by which posterity will remember him.”

For the record, Akbar’s name also appears as editor of the Indian edition of the International Herald Tribune, published by Deccan Chronicle from Hyderabad, in an arrangement with the New York Times.

Photograph: courtesy The Telegraph

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

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Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Why a unique newspaper isn’t covering the IPL

Parimala Bhat reads Sparshdnyan, one of the world’s few newspapers to cater to the visually impaired.

This week’s Sunday Guardian carries a story on Sparshdnyan, a newspaper in Braille for the visually impaired. Published out of Bombay twice a month, the 48-page paper is sent out to some 400 subscribers in Maharashtra.

The paper’s editor Swagat Thorat estimates readership at 24,000 copies per issue, most of them in the 18-35 segment  that advertisers love, but not surprisingly the paper gets no ads.

The editor tells correspondent Rick Westhead that he receives 600-700 letters each issue, and covers his Rs 30,000 per month administrative costs by selling wildlife pictures.

“We cover almost everything,” Thorat says, “but there are a few topics we don’t like.”

One, surprisingly, is India’s national passion: cricket.

“The paper we use is very expensive because it’s so thick for the Braille and I just don’t want to waste it on a topic that is covered in so many other places,” he says.

“I want to make sure we have more on things like science technologies, missions to Mars, and maybe more on India’s foreign policy.”

Photograph: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full article: Braille newspaper shows blind new world

Contact Sparshdnyan: sprshdnyan [at] gmail [dot] com

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Also read: The Musalman: world’s oldest calligraphed paper

Sudharma, India’s only Sanskrit newspaper turns 38

‘Credibility is like virginity and it has been lost’

The veteran journalist, columnist and author Kuldip Nayar in The Sunday Guardian:

“Credibility is like virginity. It exists or it does not. Unfortunately, some top names in Indian journalism have lost their credibility…. They behaved like power brokers and crossed the Lakshman rekha between legitimate news gathering and lobbying. It is like the fence eating the crop.

“How they will extricate themselves from the mire is difficult to say. The sad part is that they have brought a bad name to the profession. Politicians are jubilant because they can now say, ‘Physician, heal thyself’…. With what face can the profession point a finger at those who are found wanting in integrity?”

Read the full column: When journalists turn brokers

Also read: Hindu and HT were the worst offenders in 1975

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

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