Friday, November 19, 2010

Barkha Dutt – Nira Radia Tapes & NDTV’s Response

In the famous blog by Chetanya Kunte after the 26/11 attacks which Barkha Dutt and NDTV decided was “appropriate” for legal action for defamation, NDTV managed to suppress Kunte’s voice, but made his blog and his message a phenomenal success on the net. They are now set to popularise the so far relatively unknown Open Magazine (OM). So not surprisingly, in response to the Barkha Dutt-Nira Radia tapes NDTV has once again chosen to play “victim” by using the D word. Defamation? It must be the primary education for any journalist or public figure that “truth” does not constitute defamation. It Exposes. And truth is the best defence against defamatory action. In the response to the expose NDTV has threatened to take “appropriate action”. (One has to wonder what that appropriate action would be – Mud-slinging? Legal action? Conducting a sting on Manu Joseph? Digging up juicy tit-bits from Joseph’s past? What could that possibly mean?)

NDTV’s response here.

Now then, NDTV has perhaps forgotten all the sting operations it carried against various people. Filming and recording people without their knowledge to be used against them as investigative journalism and as evidence in their reports. It is Barkha’s singular misfortune that she was trapped in the phone-tapping by government agencies when the primary target of investigation would appear to be Nira Radia. Let’s examine the NDTV response to the Open Magazine (OM) expose: (NDTV responses are in Red)

First, Barkha and NDTV have nowhere in their response questioned the authenticity of the tapes itself. Therefore, one must proceed with the belief that they accept the tapes to be authentic and accurate (unless they question it in future statements)

In response to the Open Magazine cover story dated 20th November, 2010 NDTV would like to object in the strongest terms to the clear misrepresentation of conversations between Barkha Dutt and Ms. Nira Radia, that took place in May 2009.”

What exactly was the misrepresentation? The report was the tape and the transcript. So where exactly did Barkha find misrepresentation? On the contrary, I wonder if such an explosive tape about some other people had landed in the hands of NDTV how would Barkha handle it. It would have been with extraordinary cacophony and screaming headlines and even conviction of the people involved as guilty by Barkha herself.

“In the pursuit of news and information, journalists talk to an array of people from all professional backgrounds; this case being an  unfolding political story on cabinet formation, after the general elections.”

Sure, we expect journalists to talk to a lot of people from all walks of life. Journalists talk to politicians, businessmen, lobbyists, terrorists, criminals, maoists. And they should in the interest of fair reporting.  However, it is not just WHO you talk to but WHAT you talk about that is also significant. If the Barka-Radia conversation was one where a journalist was seeking inputs or even inside information on political formations that would be perfectly legitimate. Is that the case here? My interpretation is different and each person hearing that may have a different interpretation.  But what would be the inference made by a “reasonable” man? Laws are made on the assumptions of people behaving and acting reasonably.  In the case of this conversation it doesn’t seem reasonably convincing that it was merely journalistic pursuit in an unfolding political story. All the more so since it appears that it is the “person” calling the journalist frequently when normally it would have been the other way around.

“The fact that the very editor of the magazine that has published this story accepts the distortion in the story's caption and goes on to say that there is nothing "remarkable" in the content speaks for itself.”

No where in the NDTV response does Manu Joseph say anything of that sort. Also,  I am sure Joseph will respond to NDTV’s stand in due course in his own magazine under a response in his name. Interpreting private communication between Barkha and Joseph does not constitute anything. The word “distortion” also does not appear to be one used by Manu Joseph, it is clearly NDTVs interpretation.

“NDTV believes the magazine should first verify and corroborate facts before participating in a defamatory smear campaign.”

I completely agree. Only, this is fundamentally no smear campaign against NDTV. It is just co-incidence that in exposing lobbyists like Nira Radia, Barkha Dutt happened to be one she communicated with. However, who should OM verify with? With NDTV or Nira Radia or Barkha Dutt? NDTV forgets that the expose is not primarily to tarnish NDTV or Barkha but a report that adds to the fire that is the 2G Spectrum scandal. Such noble thoughts do not seem to occur to NDTV or Barkha in their own reporting. Let me just quote a few examples: Where was corroboration for all the ranting of Teesta Setalvad against Narendra Modi or NDTV’s own ranting against Modi? Where was all the corroboration for the humiliation heaped on Arushi’s parents in that infamous murder case? Where is all the corroboration for the explosive “saffron terror” syndrome?

It doesn’t seem to be apparent to Barkha Dutt and NDTV that the phone conversations were tapped by a government agency investigating serious economic offences or criminal activities. The target of the investigation obviously seems to be Nira Radia. In all of Radia’s conversations anyone else could have been at the other end of the telephone line. A politician, a corrupt businessman, a criminal, a money-launderer. But the fact remains that it happened to be journalists in this particular expose. In this case Barkha Dutt and in another Vir Sanghvi. If anything, this has only served to strengthen the public belief that our journalists are no different from our politicians.And there is no reason to believe that the government agencies do not possess tapes of Radia's conversation with many other people too.

Barkha is also extremely fortunate that NDTV has chosen to respond to this expose in her support. Does it mean the conversations Barkha was having with Nira Radia was approved by or in knowledge of NDTV? Any major organisation would have typically stated that the conversation Barkha was having was in her “individual and private” capacity. This is also a warning for all media channels not to have their brand names be so heavily associated with "personalities". A media channel needs to be bigger than personalities. Else, one flawed celebrity would be enough to bring the house down.

31 comments:

  1. Ive been reading your blog.. Why do u have so much Hatred against the congress and muslims and christians. Arnt they also a part of us? U show unquestioned support for a killer like Modi but have a huge problem with Rahul Gandhi.. What wrong has he done to u or us hindus in general? What abt criticizing MOdi? Hes a God to you isnt it? Massacre of muslims is ok. BJP scams, like the army scam, tehelka, murder by a gujarat home minister is all ok. Why dont you mention and throw some light on those issues. Be fair to everyone. Whether congress or bjp. Hindu or muslim. India is one. There ppl who just want to divide and instigate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Normally if it was anyone else, all media channels would have torn him/her apart. Even if it was a normal conversation, they would have read something between the lines, speculated, shouted out loud and drawn their own conclusions.

    Irrespective of the fact as to whether this a scandal or not, why is this not being published by CNN IBN or TIMES NOW or the other channels? (NDTV can be understood). Damn it, even if Barkha was innocent, why can't the other media houses shout, like they always do? The entire Indian media is losing its credibility day by day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great piece. Please go on.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @killer like Modi
    When accusing the blogger, how do you come to the conclusion without evidence and conviction to address so? When you are free to opine freely let others too have that freeness-vaidyanathan k iyer

    ReplyDelete
  5. NDTV in trouble. How come they are still protecting barkha. I guess NDTV is responsible too. Gone are the days when media was supposed to be impartial. I am not watching NDTV again !! never !!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I went off NDTV a long time back when Barkha started advocating Azadi for Kashmir.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Get a life ... Barkha was doing what journalists do on a daily basis ... speak to people ... she spoke to Radia, she spoke to Congress ... and then, she went and broadcast all this on NDTV. Whats the great harm she did? Say that she will speak to Azad ? Even a cub reporter can walk him and meet him.

    This is Barkha bashing season. This is an ignorant way of doing it

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Barkha Bashing Season

    Dude, have you listened to the tapes? Do that first and criticize those who are asking for fair play from the media, who are now very much biased against Hindu politics. Such media houses dont seem to report the good aspect of Hindu polity and they report only the good side of others who oppose Hindu polity. For instance, you would understand this bias if you had watched NDTV and Barkha's show on the day Ayodhya verdict was published.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Most of these organizations and agencies are run like fiefdoms. It is inconceivable to even imagine that Barkha Dutt or Vir Sanghvi were doing whatever they were up to with Radia, without official sanction, or more likely, instructions from the top.
    I doubt whether you have listened to all the tapes (check out Girish Nikam's site for the links & transcripts for ready reference). If you have, you would have heard Radia praising Prannoy Roy and mentioning meetings with him in his office a couple of times.

    Since ND TV is standing by Barkha, obviously Prannoy Roy isn't surprised by these revelations. If they actually file a defamation lawsuit, ND TV would pick up the tabs, not Barkha. So she has clearly been assured of all support right from the top.

    There is no such thing as free media in India. Most of their antecedents are pretty murky. Check out Prannoy Roy's antecedents for example to get a better understanding (don't get taken in by his mellifluous tones, scholarly demeanour and airs of being objective). Check out the history of HT for example and the string of editors who have been appointed over the years by the owners and you'll begin to understand who or what they are aligned with firmly.

    Barkha Dutt is but a cog in the machinery. Vir Sanghvi is a guy whose integrity is questionable and who has been known to be a sleazy, unethical creature for quite some time.

    Barkha's mother used to be a senior journalist with HT. Barkha writes a column for HT. Barkha's sister, Bahar is a journo with CNN - IBN. Nothing wrong with all that superficially, though, it must make many wonder why Indian journalism, like Indian politics and Bollywood is so predominantly dynastic?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous said...
    "Most of these organizations and agencies are run like fiefdoms"....

    Yes, I agree. Thanks for the inputs. I have indeed heard all the tapes and agree Prannoy Roy is nothing more than a smooth-talking mediacrook. You may find my post on "Servantile Journalism by NDTV" on him reflecting his kind of journalism. (http://mediacrooks.blogspot.com/2010/03/servantile-journalism-ndtv-style.html)

    ReplyDelete
  11. @ Anonymous .. "Barkha bashing season"

    You're right! She does "speak" too much!

    ReplyDelete
  12. @ Anonymous .."killer like Modi"

    In case you didn't notice..this is a blog about Media and not about religion or politics. Those topics are touched upon to the extent of media's biased coverage on events and news.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @ Vishnu Somasekhar

    Thanks for your comments. Just checked out your blog. Nice, and a bit humorous too. Keep going!

    ReplyDelete
  14. A good blog... Shows biased Barkha Dutt... and immoral lady under the garb of morality...

    ReplyDelete
  15. even u sound biased..!

    ReplyDelete
  16. @ Anonymous "even u sound biased.."

    Where exactly? I would have been happy to hear what in my post you found was inaccurate...

    ReplyDelete
  17. What you sow, so you reap!. nothing more nothing less.

    For long Indian media is a tool in the hands of politicians. The minorities in India have been done a great misservice by the politicians and the media together. They have been mislead to show utter disrespect to the majority people's sentiments and beliefs.

    If Sanathana Dharama, is the soul of the world and not just Bharath. If it dies, so will the world. Now country on the earth where they treat their majority citizens and believes like it is done in India.

    The politicians who go about changing names of cities and towns named after the british rulers, will have the guts to change the names of cities and towns that were renamed after mughal rulers?

    Minorities in India enjoy, as i believe they should, but not at the expense of majority people. They should teach the politician who just treat them as vote banks a solid lesson in unity.

    The Hindu party BJP honoured Dr. APJ Kalam by making the president of our country. India was honoured to have such a person as a president. Look what has congress done now. They are not serious about minorities, but only after their votes.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The sting probably exposes the UPA government and how strong it is under the leadership of one person. Well you can see it, The Raja Expose, The CWG Scam, The Loan scam, What more to await in the years to come!

    Indian media except the likes of a few have been in the hands of the politicians, so here you go, this is just a justification to the statement!

    ReplyDelete
  19. First it should be made clear to each Indian that Robbing of a nation of one billion by a few billions is neither a congress nor BJP issue this is a national issue and to be debated in that perspective. If Barkha dutt/Veer had reported the whole saga well in time the nation of one billion could have been saved of collossal loss of many bIllions. The argument that the journos were engaging the lady lobbyst for STRINGING news falls flat on their face as in fact no news reporting was done by any of these two very 'jpurnalists' even though a alot of leaks were given by Radia in those tele cons which should have hogged the front pages soon after if reported well in time .So much is for the Stringing act. Now the nation feel cheated and ravished.Akaash

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yes this A Raja -scam-media gate- & a nation robbing by a few billions is not a political issue to score points, its a National issue and must be thoughrouly investigated including the dubious role played by a few media men(& wemen) in organising & stage managing for handing out a cabinet post of Telecom Ministry to A Raja in well orchrested insidious manner. So whole Nation is rightfully out-raged and need answers . Media has clearly usurped their clout wrongfully here. Ajay

    ReplyDelete
  21. For such a person as Burkha Dutt,she was given 'padmashri'.Is this true?Pl. somebody tell me this is not true.Also it seems that Pronoy Roy/NDTV want to play 'kingmaker'......so sad....

    ReplyDelete
  22. I was huge fan of NDTv and BARKHA ,now i feel cheated and humiliated that i was so gullible to trust NDTV.I dont think that i will ever again watch NDTV. Credibility is like virginity ,once lost never regained.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The scam has many interesting features , like a brilliant femme
    fatale, moonlighting journalists, a top business tycoon swearing by
    ethics, and yet engaging in power politics and lobbying to serve his
    own ends along with some 80 hours of officially tapped juicy private
    conversations among all the participants, exposing wheels within
    wheels. Unfortunately for them, a maverick crusading politician and a
    Public Interest activist have spoilt the party by approaching the Apex
    Court. The tapped conversations have been leaked out, shaming the
    participants of the scam.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear All,

    Thanks for the comments and kind words. You keep me inspired to research and write.

    Thanks again!
    Ravinar

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi, I happened to stumble upon your article and I must say you've got it totally right. I feel sick watching Barkha on TV now, pretending like she's done nothing wrong and I can't stand her holier than thou attitude. It's super annoying. The least she could have done was apologize for being such a twit.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks Mediacrook/ Yes I also stumbled into this
    site by chance from MSN.I have always wondered how our countrymen watch the trash dished out by the english TV media day after day and let these morons make tons of money thru TRP! Forget about trusting these Media houses,I was mortally digusted by the news casts of these half-educated-quarter-knowledgable-smart-aleky-smug so-called-"journos."
    Take Pronoy Roy.He was well respected by me during early ninety for his "World this Week" programme on Doordarshan. After NDTV channel,his journalistic quality went all the the way downhill though his income uphill.
    And his body language changed to colossal arrogance as if he only knew how to make this county secular and eliminate the so called "enimies of secularism" say like MODI.
    The more he failed to hurt Modi, the more he and his minions became viscious towards Modi and BJP, with smugness prsonified.
    Thank God Radia tapes have blown away the cover
    of all these Media Crooks masquarading as JOURNALISTS.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This is a great service you are doing, exposing the so-called "Journos" who are actully no better than crooks whose sole intention is to make money by dressing up news to please the Congis in power. They do not have even quarter-knowledge about the real happenins in the country and almost zero knowledge about history.
    They are like dressed up dance girls at whom Congis throw money and they dance to their tunes.Its a shame people watch these channels,increase their TRP and they make more money to peddle with more falsehood.
    Sites like you should relentlessly expose them with out fear.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Barkha it semms was prepared to be strung along until she got her big scoop on sonia-rahul-mms-karuna nexus.She being a gullible and erroneous in judgement could have harboured such delusions.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Barkha Dutt is annoying as hell. We always had a doubt that NDTV was a mouthpiece of and a puppet at the hands of congress. This saga proves it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I just got to read comments in this blog about how the editor of this blog is so called Anti-Muslim, Anti Congress etc. This discussion is not whether Congress is more corrupt or communal than BJP, but about how the Congress & Media crooks collude to spread their own political agenda & do a dis service to the nation. No one can save Mr Modi if he is found guilty but the Congress and Media cannot just hang him just because they want to.

    ReplyDelete
  31. People in this country are all followers. Anyone writing anything will get some 10 followers saying wow etc,. Similarly, the media barons have their followers too. But barkha is anyday better than rajdeep and ghose duo.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome and are not moderated so as to allow free speech. However, comments that are off topic, abusive, defamatory or slanderous may be deleted. Comments disclosing personal information of individuals/entities will be deleted.Comments appearing here do not imply endorsement by author of this blog.