Saturday, November 27, 2010

Radia Tapes - Barkha's Response - An open letter to Barkha Dutt...

Dear Barkha,

I read your response (here) to the Radia tapes and allegations against you. Trust me, I can understand the deep anguish and hurt that you are going through. No one would want to be in your situation. Honestly responding, as you have done, is the right thing to do. And I sincerely hope you will come through this.

On the evening of November 18th, I was among the first to re-post the Radia tapes on this blog when the Open Magazine site had crashed. I had posted the tapes (in one single file) along with the transcript without passing any judgement on them. It is nice of you to come out with your current response and to hear that there are lessons you have learned. I have been (in various articles on this blog) seeking nothing more than an expression of regret over your bad judgement in who you were dealing with. That said, let me also respond to some of the statements in your latest response. (Your statements are in Red Ital):

... I am astonished, angered and hurt to see the baseless allegations against me in sections of the media this week... The edited conversations .......have been headlined to suggest that I misused my role as a journalist to "lobby" for A. Raja, a man I have never met.
I don’t think anywhere in the media or in my own blog there was a suggestion that you lobbied for Raja. The inference was whether you were acting as a “power broker” for the Congress or participating in the alliance formation between the Congress and the DMK. If you were not, fine.

I can understand the anger and anguish that such a misrepresentation can create........Despite this, much of the commentary has been strangely selective in its focus. And quite often, vindictively personal. Consider, for example, that online it is being dubbed "BarkhaGate."
This is the age of Twitter and Facebook. Therefore a word like “barkhagate” is easier to twitter the essence of what is being communicated. After all, you yourself chose to respond to the tapes first on Twitter. Didn’t you? And yes, I do agree calling it Barkhagate is excessive and personal when there were other journalists involved too. (I would have personally liked to have called it ‘Veer-Gati’) BTW 'Barkhagate' was used way back in January 2009 during the Chaitanya Kunte episode here, so its not really a new term.

Ironically, the one sentence being used to damn me, "Oh God, What should I tell them", is in fact two separate sentences, neither of which are related to A Raja or the telecom portfolio at all......The excerpt, "What should I tell them," was in response to her repeatedly saying to me over several different phone calls, that if I happened to talk to anyone in the Congress, I should ask them to talk the DMK chief directly.
Well, it is natural for a magazine or a TV show to pick out the most sensational line from any conversation, speech or event. This should hardly come as a surprise to a seasoned journalist like you. Are you suggesting you and NDTV have never used this ploy? So picking on that particular line and calling it misrepresentation doesn’t really sell. I also don’t think people like me are going by such sensationalist headlines. We watch them all year round. Don’t we?

As a matter of record, I never passed on any message to any Congress leader....
The tapes sound as if you were willing to act upon what you said. Still, since you have clarified this I will accept it and believe that you did no favours or pass on any message to the Congress. That rests.

Anyone who has bothered to read the entire transcript of these conversations instead of just the headline, would notice that the conversation is essentially a journalist soliciting information from one of the many people plugged in - something all journalists do as part of newsgathering.
I have indeed bothered to listen to those tapes over and over again before I posted the files on this blog. And I have to disagree...and I have stated elsewhere too, that on these tapes it is the journalists who appear to be a source for the lobbyist than the other way around. Still, this is hardly incriminating or anything serious and shouldn’t bother you in the least. Journalists talk to even scumbags so no problems with that. Even Arundhati Roy is a journalist with her real and ‘imaginary’ sources so there is no problem with that either.

The only "benefit" I ever got from talking to Nira Radia was information; information I used to feed the news. ....It is important to remember that at this point, in May 2009, none of us were aware of the present investigation against Nira Radia. Like most other journalists in India, I knew Nira Radia professionally as the main PR person for the Tata Group.  
And not Mukesh Ambani group? That sounds a bit like a ‘babe in the woods’ explanation but I will still accept it. Though its hard to imagine a journalist (of your stature, influence and access) wouldn’t be aware of what all a PR person like Nira Radia would be up to.

Strangely, when I complained to the editor of Open magazine about the smear campaign against me, he sent me a text saying , there was "not much remarkable" in my conversations and went on to even say that, "there is one bit in the strap where the word go-between is used that I don't like myself." I have to wonder then, with anger, why he did not pause before using such a defamatory description.
Now, this is where I have to wonder if you really realise the strength of what you have stated above, if it is truly intended. Let me state some points and ask you some questions too:

1.      These tapes are only the climax of a long held belief by many that you and NDTV are not impartial or unbiased, which is why the strong and widespread reaction against you. That NDTV is a Congress puppet. Much of this started with your reporting on the Gujarat riots. I need not go into details. If NDTV does have leanings toward any political party it would be honourable to be open about it. There is nothing wrong in a media house having its own political leanings.
2.      Do you have any idea how a person like Narendra Modi must have lived when you, Rajdeep and all the media threw wild, baseless allegations at him with no evidence whatsoever? Do you realise that you allowed liars like Teesta Setalvad to freely propagate their lies on your channels and shows? There are even accusations that you and Rajdeep were funded to present  biased stories. Are you aware of that?
3.      You and the media have labelled Modi as a perpetrator of genocide, holocaust and what not. Your friend and frequent guest on your channel and then editor of the newspaper (HT) you write for – Veer Sanghvi called and continues to call Narendra Modi a “mass murderer”. Do you agree with Sanghvi? Did you ever  chastise Sanghvi for this atrocious character assassination? Wait, haven’t you yourself indulged in extraordinary character-assassination of Modi?
4.      Did you not threaten a small time blogger called Chaitanya Kunte for his blog criticising you? Now that you are faced with a mainstream magazine why isn’t NDTV going ahead with any legal action?
5.      Do you still hold bloggers in contempt or are you willing to rethink your opinions?
6.      I am sure you are aware that you are possibly the only celebrity journalist to have hate pages on Facebook. Why do you think there are pages like “Take Barkha off the air” and “Barkha for worst senior journalist on the planet”? Why? Are these people (more than 10000 of them) simply vindictive towards you? Did you not see the writing on the ‘walls’ of Facebook?
7.      There are many pages on the net that describe you as “anti-Hindu”. You will, of course, strongly deny that. But is that impression gathered by people who are idiots? Is there only saffron terror and no Islamic Terror? Swapan Das Gupta states he jokingly calls you "voice of Hurriyat"! Is that true? Is that why NDTV never has a program on Kashmiri Pandits and their plight? Were the tapes of Varun Gandhi 100% verified before being put on air?
8.      Do you realise that being in the centre of this avoidable controversy affects the morale of your co-workers and journalists at NDTV? That you singularly possess the potential to bring that company down by actions attributed to you. Should journalists possess such power? And this doesn’t apply to you alone, it also applies to Rajdeep and Arnab. If you people talk about “politics of identity” being undesirable then why is it so desirable for TV news channels?
9.      Finally, do you realise that the very people who released these tapes to a journal might be a political party itself? The ones who are likely to be in possession of such tapes are the ones who run the government. I don’t think Open Magazine is really your enemy here. Those guys just did what NDTV or any other journal/channel would have done too.

Are there learnings in this for me? Yes, of course there are.....The takeaway from this debate for me pertains to the everyday practice of journalism..... This controversy has made me look at the need to re-draw the lines much more carefully.... There is also another learning. I have always operated by a code of ethics that holds me as accountable to the public.......The selective and malicious nature of some of the commentary against me has reinforced my awareness of how responsible we ought to be before we level an allegation against another.
If what you have stated above is true then I for one would congratulate you. I have criticised you frequently and will continue to do so. That is because I also happen to watch your programs just as frequently. We do not see you as corrupt and do not doubt your integrity, at least I do not. It is up to senior journalists like you to bring back credibility to our media. I hope you will work towards that. For a public figure like you, you can just see this as a temporary setback and move on. People do not hold grudges and are not vindictive, they simply want trustworthy reporting and journalism.

Best Wishes


  1. Barkha can say what she likes. She has lost her credibility.NDTV must sack and Govt must take back the Award given to her.

  2. Govt gave her an award? Like scratch my back, scratch your back?

  3. I think her problem is to be great.Its very dangerous thing to be journalist avoid temptations and greed and ofcourse to be epic centre of power then you can be a great journalist.I know the people like Chandan Das who openly reflects his ideology.No problem then why you dont come forward and show the courage that I am Congress activists.You want to show the world how fair and independent personality you same time you share bed with Congress It cant be like this.It is dangerous for Indian journalism as well as society.

  4. I congratulate you Ravinar for your passionate anguish for these deluded journalists who have lost their souls to the glitz and glamour of the decadent politicians who will not leave a trace once they are gone.Bharkha Dutt has lost her sheen whatever she may do or say.

  5. Wonderful article bang on. My heartiest congratulations. This "babalog" media is the root cause of all problems in the country. I want to ask Barkha and her companions in these babalog media channels that is the phrase resignation/sorry/morality only meant for elected cm's of a state. doesnt it apply for her too after the nira radia tapes bombed on her head?its a sad irony that her channel didnt spend so much time discussing bharatpur communal violence which is in the neighbouring state whose elected cm she attacks unabashed for last 10 years but not spending even 10 minutes on the former.

  6. Barkha refused to attend debate on Headlines Today. Why so? One of my friends call her "Burkha Dutt".

  7. I fondly remember Barka Dutt's coverage of the Kargil War. She did a remarkable job there. I admire and respect her for that. However, within a couple of years thereafter through this Radia Tape business she has landed herself in a soup, it is she who has to eventually come out of it turning a new page. Senior journalists like her, in the interest of presenting impartial news reports, should walk the middle path. If they have to commit themselves ideologically then they should do that unabashedly. Running with the hare and hunting with the hound does not help.



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