Truth! One used to say “Experience truth first” and the other used to say “Get paid for telling the truth”, and still probably does. Yes indeed, that’s that tag team of NDTV and Tehelka. NDTV, of course, has dumped that tag line of experiencing truth and I really don’t know what Tehelka’s latest tag line is. But they were both together at a recent event. The ‘Tehelka Thinkfest’ in Goa (November 4-6). It is somewhat like the Jaipur Literary festival except that in this event people were supposed to THINK!
|The extinct tagline!|
Let’s give a thought to Tehelka first. This is a tabloid, much like the extinct News of the World (NOTW) with all the masala minus the tits. Its greatest accomplishment? The sting operation it carried out on army personnel and politicians exposing corruption through use of prostitutes and money. In any other mature democracy Tarun Tejpal and his actors would be in jail for invasion of privacy, secretly filming and recording people and maybe even entrapment. Since then they have also called themselves ‘free and fearless’! That was during the NDA regime around the year 2001. Following that sting operation Tehelka faced govt ire and a string of legal cases that nearly sunk it. It took an election in 2004 for the Congress to come to power and a letter from the UPA head Sonia Gandhi to rehabilitate this tabloid.
Yes, it was a letter from Sonia Gandhi that may have resurrected this fearless tabloid that speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Well, as long as it is about others mostly and sometimes you do have to take their truths with generous buckets of salt. Recently, allegations about Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal acquiring a property in Goa has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Never mind that! Haven’t we heard similar stories about Prannoy Roy and his properties in Goa? There you go, again something that Tehelka and NDTV share in common. But what should concern us how Tehelka arm twists even a Chief Minister of a state to fund its THINKfest! Here’s an excerpt from a report in the Deccan Herald which makes horrible reading:
After several preliminaries and high-power calls—some of them from Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel —''Tehelka'' publisher and chief operating officer Neena Tejpal met Chief Minister Digambar Kamat in Goa weeks ahead of ''Think 2011'', the magazine’s ‘festival of ideas’ that was held here from November 4 to 6……..
He denied there had been pressure from Delhi for him to support the festival, which has been shadowed by a controversy, or that a deal had been struck for “Tehelka” to hold off an expose on illegal mining in Goa. “No, no, that’s not true at all,” he said……
Neena Tejpal, sister of “Tehelka” editor Tarun Tejpal, was business-like and downright arrogant with the Goa chief minister, leaving his aides quite stunned. “If Tarun was here, he would have asked for Rs 1.5 crore. How much are you willing to give?” she asked Kamat quite bluntly, a government source told Deccan Herald. The source expressed shock at Neena’s tone and tenor, considering she was talking to the chief minister of a state. An embarrassed Kamat asked his aides to see which departments could be tapped for funding the fest and the chief secretary finally came up with a figure of Rs 50 lakh for the magazine’s event.
“Tehelka”, which prides itself for its investigative and public interest journalism, has been accused by theatre personality Hartman De Souza of burying a report on mining in Goa by its former correspondent Raman Kirpal because of the negotiations with the Goa government on “Thinkfest”. Tejpal has strongly denied the charges. But a government aide said after the meeting with Neena Tejpal there was a strong buzz in the secretariat that Kamat was keen to oblige the “Tehelka” people because they have some “explosive material” on him.
Tejpal is on record stating that the reporter, Raman Kirpal, was actually fired for ‘non-performance”. Maybe Kirpal himself was expected to negotiate with the Goa CM on funding of the Thinkfest with his unpublished report and didn’t get anywhere. Otherwise, it’s hard to explain the firing of a reporter who seemed to have an explosive report on the mining scam in Goa. So far there is also no news of any response from Tejpal on the Deccan Herald report. Couple of years ago Tehelka also published an article about the 26/11 attacks by one Raveena Hansa which supported conspiracy theories similar to the ones that Digvijay Singh supported with the book “26/11 An RSS Conspiracy” by Aziz Burney. In that case, Tehelka pulled that article from their site and claimed never to have carried it. That’s as truthful and as fearless as a tabloid can get. So just like the shady undertakings of the NOTW the fearless Tehelka is now up to dirty tricks that characterises much of our media outlets. It is surprising that Deccan Herald stopped short of calling Tehelka’s dirty tricks outright ‘blackmail’.
The participants at the Thinkfest may or may not be aware of the shady dealings behind the event and its funding. However, it’s always good to have a TV channel as a media partner for such an event. And who better for such a partnership than NDTV. Amazingly, if it was indeed a Thinkfest I cannot see any sense why rest of the electronic media needs to be excluded unless, of course, you need any more convincing that the best thinksters or thinktankers come from the stable of NDTV. So you had Barkha Dutt, the queen of telly trolls, conducting interviews, debates and what not.
Why NDTV? That has something to do with history. Way back in 1998 the CBI had filed a case against Prannoy Roy for defrauding Doordarshan to the tune of 5 Crores. It is not clear till today what exactly happened to that case and how it got buried. Never mind that. One thing is pretty clear that there is a way to make merry and have your thinkfests and parties at the cost of govt funds. Are we expecting media that owes its existence and activities to the funds of govt. to be really reporting the truth? Will they be fair and fearless? Fat chance!
Fact is, the media has moved on from being as corrupt as the govt. to organised racketeering. Time will tell whether Tehelka will respond to the report by Deccan Herald but so far there has only been silence from the free, fair and fearless one. This one has come out in the open. Should you plan to be a journalist you might even want to read the Dummy’s guide to extortion. One will never know how many fearless extortionists in the media are out there.