Previous part to this story, from December 2013: “The political conflict at CNN-IBN”
In a tribute to John Lennon, Elton John sang “Empty Garden” referring to Lennon as a wonderful gardener who weeded out tears and grew good crop and refers to his killer: “It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain”. That’s true for any organisation or body. One insect is all it takes. News channels are meant to inform and educate the public. If they are into crooked acts in their kitchen, it is in public interest to know what’s going on; even if some are private business entities. Therefore, the goings-on in every news channel that claims to be doing public service are liable for scrutiny. On the flip side, every business must watch for the insects and rats that float in their offices and board rooms. Here’s a tweet from Sagarika Ghose when the Tarun Tejpal incident broke in November 2013:
Interesting, eh? “Many of us journos have faced harassment…” she says. The sick statement implies she speaks for many when she doesn’t. It implies she knows those who suffered but she didn’t speak out for them. It also implies she herself may have suffered silently. At whose hands? It implies she is some sort of “victim” too? And what does she fear? She doesn’t hesitate to slander those she doesn’t like and heap wanton abuses. After all that, she does a camouflaged “Saving Tejpal” act too.
“Aan – men at work” is a Bollywood movie loosely inspired by Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables”. But there is a particular scene in “Aan” that shows how to put your bosses and other top leaders in a tight spot if they are a hindrance to you. That’s what Akshay Kumar does when he drops a mischievous hint to reporters on how they will be transferred if they leak names or speak up. Let’s watch the video (1.30 mins):
So Akshay Kumar gives the media a vague hint and tells them if he reveals information he and his men will suffer. This is because his boss doesn’t allow certain investigations. Clever, isn’t it? Somewhat like this tweet by Sagarika:
Oh, there is an “evil” out there stamping out free speech and silencing independent journalists who should unite. Ahem! Who is she trying to put in a tight spot? In case you aren’t aware, this tweet was made probably after a private meeting at CNN-IBN’s office between Raghav Bahl, Rajdeep and Sagarika. How do we know? Patience! We will find out. And who is this “evil” that Sagarika is hinting at? Well, presumably, the same evil that other cronies like Ashutosh and Nikhil Wagle keep ranting about: Narendra Modi. The implication is that Modi is pressurising CNN-IBN or Raghav Bahl through some other powerful people. Snitches and Rats are bad for business and healthy work atmosphere but the news media does depend on snitches and rats. It’s their job. Soon after the “evil” tweet by SG on February 7, someone promptly puts out an article with a sensational headline on February 9:
Shivam Vij who wrote that article tweeted about it. It is fair to assume Vij was not present at the meeting between the 3 senior folks at CNN-IBN. So who gave him this juicy input to put out a story? It has to be one of the 3, right? And who, among those close to the CNN-IBN couple, picks up this article quickly and makes noises about suppression of free speech? Well, that would be family friend, the Commie Ram Guha. SG was in Bangalore on February 9 for some show but didn’t meet or talk to Guha. Believable? By some strange coincidence (?), Rajdeep puts out a tweet about NaMo and Nemo on February 8 (which too was after the duo had their meeting with Bahl):
Off-TV Rajdeep is generally known to be a nice guy and I have said often that there are two Rajdeeps. So Rajdeep may have thought his tweet would be funny but it ended up being seen as more abuse on NaMo. And why not? Since simple comments and analogies by Modi have been taken out of context and twisted heavily by both Rajdeep and Sagarika all through the last many years. Consequent to the article by Vij and the alarm by Guha, Raghav Bahl was naturally angry. People in the know mentioned heated exchange of mails between Bahl and Rajdeep. To add insult to the injurious “leaked” tweet tip (and some snitching) that led to the article “Why Sagarika Ghose may no longer criticise Modi anymore...” the internal communications also seem to be leaked to some folks and it makes sorry reading and tells the story behind the whole drama by Sagarika. I will narrate from the exchanges (in brown) that happened very early morning on February 10.
Bahl to Rajdeep:
RB asks Rajdeep to see Guha’s tweet and calls Guha somebody as influential/credible as him (also one of Rajdeep’s closest professional associates), claims it is damaging. RB mentions a mail of Sagarika’s which clearly says she has never been “muzzled” over the last 8 years in N18. And RB demands that: 1 Sagarika isses a CATEGORICAL denial of this tweet; OR 2 They could release the relevant text from Sagarika’s mail to RB to the public, so that this matter is put to rest.
Rajdeep to Bahl:
Rajdeep responds by referring to the article by Vij in scroll.in, and says it is a website run by someone called shivam vij. Rajdeep quotes his tweet to vij denying any such pressures. The tweet Rajdeep is referring in his response to Bahl is the one below:
Bahl to Rajdeep
RB says Guha saying this is as good as Rajdeep/Sagarika saying this (especially since Sagarika was in Bangalore the previous day). A full, formal and unambiguous clarification/denial, of the sort that Sagarika wrote to RB should be issued, he says. And then RB says if not, the full text from Sagarika’s mail should be put out in the public domain since Sagarika’s mail so clearly implies that the truth is totally different.
Good point by Bahl. Did Sagarika meet Ram Guha while she was in Bangalore? She was doing some show at the Infosys campus as I recollect. If she hadn’t met him did she interact with him? I believe that it’s unlikely that Sagarika wouldn’t have given at least a little phone call to dear friend Guha. And why is it that Guha so deliberately puts out a tweet? Since Rajdeep and Sagarika are such “close” friends would he not care to at least ask them about the stupid article before tweeting about it? Surprising? As with the article by Vij, Guha’s tweet is also meant to deliberately embarrass Raghav Bahl and I am in absolutely no doubt about that. Let’s snitch some more. Having learned about the trouble brewing Sagarika quickly replies to Guha with a “sorry” tweet:
Rajdeep to Bahl:
Rajdeep confirms Sagarika has not met/spoken to ram in a while and that Guha is close to a few of those who run the scroll.in website which is an ideologically left website.
So all that balderdash of Guha’s leftist leanings having “lapsed” does not hold. And he’s a close friend of those running that website. Fantastic! He is still as much a Commie as he was and appears to be a willing participant in this game going around Sagarika, Shivam Vij and himself. “The boss shouldn’t be given a chance to sneeze” says Akshay Kumar in that video. Doesn’t he? And that would prevent chances of any transfers or any other action on those leaking stories to the anti-Modi brigade. Do note, Bahl is clearly indicating there should be a categorical denial by Rajdeep or Sagarika and he also implies that he would release parts of an earlier mail by Sagarika which mentions there is no muzzling at Network 18. It gets more intriguing.
Rajdeep to Bahl:
Rajdeep wonders why issue it to all media and attract even more attention to an article which has appeared on a fringe website. Says they chose the same path when the Caravan story was published… and that response should be measured and fitted to the publication/medium on which they are used.
Bahl to Rajdeep:
Bahl claims the problem is Ram Guha’s “endorsement” – and that Guha has personally charged him by using the word “proprietor” and refuses to be so charged. Bahl’s mind is made up – either this is retracted publicly by Guha, or Sagarika, or Rajdeep – or he shall act to clear his name. Rajdeep again gives him a reply on how to go about this withdrawal tactfully and painlessly.
Bahl to Rajdeep:
By now Bahl is furious and stops taking calls from Rajdeep. He says “I am in no mood to “talk” about this. Bahl asks an important question: how did a private conversation, known only to the three of them, get into a “leftist” website of Shivam Vij? He swears with his “hand on his heart” that he did not share it with them.
So who put out the juicy titbits to Shivam Vij? Your guess is as good as mine and it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out. More importantly, from all the exchanges that I have read thoroughly, I have found no truth in the “Evil” that Sagarika is trying to peddle. It is true Raghav Bahl is a business man who is now more oriented towards Modi (millions of others are too) but Rajdeep says “go by our actions”. Are the mails circulating genuine? I would think they are. Going by actions alone neither Sagarika nor Rajdeep have stopped their anti-Modi shows or rants. If I remember right, there was a recent programme at Jamia where Sagarika provoked Muslim youth to heap more trash on Modi. It is important to note that even if this duo of Rajdeep-Sagarika toned down half their rants against Modi it still would amount to a huge negative campaign.
So what Sagarika was essentially doing through her “Evil” tweet is what Akshay Kumar does in that movie; to sound a warning indirectly to her bosses and the public in general about fake suppression of journalistic independence. Having tweeted that and attracted some sympathetic concern she attempts to create suspicions in the minds of people. I would read such tweets and articles (such as those by Vij) as collective “ambush-journalism”. If a deputy editor of a news channel plays so much politics over her own channel and issues inside it, then how good is the trash she delivers on TV?
Both Rajdeep and Sagarika (and probably Bahl too) have been Congress cronies all these years. When the masters had become a political liability both these people shifted allegiance to Arvind Kejriwal and AAP. What they want is not real journalism. What they want is not delivery of fair news and discourse. What they want is to trash the politicians they don’t like, peddle lies and distortions about them and promote those they think will nurture their own security and future. Don’t look too far, all this has been neatly explained in “The AAPSucker Proxies”.
Bahl has a twin problem on his hands. Someone leaks discussions to a “fringe” website and then someone leaks mails to many media folks. He has to maintain journalistic honesty and also business profitability. Sagarika provides neither journalistic sense nor business sense. Events have shown she is not only a bad journalist but also undermining her channel by stupid statements. Whether “personal political preferences” should rule over journalistic principles is a choice Bahl will have to make. So far, it’s the public that gets a poor ride in all this. It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain.