Tag Archives: Barkhagate

Where will this lead Journalism in India?

At last the debate on the ‘Journogate’ (popularly being called Barkhagate) has begun to gain some momentum in India.

Ever since the tapes involving some leading names in Indian journalism in debatable conversation with a high-profile public relation executive Niira Radia have been made public by two news magazines, some platforms have started discussion.

The credit to this late yet timely development goes to the bloggers and social networking sites where the issue is a hot debate.

Journalist Karan Thapar who debated the issue on The Last Word a prime time news debate show on CNN IBN started saying that the topic ‘has set the websites aflame’ despite the issue being ignored by media houses.

The debate for me was a step forward, but it added a few more questions to the already complex scenario.

Panelists debated that why did those involved in the tapes not report that a publicist for the leading business houses (Tata and Mukesh Ambani) with Tata’s having a sizeable presence in telecom sector was acting as a power broker for DMK.

It also justified the stand of Open Magazine and Outlook to go ahead with the story sans versions of those involved. N. Ram, editor, The Hindu said: “it’s a part of journalistic practise, did we (journalists) asked Vin Chadda before publishing the Bofors expose?”

What was missing from the engaging session was that neither Barkha Dutt nor Vir Sanghvi participated despite being called for the show. This was predictable.

However both have tweeted and posted their explanations for one last time to set the record straight.  Dutt has published her argument on NDTV website giving links to the stories that she did against A Raja and Sanghvi too after putting a letter last week on his website has explained his stance in his weekly column Counterpoint, which appears in Hindustan Times on Sundays.

Interestingly, Sanghvi has made it clear that battered by the allegations he will discontinue his column in for the time being.

He writes on his website and I quote “I have no desire to subject counterpoint to this filth. It deserves better. So, Counterpoint will be taking a break. When life returns to normal, so will counterpoint.”

It seems the controversy has hit hard.

The debate was also discussed at Foundation for Media Professionals, in New Delhi.

Some question the debate arises are firstly is it alright to go ahead with an expose despite the tapes not being officially and secondly is it fine to go ahead without securing the views of those questioned?

While Ram answered the latter for the first I feel if something is there for a larger public interest the journalists are well within their rights to bring it out.

Will this bloodletting improve journalism standards in India? The question looms large over the fraternity.

I would quote N.Ram from the CNN IBN debate that had this happened at the BBC, the New York Times or the Financial Times, such behaviour would not have been tolerated and the career would have been over.

Will the media houses come clean on this issue is a big question for future of Journalism in India?

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T(r)apped!!!

A phone taping incident has rocked the media circles in India.

Barkhagate as it is popularly tweeted across is an incident which points a finger at those who act as custodians of free speech.

Journalists despite all marketing tactics being applied by media houses to maximise profits are a respected lot in India, who are (and are perceived to be) noble individuals constituting the fourth pillar of democracy.

Having said that and living by the principles as a journalist myself, the exposes made by Open magazine against two prominent Indian Editors, Vir Sanghvi(senior journalist with The Hindustan Times, who I believe is also on their editorial board) and Barkha Dutt( Group Editor, NDTV) put journalists on back foot.

Prima facie the magazine seems to have got some meat and not merely tarnishing the image of two senior journalists. They put the transcripts involving the two online and those who watch and listen these people on air can make out that the voices sound familiar.

Making the conversation public, for me puts the journalist in a dock.

What is interesting is that those who pitch bodyline questions on similar lines to politicians are on a sticky wicket.

The NDTV have come out with an open letter backing their group editor and mentioning why Barkha Dutt’s version was not sought in the report. To this the magazine editor said, they were short of time and had they gone ahead and made contacts with Dutt, they feared that their reports might never see the light of the day.

That is a ridiculous justification by Open magazine, they could have called Dutt at the last hour and went ahead.

Past Imperfect

However, one should also bear in mind the clout senior journos like Dutt and Sanghvi carry.

Dutt’s infamous standoff with a blogger Chatinya Kunte whose blog it’s perceived widely she got of the net is an example. The magazine might have feared similar fate.

What is interesting and of no surprise is the fact that the incident hasn’t been played up by other media houses. Dutt and Sanghvi get a benefit of doubt from the fraternity so far.

How long will they get this support is a matter of how the scoop is dealt with.

This also reminds me of an incident wherein a senior bureaucrat in Rajsathan assembly told me in May this year that he has reports stating someone from state’s bureaucratic circle along with these two journalists was working for Nira Radia, whom I till then knew as a director of a public relations firm.

He showed me a report which he was reading and also shared that the website www.bhasdaas4media.com was carrying similar reports. I thought for a moment it might be a case of rivalry among bureaucrats, but later going through the website and speaking to other journalists in Delhi came to know similar things are doing rounds in Dilli Durbar.

While Dutt apart from the letter by NDTV CEO has tweeted in her defence saying , “Accused of favouring a man I have never met(Raja) and have always attacked in print and TV.” Sanghvi well has not commented.

But if the transcripts and their timings are something t go by, one fail to understand why so many calls to a PR person who is nowhere related to politics on the face of it? The talks (more with Sanghvi) smell a rat.

Will be interesting to see how it unfolds. But is certainly a charge difficult to disown.

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