of innocence

Neither Barkha Dutt nor Vir Sanghvi have contested the veracity of the tapes because the voices are so clearly theirs. They have instead taken the defence that as journalists they have to tap all kinds of sources for news gathering and that they have to put up with their sources out of professional necessity and personal courtesy.

By B V Rao

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 8:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:29 AM

That might seem a credible argument, except that journalists out on news-gathering seek information and ask questions and use that information. But neither Barkha nor Vir have shown us yet how they used this information for professional purposes. And in Vir’s case the Counterpoint column is printed proof that he sought directions from a lobbyist and did exactly her bidding.

The feeble denials by NDTV and Hindustan Times on behalf of Barkha and Vir are less surprising than the collective silence of the Indian media when confronted with material to raise reasonable doubts about the integrity of two of its leading lights.

The conventional media’s stony silence (with rare exceptions) would have meant a complete blackout of one of the most sordid media scandals but for the New Media. Twitter, Facebook and blog space have been on fire. Barkha who has nearly 230,000 fans on Twitter took the brunt with thousands of hate tweets bombarding her. At least in cyber space nobody is buying Barkha and Vir’s feeble explanation.

Several months ago, stories began appearing in a section of the media suggesting that I – along with other journalists – had lobbied on behalf of A. Raja. As I have never met Raja and have attacked his corruption in both print and TV, these assertions struck me as bizarre. The stories were based on tape-recorded conversations that Niira Radia had with innumerable individuals, including journalists.

A magazine has now published what purports to be transcripts of those conversations though it says, “We are in no position to endorse the contents of the recordings,” which presumably means that it is not guaranteeing their authenticity.

While nobody can remember verbatim every conversation that took place 19 months ago, these transcripts do not appear to be entirely accurate.

While gathering news, journalists talk to a wide variety of sources from all walks of life, especially when a fast-moving story is unfolding. Out of a desire to elicit more information from these sources, we are generally polite. I received many calls from different sources during that period. In no case did I act on those requests as anybody in the government will know.

The second conversation relates to the dispute between the Ambani brothers. I had asked Ms Radia to explain the position of her client, Mukesh Ambani. And I also asked Anil Ambani’s side for its views.

This was recorded in the piece. I wrote: “My friend, Tony Jesudasan, who represents Anil, took me out to lunch and made out a case for Anil. I was totally convinced till my friend, Niira Radia, who represents Mukesh, gave me the other side which frankly seemed just as convincing to my inexpert ears”.

I also wrote, “Why do the Ambanis think that all of us should take sides in their battle? Or that we should care what happens to them?”

That still remains my view.

B V Rao is a senior Indian journalist

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