Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FIXING BARKHA DUTT

B.RAMAN

The programme on the recent allegations against Barkha Dutt, the well-known anchor of NDTV, aired by the NDTV on the night of November30,2010, was not satisfying.

2. Its failure to make an impact can be attributed to the format chosen by the NDTV. They should have chosen the BBC's "Hard Talk" format involving a one-to-one hard-hitting discussion between Barkha and a senior, eminent journalist. The objective should have been to throw light on the allegations levelled against Barkha in connection with her tapped (by the intelligence agencies) telephone conversations with Niira Radia, who runs a consultancy-cum-liaison agency euphemistically called a communications agency based in New Delhi. Two of India's leading corporate houses were among its clients. The conversations between Barkha and Radia related, inter alia, to attempts being made from behind the scenes by either the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a regional political party of Tamila Nadu, or some corporate houses or both to influnce, through Radia, the Cabinet formation by Dr.Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, after the elections of 2009. They apparently wanted to ensure that the DMK got its share of portfolios in the coalition Ministry of Dr.Manmohan Singh, including the Telecommunications Ministry, which is the most lucrative Ministry of the Government of India, for A.Raja, who was holding that portfolio for some years before last year's elections.

3. During his first tenure as the Telecommunications Minister, there were serious allegations of improper procedures and favouritism against A.Raja in connection with the allotment of telecom spectrum to mobile operators. It was reported that the Prime Minister was reluctant to retain him in the Telecom Ministry because of the allegations against him. However, he had to give in to the pressure from the DMK and retain Raja. He has recently resigned following more allegations against him corroborated by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who had gone into the manner in which the Telecom Ministry under A.Raja handled the spectrum allotment. As a result, the Government of India incurred losses amounting to billions of dollars.

4. Radia was apparently approached by elements in the DMK as well as the corporate world, independently of each other, to use her contacts in the decision-making circles of New Delhi to ensure that the DMK's demands were accepted. Radia seems to have had a wide circle of contacts in the world of journalism. She was in the habit of contacting them over phone to seek their help in various matters and allegedly to influence them to write in favour of her clients. There had been instances even in the past of intermediaries seeking to influence business-related decisions. The case of the late Win Chaddha, whose company played an important role in the 1980s in influencing the decision of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India in favour of the Bofors gun, comes to mind.

5. There were no confirmed instances in the past of such intermediaries seeking to influence political decisions. They restricted themselves to influencing business-related decisions. Radia allegedly sought to influence not only business-related decisions, but also political decisions in matters such as appointment of Cabinet Ministers. Interested people approached her because they believed that she had the capability to influence such decisions. The fact that the DMK approached her shows that her reputation as someone who can influence political decisions was well known not only in the business world, but also in the world of politics.

6. Radia's attempts to influence the Cabinet formation would have remained unknown to the public but for the fact that the Income Tax Department allegedly suspected her company of tax evasion. They obtained the approval of the then Home Secretary of the Government of India to have her telephone tapped by the intelligence agencies in order to look for evidence regarding her alleged tax evasion. Apparently, they could not get any evidence on this score. Otherwise, they should have by now registered a case against her and formally initiated the investigation. However, the intelligence agencies recorded clandestinely near 5000 telephone conversations of Radia with her contacts on various matters.

7. These conversations revealed the extent of her role in seeking to influence political and business-related decisions. It was reported that there were about 15 journalists among those contacted by her. Copies of these recordings would have been available at three places--- the Income-Tax Department, the Intelligence Agency which carried out the tapping and the mobile telephone company or companies whose subscriber Radia was. From one of these sources, the recorded conversations leaked out to two journals, which published the transcripts of about a hundred of them. It needs to be underlined that these tapes were not discovered by the two journals as a result of their journalistic enterprise. These were apparently given to them by an unidentified source for giving publicity to the contents.

8. What could have been the motive of the source in leaking the tapes? Either to discredit Radia and her business clients or to discredit her journalist contacts or both. Of the 15-odd journalists figuring in the conversations, two have received the maximum adverse attention ---- Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi. Barkha is a highly successful TV journalist with a large circle of admirers and critics. Her contribution to making Indian TV journalism reach great heights has been immense. Despite this, she is disliked by many, who accuse her of being pro-Muslim, pro-Pakistan, anti-national, anti-Hindutva, anti-RSS and anti-Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat. In recent months, her ctitics have become even more virulent against her after her active role to highlighting the alleged involvement of some Hindus in acts of terrorism against the Muslims. Her stories on the so-called Hindu terror have added to the enemity against her.

9. It is intriguing that the leakage of her tapped conversations with Radia and the controversay that followed came in the wake of her stories on the alleged Hindu terror. People, who know Barkha well, say that she has some negative traits in her personality too. They allege that she is intimidating and cannot take criticism in her stride. There was one alleged instance of her forcing a blogger, who made a critical posting on her, to apologice in public and remove his posting. Her success as a journalist has also brought in the professional jealousy of some of her colleagues in the profession.

10. Her critics and detractors jumped at the opportunity provided by the tapes in an attempt to put her on the defensive, destroy her credibility and damage her professional reputation. Nobody has accused her of being complicit in any crime by being in touch with Radia. Nobody has accused her of trying to play down or cover up the allegations against A.Raja in her journalist reporting. She has been accused only of letting herself be used by a lobbyist in a manner, which is contrary to the ethics of journalism. Barkha's reply is that she did not let herself be used by Radia, but she was using her contacts with Radia to collect information about the DMK. Barkha has been asked by her critics as to why in that case she did not write about the use of Radia by the DMK to influence the Cabinet formation. This is an unkind question---- as unkind as asking N.Ram, the Editor-in-Chief of "The Hindu", as to why he allegedly let himself be used by the Tamil elements from Sri Lanka as an intermediary with Rajiv Gandhi when he was the Prime Minister in the 1980s? As unkind as asking N.Ram as to why he played down the stories of the mass anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet in 2008? As unkind as asking N.Ram as to why for many years till recently he blacked out references to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the columns of his paper. As unkind as asking him as to why he used to give publicity in his paper to the despatches of the Xinhua, the news agency owned by the Chinese Government. Ram should be the last person to throw stones at Barkha.

11.Many journalists, who are throwing stones today at Barkha, had themselces acted as intermediaries to some one or the other and allowed their coverage to be influenced by extraneous considerations.

12. A person should be judged not by what he or she says in private, but by what he or she says or writes in public and does.There is nothing inappropriate or unethical in Barkha's writings, reportage and actions. As regards her private conversations with Radia over phone she has explained the background and context and denied any malafide or unethical intention. Her explanation should be accepted instead of trying to fix her through an inquisition. ( 1-12-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and , presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

33 comments:

Esoteric said...

What Barkha was doing was in the public domain and not her private domain and is inappropriate at the very least. Absence of hard proof of any criminality does not diminish her complicity in perpetuating the same crony capitalism she demonises on the 'buck stops here'.

Her mixing with a political party bares her as hypocritical.It doesnt matter which party she was playing a go-between.It just matters that she was.

Ajith said...

I agree with Esoteric sir. The very conduct of Barkha on that program reveals that she had more to hide than to reveal. It could be her personality, but she did not strengthen her credibility by snapping back at everything that got asked. A senior journalist and a Padmashri award winner needs to have greater civility in public discourse

Shael Sharma said...

Really well written, objective assessment. One word: Credibility!

Broadway said...

"The programme on the recent allegations against Barkha Dutt, the well-known anchor of NDTV, aired by the NDTV on the night of November30,2010, was not satisfying"
>Check
----------
"They should have chosen the BBC's Hard Talk format involving a one-to-one hard-hitting discussion between Barkha and a senior, eminent journalist."
>Karan thapar went to arun shourie only after barkha dutt published her so-called "explanations" on the ndtv website
----------
"two have received the maximum adverse attention - Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi"
>No one is asking to put barkha and vir in jail. As journalists, they had act neutral to come out as credible. People had their doubts on barkha for a long time. This tapes finally allow them to present that case.
----------
"Barkha is a highly successful TV journalist with a large circle of admirers and critics"
>So does "india tv". Many love it and many hate it. Why make a statement like this, ramanji?
----------
"Her contribution to making Indian TV journalism reach great heights has been immense"
>Growing old as a teevee anchor for a teeve channel doesn't automatically relate to contributions to teevee journalism of great heights. She has managed to collect a set of fans and ran with them for a long time.
----------
"Her stories on the so-called Hindu terror have added to the enemity against her"
>She says a lot of things on teevee that need scrutiny. In one such session, she calls the people of gujarat "historically effete".
http://www.newspostindia.com/2010-11-20-tapes-emerge-ndtvs-barkha-dutt-insulting-gujarati-people-on-air
----------
"Her critics and detractors jumped at the opportunity provided by the tapes in an attempt to put her on the defensive, destroy her credibility and damage her professional reputation"
>If she had been working for network in the US of A, her ass would have been fired right away.

Vipul said...

Very well-written sir, and you've raised some very valid questions. My question is: "Can we trust Barkha's objectivity any more?"

Gandaragolaka said...

Why double standards? Why show tapes of personal life of nityananda swami and not Barkha?

If you are a public figure and my role model, I would expect you to be squeaky clean and not do stuff that even raises whiff of doubt.

I think we can safely assume that she has lost the right to act holier than thou and morally superior than the person she interviews.

However, I hope this is just the beginning of the end of "media-mafia".

Jai said...

Mr. Raman,
Four points which could have been made / articulated better in the debate…
1. Apart from what Open or Outlook said - the “Barkhagate” was a creation of the masses… not some single persons / a small group out to get BD
2. Manu Joseph raised a valid point of why the Radia tapes story of May 09 was not covered - this is to my mind one of the most important issues.
3. What Swapan D was trying to drive towards was also important - is she biased towards the Congress - "tell the viewers the truth about your allegiance - ideological / whatever"
4. To say that she was playing along with Radia - stringing her source - you may do that with the many people in Delhi - but not with the person who can pick up the phone and call Ratan T / Mukesh A - the person surely carries far more weight than many other who BD hangs around with…

A point which nobody raised (perhaps it would be a personal question?) - since when did she know Radia?

Even if this rattles her enough to get some balance into the NDTV programming I will be very happy.

Jai

Broadway said...

"Barkha's reply is that she did not let herself be used by Radia, but she was using her contacts with Radia to collect information about the DMK"
>Collecting information, my foot! DMK using lobbyists to push the congress was a much bigger story and both vir and barkha knew about it but chose to ignore it.
----------
"This is an unkind question---- as unkind as asking N.Ram"
>You talk as if the critics view n.ram as a man of credibility and integrity. Take a look a round on what the people have to say about "the hindu". N.ram is no benchmark as you make him out to be.
----------
"Many journalists, who are throwing stones today at Barkha, had themselces acted as intermediaries"
>The whole vir-barkha story is being blocked by the print and visual media. It took karan thapar and arun shourie to break the ice. Just now, headlines today has started covering it. Most of the networks are still making vague references and nothing more. I do not like this notion that it is normal since most journalists do it.
----------
"There is nothing inappropriate or unethical in Barkha's writings, reportage and actions"
>What a journalist should and should not do is open for interpretation and subjective in nature
----------
"Her explanation should be accepted instead of trying to fix her through an inquisition"
>She denied that she was passing any messages. That put the onus on her even more. As shourie has said, it would have been better it she had acknowledged what she had done instead of putting out explanations that tighten the noose even further.

Raja Ram said...

Sir,

The real accusation against her is not that she was involved somehow in the corruption scam. There is no evidence of it....yet. the accusation was that she acted as a go-between and an agent for the congress party.

Ms. Radia knew her well and so did Ms. Dutt know Ms. Radia. That much is clear. What is very clear now is that Ms. Dutt is not a Journalist but an agent of the congress party and part of the elite power broker system. That is proven.

We will have to wait for the next viel to fall on her. That she has monetarily benefited from this or benefitted in some other way. For that there is no smoking gun yet.

What the tapes establish is that Barkha Dutt is a news merchant and an agent for a political party.

No matter what defence is sought to be raised by people of eminence like you (for whatever reason)cannot let her escape from this.

She is not the only one in the same spot. There are quite a few others - Vir Singhvi and Karan Thapar included. Many more have been exposed in this tape, and some not yet exposed.

My only hope is that you are not amongst this cabal. Your defence of this unworthy lady of low integrity and competence is unbecoming of you sir. And may I say unexpected as well.

Social said...

Good defence, sir, but you are defending the indefensible. When Ms Dutt herself admitted that she was "gullible" and "not skeptical enough" in allowing herself to be used by a corporte-political lobbyist, what then are you defending? It's not her personality that's under debate, nor her journalism, but the fact that she over-stepped the thin line between journalism and power-brokering.

Ram said...

Mr Raman,that you now choose to defend a congress party fixer, indicates that even your own political predilections stand exposed.

Broadway said...

This is a summary of the 5 tapes. Go figure out yourself

The conversations are sometime after the 2009 elections and before the formation of the UPA coalition. Radia has good contacts who update her about every little thing.

Tape 1: Radia and barkha are talking about a fresh rift between DMK and UPA. This rift was caused by DMK member baalu who revealed to the media that DMK has withdrawn support to the UPA. This has angered manmohan singh. Barka asks radia for some suggestions to proceed further wrt congress. Radia tells barkha to convince the congress to talk to karunanidhi directly but in private because she claims that k-nidhi is intimidated by his party-men like baalu and maran. She suggests expulsion of baalu. The two then talk about cabinet seats. In the side, congress has said something about maran which radia points out. Barkha tells radia that NDTV has stopped airing that particular footage.

Tape 2: Radia tells barkha that congress(particularly, the PM) doesn’t plan to give infrastructure portfolio to maran or baalu and that those two have been informed about it. But the two have withheld that particular info from k-nidhi. Radia tells barkha to instruct the congress to convey this withheld info to k-nidhi through kanimozhi. Barkha assures radia that she will meet gulam nabi azad(congress leader) at the PM’s residence and tell him about what needs to be done. Kanimozhi tells radia that DMK party-men are no longer updating k-nidhi on the day to day events.

Tape 3: Barka has had long chats with unknown congress leaders. She tells radia that the congress is now ready to take maran, raja or whoever. The congress has promised barkha that they will send ghulam nabi azad to talk to the DMK men. Meanwhile, the DMK men are undermining k-nidhi orders again. K-nidhi’s daughter, kanimozhi is the only one that follow his orders. She has been instructed to leave the city @ 5pm. In tape 2, ghulam nabi azad is supposed to meet kanimozhi. Barkha calls azad and informs kanimozhis plans of leaving the city.

Tape 4: Navika kumar on timesnow thinks that congress will not give anything to maran, raja and baalu. Barkha asks radia whether navika’s assertions are true. Radia tells barkha that navika is wrong. They then talk about maran, raja and baalu on which cabinets they demand.

Tape 5: K-nidhi previously instructed dayanidhi not to attend the swearing in ceremony. Dayanidhi claims that congress leader ahmed patel had specially requested him to attend. Barkha privately enquires with patel about it but patel says that he never forwarded such a request. K-nidhi tells dayanidhi in his face to join congress. Dayanidhi does not attend.

Sawant said...

If we don't take action now, we'll settle for nothing later.

If we settle for nothing now, then we'll settle for nothing later.

Esoteric said...

Another fact to ponder over is this Radia's influence which is disproportionate to her knowledge and resources.(Refer: Nira Radia profile-http://cplash.com/post/Her-Sinister-Ring-Tone---Niira-Radia318.html)

Her working at Scotland Yard and subsequent 'landing' in India is suspicious at the very least. Why big time businessmen and journos not asked tougher questions of her ascendancy?

Onto Barkha, this isnt the first time she has been found wanting on the integrity front. Kargil is a good example.

You havent defended Vir Singhvi.Why?

Dinesh PC said...

Mr Raman - this is very disappointing coming from you. There is absolutely no objectivity in your views - one wonders why would you try to defend someone who has simply no defense herself?

Just because very journalist in Delhi does the same as Barkha Dutt did, and that you are in the know of this, does not make us common people to absolve her.

She should be made accountable by stepping down from her role as a journalist - it may be her ill luck that tapes of her in conversation with Radia were leaked by whosoever.

Barkha Dutt can embark on an investigative journalistic spree finding the culprit - but there is no reason for her to continue as NDTV English News Editor anymore. She has lot credibility and complete trust of the viewers.

Sawant said...

Kanchan gupta on twitter has this to say about this post by b.raman
----
What does Barkha got to do with 'strategic analysis'? Why's B Raman wading into the spat?
----
http://twitter.com/#!/KanchanGupta/status/9854982773805056

Venkat said...

This is journalistic unethicality and to some culpability But Barkha is not a a proper journalist A TV anchor running with confusing views to all debaters.Not a single session of her is clear and perspicuous.Even in the Radia tapes she does not get any newsy info.actually talking on manipulative actions.
Raman cannot appreciate this non-journo as a political journalist.Even her coverage of Kashmir and even 26/11 were drab and lacked any journalism.She is eulogized too much.Her connections have been used by her to profit by way of news and otherwise.I know many journos who cover Bank functions and get closer to get Bank loans for various purposes.Here she has mixed her personal life and so-called TV anchor prominence with the conversations.Hence it is very far fetched to call her a journo in the correct sense of the term.Her party leanings are well-known and biased.

MohanaSundaram said...

Haven't expected Barkha losing temper. And she didn't respond properly to the question of why she didn't make involvement of Radia with DMK as news. She let her followers like me down. I agree that she is hiding a lot.

Sarang said...

Sir, only one question:

WHY are you defending Barkha Dutt?

s said...

Well are we to believe what both vir and bdutt say! (that they were stringing the source along to get the inside story, by claiming that they will speak to the party heads/ write in a column as instructed). Now how can we believe that radia, who is a corporate lobbyist for no other than tata's, is so stupid and gullible that she believes bdutt is telling her the truth and also that she is so naive to not know that she is being "carried along" to get the news. Will a lady of such power and position not be in the know if these journos are credible (and reliable) or not? And radia has long used media to get her messages published / aired... is she so stupid to talk to these people who can get a scoop and become hero's overnight? she knows and KNOWS too well that they are precisely what they are- go-betweens and message relays between lobbyist/corporates and the party. PERIOD.

King said...

Dear Mr.Raman,

Your analysis is incomplete.

Why BDutt was in touch with Radia is elementary. ("source")

The real question is why Radia was in touch with BDutt. The reasons could be:

1. Radia was aware of the effective power brokering activities of BDutt with Congress.

2. Radia had/has used BDutt to implant stories to tilt public opinion in favor of her corporate and political clients.

3. BDutt is her bosom friend.

Sentences like "No one is accusing BDutt of corruption" is not acceptable. How do you know? How do you know unless you investigate her financial transactions as well verify her past activities?

Ganesh said...

Mr. Raman, while I have no comments on your stout defense of Barkha, I do enjoy reading your comments on N.Ram. You might have added a few extra lines as follows:

...is as unkind as asking Ram why he covered the Beijing celebration of communists grabbing power, (a festival to which ordinary chinese were not invited but select few including Ram were invited) in such glowing, propagandist terms? Do such pro-commmon-man journalists not usually talk of deprivation an d poverty when asked to cover such events elsewhere?...is as unkind as asking him who pays for such trips...is as unkind as asking Ram why his coverage on DMK affairs including the mysterious split with Kalanidi and the equally mysterious patch up and the multi-thousand crore business empire run by the family so muted and devoid of any adverse remark?...is as unkind as asking Ram why his coverage of Tibet or Xinxiang is even worse than coverage in Hongkong media and why is trying to be more Chinese than the Hongkongers?...is as unkind as asking him why he is Xinhua's most faithful parrot in India? is as unkind as asking Ram why he has not covered the rape and devastation of Nandigram by Stalinist goons?

There could be dozens more...

AjaiJose said...

I read this site more for information rather than the analysis. The Analysis is always lopsided leaning towards congress viewpoint.
This post defending Barkha is just proof to clear the doubts i had.

Well keep writing on the information, the (Congress) Analysis from you is not really being appreciated. Which I guess you know and nothing new here.

Pathless said...

I just watched the NDTV program with Barkha Dutt trying to defend herself. In the panel were some journalists including the one who published the tapes.

I can't believe the charade that is going on!! The dynamics between the other lady from NDTV and Barkha is that of one sister helping another to confront a brother-in-law after a fight. I cannot understand how the other journalists in the panel agreed to come in this program.

I also cannot understand the naivette of the NDTV management. To air such a show on TV shows that these guys are green horns or they are so arrogant that they don't care. If they are trying to defend her reputation, that is un-defendable. Any moron knows that. Ir is it Barkha's ego. Is it that big?

Canary said...

Is the post in the defense of Barkha Dutt or to attack N Ram. Sir, you could have directly hit at Ram directly and not under the garb of defending the indefensible.

Your point that too much focus is on her is correct but to suggest that her coverage of Hindu terror may be a reason for that is too far-fetched. Perhaps, you have some exclusive information regarding this. If yes, would request you to share that in the next post.

One can question the motive behind leaking selective tapes but the conversations are self-explaining and there is no doubt that her credibility has taken a huge beating.

A Kumar said...

Good balanced article, a little too much if I may say, despite the feedback from FINANCIAL EXPRESS.

I understand the urge to stay balanced, but to bring a strawman like her supposedly "anti-national/anti-hindu" credentials dissapoints me. It shows you are trying too hard sir!

bharat-2020.blogspot.com

Raj said...

Your earlier post regarding Barkha Dutt was highly appreciated. Every sensible person knows that you were merely defending the indefensible by defending Barkha. But, you cleverly attacked N. Ram which was well done.

Clearly, the Hindu, the Open, the Outlook, and the Tehelka comprise leftist media, and I appreciate your clear understanding that they are the biggest evil. Your post undoubtedly hits them the hardest.

Let me be clear. Any intelligent person would understand that your defence of Barkha was deliberately fake and was with a purpose(and also satirical to somebody who really knows your gifted mind). You are truly a modern day's Chanakya.

yakjah said...

A losers lame defense

Shashank's Redemption said...

I am sure you want to make a case for her. But when a person like Barkha, who has a tremendous reach and ability to influence a whole class of people, you have to be responsible. If you report on others with impunity, you gave to realize that you are liable to be reported. She makes no bones about blasting Hindus and brandishes about safron brigade being murderers. But when LeT or Alquaida attack, she comes out before anyone has even reported any reactions to say that terror has no religion. This should tell you that she ia not an objective or even an honest journalist. Now she has been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. In any other country, her career will be history and her freedom will be under judgement. Welcome to a country wherr leadership is outsourced and media is bought.

Karpe said...

Raman's article on Barkha is a huge favour to me as I need no longer read his articles.One more idiot I have scratched from my reading.India is in dire straights because it has no inteligentia which can drive its moral values.The word "morals" I use in the context of honesty and probity to one's chosen profession.There are many in influential places like raman pimping around and the contiuned dominance of pimps in public spehere will be the death knell of this country.

SM said...

Sad Mr Raman that you are defending Barkha.I dont think because of jealousies, people are after Barkha. She is arrogant, intimidating and a bully. I never expected you to succumb to Barkha and her cohorts lest they paint you with adverse comments. People in general keep the media on right side apprehending a tacit blackmai. I never thought Mr Raman too fell in this category!

satangrey said...

well as you have rightly pointed, it should have been legally pursued whether journalists and politicos were complicit in "structuring" cabinet appointments, but wouldnt it b fair to say that in the past many a characters have been slaughtered by the same media personalities without the cases being followed up in court. frm what has been published does it look like "cultivating" sources.we expect our journos to b unbiased as we expect our politicians to b honest.

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