Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radiagate: Not just a scam in Indian media

Reproducing from The Morung Express (Ref.)

The synchronized display of conscious media brownout on Radiagate issue, since the Open Magazine exposed tapes or Outlook Magazine brought the transcripts of conversations between corporate lobbyist Ms. Nira Radia and prominent media professionals e.g. Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi
to public,
was unforeseen in a democracy like India. Similarly, it raised millions of eyebrows as the accused ones preferred silence without contesting the veracity of facts. A sad era indeed not just because the influence of corporate-politician-media-bureaucracy nexus on Government decision-making including ministerial portfolios became evident but more due to the fourth pillar of democracy remained muted, perplexed.

The first pens about the spine-chilling revelation rolled on after three days passed by on the pages of foreign press when the Washington Post reported ‘Indian journalists accused of secretly helping politicians, businesses’ or the Wall Street Journal blogs ‘Does the Buck Stop with Barkha Dutt?’ on Nov 22nd or the Gulf News said ‘Indian media's high and mighty on wrong side of scam’ on Nov 23rd. But the most assuasive act was visible on the part of aware, younger Indians on the web. Internet savvy citizens, cutting across provincial and all social compartments, outbursted against accused media and corporate lobbyists on Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and other social networking forums, proving again that younger India has no appetite toward corruption and supressio veri.

Amidst a section of Indian mainstream media still ignoring voices of these ‘pajama-bloggers’, world views started shaping up and getting registered on many more global journals like Chicago Independent Press, the Arab News, Indonesia’s TempoInteraktif etc. The Khaleej Times of the Middle East terms these media persons as ‘middlemen’. Indian mainstream media had to bow down to the immense pressure of punitive opinions on international press and by Indians on www. The most vocal against infiltration of corporate and political lobbyism into free press of India has been the Hindu and lately but surprisingly the CNN-IBN.

Manu Joseph of the Open Magazine, N. Ram of the Hindu and Vinod Mehta of Outlook have taken open and robust positions against this collusion of the ambitious section of media with political and corporate lobbyists as something ‘out of line’ in journalism, which has been otherwise justified as ‘quid pro quo’ earlier by Ms. Barkha Dutt herself. A few lines from the transcripts (Source: Outlook Magazine) are enough to judge whether this is quid pro quo or a gross misuse of journalistic access.

“Who Do You Want Congress To Talk To? Karunanidhi? I’ll Speak To Ahmed Patel” – Vir
“What kind of story do you want?” – Vir
“Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them (Congress)? Tell me what should I tell them?” – Barkha
“Theek hai, not a problem. That’s not a problem, I’ll talk to Azad (Ghulam Nabi Azad)—I’ll talk to Azad right after I get out of RCR (PM’s residence)” – Barkha
“No, you see Congress’s condition is Baalu should not get surface transport. Not Baalu, DMK should not get surface transport, beyond individuals right?” – Barkha
“Nahin ho sakta. Nahin, nahin, nahin, if Baalu gets the Heavy Industries and Alagiri is in the Fertiliser, according to …. Baalu gets Fertilizer; Alagiri gets this thing, Health” – Barkha

Ms. Nira Radia, through her Vaishnavi Communications and other PR agencies lobbies for the Ambanis and the Tatas to the government. There is nothing wrong in lobbying or marketing for a corporate entity to the government using transparent machineries. But her conversation tapes do unveil the hidden and illicit aspect of lobbyism where her along with her media friends’ role in the appointment of Adimuthu Raja as telecom minister is almost proved. Needless to mention, Raja’s recruitment as telecom minister came with a term plan to tangibly benefit Radia’s clients who aspired to establish Telecom Empires in India. Conspicuous conclusion floats up – Raja as the telecom minister was not a natural choice but was an influenced decision.
In her rebuttal, Ms. Dutt has expressed her frustration stating journalists often use their information sources like this and Manu Joseph does not know ‘how cabinets are formed’. And no surprise she was countered again by the only free voice left in India – the netizens’ voice. One of the 100+ re-tweeted responses to Ms. Dutt’s remarks is:

“Manu Joseph doesn't know how cabinet is formed says barkha. True how will he know. You lobbied, not him”
(Preferred not to reveal the user’s name/identity here)

In this whole episode, there has been the defeat of a sect in media for ‘breach of interest’, ‘crossing the line’ and ‘defending the indefensible’. And clear winner are those young Indians on the web who mobilized mass opinion against corruption. To mention, these netizens of India also did not show any stint of lethargy to bring Shashi Tharoor down to ground when his nepotistic involvement in Kochi IPL case came into public; who, hitherto, was the Indian with the largest number of fans online became a fallen star overnight. They drew the new silverline of hope on Indian firmament when legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy and media have failed to retain trust of ‘the demos’ in this democracy.

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