Home > News > Is Barkha the only issue here?

Is Barkha the only issue here?

Over the past two weeks there has been an outcry about the latest development in the 2G spectrum scam. People from various walks of life were united in an attempt to seek penalty against those involved in the scam.

On 20 November, Open Magazine carried news about the Radia tapes controversy unveiling the nexus between businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians and journalists. Two senior journalists, Bakha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, were alleged to have employed corrupt means while following the instructions of Niira Radia. Niira Radia, known to have a controversial past due to her connections with various politicians, manages public relations for the Tatas and Ambanis.

Post the disclosure and online distribution of the Radia tapes, thousands of netizens have not only accessed the tapes but have also expressed their viewpoints through social media, blogs and online websites. Soon after this, the print and broadcast media, which had previously ignored the news, had to break their silence.

Articles began to appear in the opinion columns and discussions were conducted by various news channels.

From November 22 onwards, The Hindu carried various articles about the controversy surrounding the tapes. Initially, it did not talk about the 30 odd journalists involved. A detailed article of the scam by Priscilla Jebaraj was published on the 24 November: ‘The spotlight is on media now. In another article in the Hindu, Siddharth Vardarajan drew a comparison with the movie ‘Matrix’. According to the article, the Indian media should not be forgiven for the blackout of the tapes “What got exposed is so unpleasant that several major newspapers and television channels that normally scramble to bring ‘breaking’ and ‘exclusive’ stories have chosen to look the other way. Their silence, though understandable, is unfortunate. Even unforgivable.”

On 30 December, Indian Express carried a two page article including an interview with the industrialist Ratan Tata. In the interview, he spoke about how the publication of the Radia tapes infringed on his privacy. He initiated legal proceedings against Open and Outlook magazine for publishing his personal conversations.

Many media agencies such as ‘Mail Today’ have hidden news incriminating their own journalists and have taken the easy way out by cornering Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi.

The activities of netizens were also given prime importance in the publications. Times of India in the article 2G scam sideshow: Netizens lambast high-profile journalists said, ‘The people are showing who the boss is. The weapon in their hands is the internet, which, in the last five days, has seen frantic activism against “power brokering” by journalists in collusion with corporate groups and top government politicians.’

On Twitter the scenario had changed. Joji Philip of economic times tweeted, ‘Amongst journos, this was long known! Just that some publication finally put it out on the record!’ Though Open and Outlook magazine faced the flak for not verifying the data and for publishing raw material from the journalist involved, the social media and the online world praised them for their courage.

During the CNN-IBN discussions, Hindu Editor-in-Chief N.Ram and Business Standard Editor Sanjay Baru agreed that the journalists involved had crossed their limits and their journalistic conduct should be questioned.

In the most awaited discussion on NDTV, Barkha Dutt defended herself by stating that she had made an ‘innocent inadvertent error of judgment’. She also accused Open Magazine editor Manu Joseph for framing her on baseless charges.

Though the mainstream media has broken its silence and has reported the Radia tapes, they have failed to cover the main issue that the tapes have revealed: the combined corruption in India Inc. and the government. They seemingly have taken the easy way out by focusing on just one aspect of the issue i.e. the involvement of journalists in the scam and their corrupt practices.

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