Friday, March 25, 2011

Tehelka’s biz paper venture has been aborted.

Exchange4Media reports that Financial World, Tehelka’s biz paper venture has been aborted. The decision has been taken because of a funding crunch and many of the senior editors who joined the project has already left the group.

Those who have reportedly left the project according to the report include Executive Editor Prem Shankar Jha, Business Editor Shantanu Guha Ray, Political Editor MK Shukla, Foreign Editor Shastri Ramchandran, and Science Editor Prakash Chandra, among others.

According to a Medianewsline report K.D. Singh of Alchemist group who is a majority stakeholder in Anant Media and owns Financial World title has withdrawn from the biz paper project.

Here’s the letter that’s going around the web and reportedly sent to colleagues by Hardev Sanotra, Managing Editor, Financial World.

Hi. It’s bad news for all of us.

Tarun Tejpal this afternoon addressed the staff in Delhi and in essence said that the FW project was off. He said that efforts were made to make it possible to keep the project going but it was not possible. There were mistakes made in senior hiring, and the planning part of it and it was with deep regret that he was taking the decision not to go ahead with it. He said he would ask everyone to start looking for a job, but that the company would give salaries till end of February if someone does not find a job earlier.

It’s a sad development since we were till recently all charged up to bring out the paper.

The immediate fallout is that we will not be covering news anymore and there would be no updates for the web. You need not come to the office. The salary for Jan will be paid as usual on Feb 7 and the rest of the settlement will be done in first week of March.

There will be a few from the team which Tarun is making effort to absorb in Magazine or Web, but the number may be small.

Some of the staffers here in Delhi have requested Tarun if March salary can be paid too. He said people should try and find jobs, and if some of you are unable to do so even till March, “we will do our best.”

At some stage I will talk to you, individually.

Hardev Sanotra

What caught our attention is the name of journalists who joined this venture.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reply on Tehelka’s “true story” with factual information–“unverifiable information”

This is second one in series of blogs which will evaluate Tehelkas claim with some factual data.

After attacking the cable for “alleged inaccuracies Tehelka now moves on to say  there was nothing in cable to authenticate the claims in cable

Sensational as the cable was, there was nothing to prove whether its claims were true and much of it could have been passed off as empty boast by a low-level Congress fixer arrogating more relevance to him than he actually possessed.

The best way to  measure the value/importance of a stolen good is by gauging the reaction of owner. similarly, US reaction would tell us if the diplomatic cables are of value or not.

So the best method to understand if there is any substance in the leaked diplomatic cables is by evaluating the reaction of US. As soon as the cables were publishes the White House released a statement condemning their release.

"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals."

Is that admission “release of cables would to put peoples life at risk” in itself not an authentication of cables?

Also, Secretary of state Clinton led a frantic damage limitation exerciseas Washington prepared foreign governments for the revelations, contacting leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, France and Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on December 23, 2010 and according to P.J. Crowley, the then State Department spokesperson

“The Secretary and the Minister agreed that unauthorised release of classified cables would not affect cooperation between India and the United States,”

Why would Secretary of state Clinton & SM Krishna agree about serious consequence of the cable if it consisted of “unverifiable information”.

Lastly, 22-year-old intelligence analyst Bradley Manning who was charged with leaking many of these cables is now facing a courtmartial and is under  permanent isolation and confinement for last 300 days! Hardly the stuff you do with someone who released “unverifiable” information!

Having questioned the accuracy & veracity of information in cable Tehelka now proceeds to tell the audience how cash for vote sting operation does not meet the gold standards of sting operation. Thus questionable

Usually, sting operations are the most conclusive form of investigative journalism. The audio-video evidence of wrongdoings leaves little scope of denial or contestation. But, strangely, the cash-for-votes sting continued to be mired in controversies and dubious claims and counterclaims long after it was aired.

Perhaps one reason for this is that the sting was not an independent journalistic exercise and was done in collaboration with a political party. But, there are many other questions that neither the channel nor the contesting political parties—the BJP, the Congress and the SP—have satisfactorily answered till date.

Does tehelka mean to say that sting operation is an exclusive domain of “investigative journalism”? And this facility is not available to a a political party who decides to expose a grave issue. If political parties cannot be involved how exactly Tehelka can carry out a sting operation when whistle blower is a MP?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reply on Tehelka’s “true story” with factual information

Tehelka in their report Cash-for-Votes Scandal: A trap. And a cover-up has claimed that have brought to light “true story of one of the biggest scandals in recent Indian parliamentary history “

Over a period of next few days Media Watch will evaluate Tehelkas claim with some factual data.

At first glance, Tehelka story seems to be narration of the actual incident with some claims sprinkled in between. Following is the first para in which Tehelka made some claims

There were several inaccuracies in this cable that made it problematic. Nachiketa Kapur was not a formal aide of Satish Sharma but a Congress hanger-on who was sacked from service in the past by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury for corruption. The RLD had three MPs at the time, not four. And the Lok Sabha records show that none of them voted in favour of the UPA government.

1. Nothing new Tehelka seems to be repeating the excuses made by congress that Nachiketa Kapur in not a formal aide of satish sharma.

FACTS: Note how the word formal is inserted before aide. Cable 162458: secret never claimed that Nachiketa Kapur was formal aide of Satish Sharma. They mentioned him as “Sharma's political aide Nachiketa Kapur” . The free dictionary defines aide as “An assistant or a helper” and by Tehelkas own admission “Nachiketa Kapur was a political hanger-on” a political helper (or aide) in other words.

2. Then Tehelka claims that he was sacked from service by Renuka Chowdhury  for corruption.

FACTS: Nachiketa Kapur was  OSD to Renuka Chowdhury while she held the Tourism portfolio in 2004, he was then promoted by her as her Personal Secretary when she moved to Women and Child Development. However in 2008, the Appointments Committee of Cabinet turned down a proposal to formalise his appointment as her Officer on Special Duty after the intelligence department gave an "adverse" report against him and remarked that he "should not be considered for any appointment of a sensitive nature." Not only Kapur's appointment was cancelled. it was done with retrospective effect from the date of recommendation as OSD. So it was not Renuka Chowdhury who cancelled his appointment, in fact she had given him promotion!

Curiously, It seems Tehelka forgot to mention that  another senior congress leader Suresh Kalmadi who headed IOA overlooked the recommendation of ACC and appointed Kapur as an office-bearer in the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee. He was appointed deputy director general (DDG), protocol and media, in the CWG OC.   He was even part of OC delegation that visited London as part of the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) ceremonies. How all this is possible if a person was just sacked by a senior leader of same party for corruption – defies logic?

3. Lastly, Tehelka again uses the same argument which congress used that there were several inaccuracies in this cable - RLD had three MPs at the time, not four. And the Lok Sabha records show that none of them voted in favour of the UPA government.!

FACTS: The fact is the cable did not get its fact wrong. Vote count of RLD is mentioned at two places in the cable.

In the first place it cable writes

Behind the scenes, the Congress Party machine is working overtime. Sonia Gandhi reportedly plans to meet Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Shibu Soren and Janata Dal Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda. Retaining the support of JMM's five seats and the JD-S's three seats is reportedly vital to the UPA government's strategy. In exchange for retaining the support of the three votes of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Congress Party has reportedly pledged its support to rename Lucknow's Amausi airport after Chaudhary Charan Singh, father of RLD leader Ajit Charan Singh, who may also get a cabinet seat.

So cable did get the facts on number of seats of RLD correct first time, please note this is a statement made by the author of report itself.

In the second place cable quotes Sharma's political aide Nachiketa Kapur (Its important to understand that here cable is actually repeating what nachiketa kapur said)

Sharma's political aide Nachiketa Kapur mentioned to an Embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh's RLD had been paid Rupees 10 crore (about $2.5 million) for each of their four MPs to support the government. Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government. Kapur showed the Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.

Would it not be possible that instead of cable getting it wrong it was Nachiketa Kapur who got his facts wrong or perhaps even deliberately exaggerating  to showoff that they have required numbers to win the vote of confidence? And in true ‘unbiased’ reporting style reported just repeated what was told to them!

4. Lastly on the issue of RLD members not voting.

FACTS: This risk is acknowledged and mentioned in the cable itself. The cable quotes

Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government.

So even when Kapur was bribing he was aware of the risk that all the MP’s who took money may not vote in congress favour!

This is how NDTV headlines todays happening

This is headlines in NDTV on todays happening.


If you are just an headline reader you can be excused for think today PM reiterated his innocence and he was so relaxed that he even sang a couplet to Opposition Leader Sushma. While it was BJP lead by LKA who thinks being PM is his birthright  managed the sting operation!

Indian Media Didnot report this - Can you recognize the face in the report

The most popular magazine of Switzerland, Schweizer Illustrierte, [dated November 11, 1991] did an expose of 14 politicians mostly despots of developing nations who, it said, had stashed their bribes in Swiss banks. The title of the expose in German read "Fluchgelder - Die Schweizer Konten der Dictatoren". In English it meant, "Curse of money - The Swiss bank accounts of the Dictators". Rajiv Gandhi figured in the expose as one with slush funds in secret accounts. Schweizer Illustrierte is not some rag newspaper. It is the Number One Swiss magazine and sells some 215'268 copies. Its readership is 917'000 - some 15 per cent of Swiss adults. The magazine had mentioned specific amounts in secret Swiss accounts of different leaders with their pictures alongside.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Lies, Lies and more Lies on Cash for votes scam but media just wont expose congress

This entry to Media Watch focuses on  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defense of the UPA government in parliament over cash for votes scandal. Sadly, none of our media has taken the effort to expose the hollowness of arguments forwarded by PM.

In his speech in parliament, PM Manmohan Singh among other things states

The allegations of bribery were investigated by a committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha. The Committee had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery.

Do the committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha reported that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery?

Lets first understand the scope of the committee. This is defined in the Introduction and Procedure section of the report. It states

I, the Chairman of the Committee to Inquire into complaint made by some members regarding alleged offer of money to them in connection with voting on motion of confidence having been authorized by the Committee to submit the Report on their behalf, present this their Report to the Speaker.

It is amply clear that the committee was not setup to inquire in the entire issue of use of money for buying votes during motion of confidence. It was specifically setup to look into complains made by BJP MP’s Sarvashri Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora. So how can PM use findings of this committee with restricted mandate to conclude for all complains of “buying of votes”

Then what did committee conclude?

On the role of Sanjeev Saxena who is alleged to be an employee of Amar Singh- the person who has been charged of being a conduit for delivering the money to the three MP’s committee concluded

As regards Shri Sanjeev Saxena, the Committee are also constrained to observe that there are many loopholes and loose ends in his testimony. He conceded having given the money to the said three members on 22 August, 2008 at the residence of Shri Argal, as he could not have possibly denied the veracity of the tapes provided by CNN-IBN showing him delivering the money. The clarification sought to be given by him in this regard are not at all convincing to say the least.

Shri Saxena was a bribe giver wittingly or unwittingly. He, therefore, does not enjoy any immunity under article 105(2) of the Constitution. Evidently, he did not know that the members were whistle blowers. Hence, he could very well be giving bribe with a view to influencing the members in their parliamentary conduct. Several posers have come up before the Committee…On whose behest Shri Saxena was operating; if it was on behalf of Shri Amar Singh, as alleged—why did he go to BJP office at Ashoka Road—from where the bag of money is stated to have been loaded into his car. Was Saxena hijacked and coerced into completing an operation that had been aborted for a consideration?

The Committee, after taking stock of the situation in its entirety, are of the considered
view that the role and involvement of Shri Sanjeev Saxena in the matter needs to be further
investigated. Since the Committee do not have the wherewithal of an investigating agency,
it would be in the fitness of things if the matter is inquired into by an investigating agency

So unlike what PM stated in Parliament committee did conclude that bribery was given. and also it recommended that matter is to inquired into by an investigating agency. Only thing which committee did not find if “on whose behest he was operating”

In conclusion, it seems that PM is not only not stating the complete facts about the committee report but also using the report of a committee setup to inquire a narrow subject in different context.