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MANU JOSEPH : NOT AN “OPEN” CASE !

( REVISED ON THURSDAY DECEMBER 2nd 2010. EARLIER VERSION IS RETAINED AND GIVEN BELOW).

By Sanjay Jha

Poor Manu Joseph, Editor of in-the-news OPEN ! He did not read the same taped transcripts ( Radiagate, if you please) that he printed in his own OPEN magazine closely enough on the 2 G scam. Joseph expressed deep anguish at Indian media’s ( and more specifically, NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt ) alleged moral turpitude in having an animated exchange with the controversial lobbyist Niira Radia. For some preposterous reason, bordering on obsession, he was extremely perturbed that NDTV did not choose a headline story that he strongly believed should have been the case when Radia lobbied for DMK politicians in the UPA-2 cabinet allocations. “ The breaking news of the decade” he roared, but honestly, Manu that could be your error of judgment. It is an altogether different proposition that Radia has ensured that the duplicitous title has been since appropriately earned . Either ways, quite a bullying character, this Joseph!

Joseph looked as if he had been morally bankrupted by Barkha’s conversations with Niira Radia. The humongous angst was understandable as was the visible indignation about the negative repercussions of the cozy dialogues on the media fraternity overall. So far ,so good! But he clearly missed the woods for the trees, going forward. . In fact, completely, almost by a long mile. By studiously targeting just Dutt alone, he revealed a petty , puerile and pedestrian attempt to embarrass his TV counterpart in media journalism.

To the full credit of NDTV and Dutt, they took the bull by the horns literally, by inviting seasoned veterans of the print media and newbie Joseph. But Dutt’s indiscretions ( which she politely and honestly acquiesced was an “ error of judgment” ) pale into virtual insignificance when compared to what I feel is several damning statements on those tapes involving some celebrated heavyweights. There is casual talk of a Supreme Court judgment being “ fixed”. Wow! That to me is the most sensational leak as it makes a mockery of India’s highest judiciary. There is NK Singh. Prabhu Chawla. Vir Sanghvi. Ratan Tata. Tarun Das. Several others. One of them is also Mukesh Ambani ( so far only Tehelka has brought up the latter’s cataclysmic explosive statement in its latest issue in an interview , and also Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu).

Ranjan Bhattacharya is quoted as saying that Mukesh Ambani told him “ Haan yaar Ranjan, Congress to ab apni dukaan hai”. Did you read that Manu? Or were you so prodigiously excited to just hear Barkha’s voice on the tape, that you considered the other deadly damaging disclosures as mere cipher-like exposes , pure zilch. Zero-value goose eggs?

Interestingly, Ranjan Bhattacharya is the foster son-in-law of former BJP PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. Ask Arun Shourie for further details as he has explicitly stated how the BJP lobbied for energy tax concessions.

Mukesh Ambani is India’s leading industrialist and on the Forbes billionaires list.

The Indian National Congress party is the party that won India its freedom in 1947 and is currently in power. And which I publicly support, despite its latest predicaments, in the hope that they will somehow belatedly recognize that the bell has begun to toll for them unless there is an extraordinary purge within.

Frankly, if Mr Joseph and Mr Vinod Mehta of Outlook and the rest of the so-far-unaffected media really passionately cares for their fast-dwindling moral fibre, why don’t they just go the whole hog in finding out the exactitude of those loaded statements on the tapes instead of indulging in personality-bashing of their own ilk who are actually just minor distractions, by comparison? Moreover, both Barkha and Vir have already stated their case, at least for the moment.

Is Bhattacharya speaking the truth?

If so, what did Mukesh Ambani mean when he talked about his “ shopping list”. ?

And how does Congress intend to defend itself against that nasty slur?

Why aren’t Outlook and Open’s journalists and others camped outside of Attila on a crusading mission? Or talking to former CII boss Das? Or The Chief Justice of India?

Why does Ratan Tata who has been waxing eloquent on India suddenly think we have become a banana republic just because phone-tapping was necessitated to capture thieves stealing public resources?

In the age of WikiLeaks, shouldn’t this story be a child’s play for a determined values-based investigative media house that Outlook and Open portend to be ? Could this be the ultimate breakthrough in the politician-bureaucracy-business sleazy nexus? Should the Indian media allow this classic opportunity for standing up for India’s common man and the country’s integrity pass by?

Sure, the Indian media needs to do some serious rework in terms of its professional dealings with PR firms, politicians, lobbyists and especially powerful businessmen and super-rich industrialists , but there is more to correcting our moral and ethical imbalance than mere self-flagellation. Clearly, a code of ethics that goes beyond standard platitudes and paid news is mandated. I write this as one who has been part of the digital media world for over a decade. I hope the media does not spend its time scoring brownie points over each other and in lamentable competitive journalism. That will be a massive farce.

Manu, in next week’s OPEN issue let us see you do some real “ breaking news” story that helps combat corruption where it has the real stench instead of wasting blank pages, and also before we watch your agitated countenance mouthing hollow indignation at fellow commentators. While the media does its own cupboard-cleaning there are bigger issues to be addressed. The buck now stops with people like Mr Mehta and you , since you have ardently pushed the envelope. While that is commendable, it is still a semi-finished task. Don’t you agree?

Seriously man, we are waiting! Over the next few weeks and months, Indians will know the men from the boys in the Indian media! And the wheat from the chaff!

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5 Comments on MANU JOSEPH : NOT AN “OPEN” CASE !

  1. Why don’t you take up the issues you rant about instead of spending your whole article bashing Manu Joseph?? Or is your advice only for others?

  2. i too, like you, support the Congress and the UPA – and have been feeling terribly let down by these scams and tapes.
    I also believe that there is a certain boasting’ part to the tapes. we don’t know about reported conversation – whether people as savvy as Mukesh A woud be as indiscreet to say ‘ apni dukan hai’ to a political fixer – knowing that the message will travel back (being taped is secondary). I heard the Tata tapes – and the man sounded bored. A lot of stuff is being attributed to him, as reported conversation – Ratan said or whatever … but I don’t know if he did.
    Finally, unless there is time limit on court cases and a certain degree of closure – citizens are going to lose faith in the system. it is not just about corruption being exposed, and people resigning – it is also about trial, conviction, and penalty. Otherwise people would have just gotten away with a slap on the wrist.

  3. You are being contradictory and hypocritical. On one hand, you are writing about the fact that corporates are corrupt, media is being bought, etc. On the other hand when Manu makes the same argument to Barkha, that Nira’s lobbying should have been reported, you instead defend Barkha? How do you reconcile your two positions?

    Secondly. as someone else said, Manu spoke only about Barkha because he was invited to a discussion only about her. None of the others have invited him in a public forum.

    Thirdly, when I first heard the tapes, it was inconclusive to me since the context was missing quite a bit. However, the fact that *all* the channels did not report the tapes for a week or so, that was a give away that they feared the tapes. It was also amusing how many times they played Ratan Tata’s interview a few days back.

    Fourthly, Vir has put his point across using a blatant lie. Multiple reporters have indicated that he defended himself using an incorrect article reference. Subsequent tapes have shown his unethical behavior further.

    “The Indian National Congress party is the party that won India its freedom in 1947”

    That is the flimsiest reason to support the Congress party! First of all, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, second, ancestors of other parties were also involved in the freedom struggle. Third, what about merit being a criteria?

    Manu has done more than Barkha as far as this story goes. It was upto the tv media to pick on the questions you have raised (about Ambani/Ranjan, etc). The fact that they have not even picked on those questions, shows where the farce lies.

  4. I do agree though that Barkha might just be small fish. And, that nothing has been proved by the tapes because of missing context. However, as I said, the farce was the media blackout and suspicious behavior of the media on the tapes story.

  5. Manu Josef and Vinod Mehta are not a saints and i believe that their magazines OPEN and OUTLOOK have published the leaked tape transcriptions on Congress Party behalf. There are ample evidence that OPEN magazines owner Mr R P Goenka is too much close to Nehru family as is evidence from his website details. He has been the Member of Rajyasabha from Congress ticket and member of at least 3 Nehru family trust.

    OUTLOOK is run by Raheja group and it has its own vested interests. It has rivalry with Unitech, Nusli Wadia and Tata as well as Ambanis. So, it was opportune time for it to go ballistic in this case.

    Congress Party by selectively leaking these tapes and getting published has tried to divert the attention from Govt corruption and shift the goal post towards Media. It knows that it is media that can zero it TRP in public, so it has just bulldozed media before media could have done so.

    Now, the party has only to face a weak opposition India ever had. Thanks God…There is no JP or Lohia or even V P Singh for that sake.

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