There is an established practice in criminal jurisprudence according to which, if a witness is found to be unreliable in one aspect of his testimony then his entire testimony should be disregarded. That such a witness cannot be relied upon in any other case follows as a corollary. But the issue under discussion is not witnesses and criminal jurisprudence but the ‘truth fairies’ of the Indian media. We will revert to the link between the two in a moment.
There was some outrage over DNA pulling out an article written by Rana Ayyub, a former Senior Editor of Telhelka. Her bio on the paper’s site says she had made her bones ‘investigating the Sohrabuddin Sheik encounter case’ as if it was the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize.
The bio uses the word fake to qualify encounter without bothering with the fact that it is for the courts to decide whether the encounter was fake or genuine. Wasn’t that the issue before the courts? Was there a possibility that the police had only returned the fire from a gang of hardcore criminals in which Sohrabuddin was killed? But the truth has never deterred the truth fairies of our intrepid media from passing judgements. Hadn’t they freely bandied about words like ‘genocide’, ‘holocaust’ and ‘progrom’ to describe the 2002 Gujarat riots but refrained from using them while describing what happened in Delhi and other places in 1984, an event which certainly befits the use of such words, or in 2013 in Muzaffarnagar?
Here was what Ayyub’s former comrade-in-arms, Shoma Chaudhury confessed in a 2011 article, entitled Tough lessons about truth-telling
“As far as the eternal dilemma of funding the journalism goes: if anyone knows of a pure fountain of money they are sipping at, do give us membership there too.”
The ‘cash for votes scam’ MPs would have surely agreed! In her article, Chaudhury tried her best to fob off accusations that she and her employers, (i.e. the Tehelka magazine), were ‘ISI stooges’, ‘stock-market scamsters’, ‘Dubai-funded gangsters’ and that the paper’s founder Tarun Tejpal owned a beachfront house in Goa.
Later events proved that on at least one count Chaudhury was short on facts. It was about Tejpal owning a beachfront house in Goa. Quite a few periodicals affirmed that he not only owned a beachfront villa in Goa but also bungalows in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. If anyone had any doubts about how an ordinary journalist acquired property worth several hundred crores on his journalist’s salary, Chaudhury had willy-nilly answered it in her quote. She adds:
“At the best of times, it is difficult to find money for Tehelka’s work and it takes immense ingenuity to keep the flow going.” (Italics added.)
The key lies in ‘immense ingenuity’! It is like Robert Vadra’s business acumen. How would one yearn to acquire at least a fraction of it?
If we are to believe Chaudhury, a hardnosed business corporation like Essar gave Tehelka ‘money with no strings attached’. She was desperately but without much effect, tying to rebut an allegation that ‘Tehelka portrayed that Essar itself was a victim of Maoist extortion in Chattisgarh’.
(As an aside, wind up to the present to understand how ruthless Essar is. The company has ditched investors who stayed with it for long. It has been reporting losses ever since it went public. When at last its books turned green it is planning to delist from stock exchanges, forcing non-family shareholders to sell off their shares to it at a price determined by it.)
By the by, in her article, Chaudhury was fencing with Deccan Herald, The Hindustan Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She accused these papers of picking up a story that originally appeared in Khalifa.org and:
“…each lazily feeding on the story that had gone before, hyperlinking them and perpetuating them as truths without any independent verification…”
Isn’t this exactly how the truth fairies of the secular media have been subverting the truth? Here is the link between unreliable witnesses and truth fairies of Indian journalism. Not only Ayyub and Chaudhury were erstwhile comrades-in-arms at Tehelka but Ayyub resorts to exactly the same malpractices that Chaudhury accused the other newspapers of. According to Chaudhury the Khalifa.org story was ‘low on fact, argument and understanding’. What of Ayyub’s story on Amit Shah?
Ayyub who flaunts the ‘Sohrabuddin encounter case’ in her bio, copiously quotes from the CBI charge-sheet willfully ignoring the distinction between a charge-sheet and a judgement. She cites SIT ‘verdict’. She glibly pronounces a verdict on Shah’s ‘criminal past’. Picking up the label ‘dirty tricks department’ with which the social media described the CBI during the previous Congress regime she pastes it to the Gujarat home department under Shah. Snubbed by one judge after the other, the Congress party dropped the so-called snoop-gate enquiry but Ayyub resurrects it in her investigative article. The characters of Gopal Subramanian and Kamala Beniwal had to be woven into the story. Otherwise readers are likely to conclude that the piece was recycled from old waste.
And now we come to the curious case of the ‘outrage’ from other truth fairy journalists, on the social media. Sagarika Ghose had the cheek to criticize the ‘censoring’ forgetting her own past conduct, when she interpolated pre-recorded clips from an interview with Sri Sri Ravi Sankar into a seemingly live programme. Rajdeep Sardesai who killed telecast of the ‘cash for votes’ sting operation after receiving a phone call from Prithviraj Chavan was equally caustic!
It is not that there was no precedent. Here is Aditya Sinha’s plaintive account of how his paper courted the former Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambica Soni’s displeasure and lost advertisement revenues: Ambica Soni’s adventures in arm-twisting. Ambica Soni acquired her penchant for arm-twisting media during her courtship with the Youth Congress during the emergency regime.
Did Rajdeep Sardesai or Sagarika Ghose or any other journalist who is outraged by the present incident protested then or commiserated with Aditya Sinha? Did anyone protest when Huffington Post removed the story about Sonia Gandh's wealth?
Over-reacting to something the Telugu news channels ABN Andhra Jyothi and TV9 telecast in jest, the Telangana government arm-twisted the cable operators in the state to stop their telecast. The channels approached the High Court and the case is pending. But they remain ‘banned’ in the entire state for over a month now. Not even a whimper in protest from any of the truth fairies including Rana Ayyub!