Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Emergency, Redux

"THE seer may be guilty", announced the headline of India's major softcore porn operation, known to consumers as "The Times of India", one day. How did the paper's chief porn-content producers, otherwise known as news editors(XX), leap to that conclusion? Based on the Madras High Court's refusal to give him bail, it turns out.

"The seer has confessed to the crime: TN", they proclaimed earlier, as usual right underneath the masthead. That was really a clever one. Not even Bob Guccione(XXX) or Hugh Heffner(XXX) or Larry Flynt(XXX) could have thought of something as equally clever. It was clever because the burden of publishing a denial also -- if the porn operation felt obliged to carry that burden at all -- didn't arise: since the Sankaracharya could not speak to the media, there was no question of a denial.

So I looked forward to today's edition of the said porn operation. Surely, chastised by the Supreme Court's comment that there's nary a shred of evidence against the seer, the porn producers would be forced to admit, underneath the masthead, that:



You guessed right, I reckoned without the editors' perversity. Having produced porn all their lives, they seem to have developed some perversity themselves. Some chap in the paper actually saw humour in what by now even street urchins suspect to be a case of persecution by a vengeful state. The fellow's headline reads: "Senior out, junior in". (If this joker had to report the arrest of Opposition leaders during the emergency, he would probably have said: "Everybody in, nobody out.") There is no mention at all of the Supreme Court's rubbishing of TN's claims; of the court's statement that no evidence has been shown linking the seer with the murder for which he was arraigned and incarcerated in a prison for two months by Jayalalitha's police.

* * *

We have seen the crooked politician. The corrupt, pliant cop. They have been badly needing new members in the club. Enter the rogue journalist.

Dear reader, suppose for whatever reason, you, an ordinary citizen, no Sankaracharya, happen to invite the wrath of Dr JJ. Her police have already locked you up. The media, the eyes and ears of the society, the voice of the voiceless, you believe, will come to your rescue. The intrepid journalist will take JJ to task, you'll hope. Fiery editorials will be written demanding your release. Wherever JJ goes, whenever she addresses the press, she will a face a barrage of uncomfortable questions about you. Roused to indignation by the media's exposure of a vindictive regime's abuse of state machinery, its vicious persecution of an innocent person, the public will demand an end to the atrocity. JJ will get week in the knees. She will bow to public pressure. You will walk free.

Hello, Mr Mungeri Lal!

Perish the thought. The media is in the government's pocket. It eats out of the dirty hands of its police. Swallows whatever they feed it, and vomits it right back on front page. You think you stand a chance? You will be crushed like an insect.

Like I said, they don't even have to be asked to bend. The government gives a signal, like marking the beginning of a racing event, and learned editors furiously begin to crawl.

End of matter.

XX Apparently, The Times of India has an editor for every market, including one for the local fish market. Why do you think it smells like that?

XXX All these worthies are editors of famous pornographic magazines.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Everybody loves a good tsunami too?

Especially media crooks and NGO frauds?

From newindpress.com:

Personal tragedies provide fodder for cameras in Nagapattinam
Friday January 7 2005 00:00 IST

NAGAPATTINAM: Death and devastation have fawned endless photo opportunities in Nagapattinam: the cameras that have landed here do not seem able to have enough of the bloated corpses or the ululating women. In fact, the more the merrier it is for some newsmen and NGOs.

Sample these:

* On Monday, 28-year-old Vijaya (name changed) who lost her husband and two children to the tsunami and has just a three-month-old son to call family, was asked to carry the infant in her arms and ‘‘walk a few steps’’ because a national TV channel thought it would ‘‘set the mood’’ for a report on child survivors!

* A relief worker pulling a decomposed corpse out of the debris at Akkaraipettai on Sunday was asked to ‘‘hold up the body just a little’’ by a vernacular satellite channel!

* On Monday, when a child died at a relief camp, a group of mediapersons landed within half an hour. The family wanted the baby cremated but the pressmen wanted the camera to roll. The baby was placed on a towel on the floor, the parents and a sibling were asked to sit around. Some reporters told the mother to start crying! And if you thought it was just the local media playing purveyors of death, you could be mistaken. Correspondents of foreign networks, both print and television have been eager to latch on. No dignity for either the dead or the survivors of the Asian tsunami who are a different colour and race from the 9/11 victims when news cloaked itself in civility and decorum.

Minutes before one of the mandatory daily press briefings at the Nagapattinam collectorate last week, the correspondent of a foreign news agency was overheard asking a policeman: ‘‘I need a picture of a mass grave. I heard there are quite a few around. Can you show me how to get to one? And what time is the best to go?’’

If you thought that was bad, take this. A woman correspondent who was also volunteering for a Netherlands-based social forum had come with a bag full of stuffed toys. At a relief camp, she handed out the toys and asked the children to smile, even as other children who had no toys watched forlornly. Minutes later, she went on air: ‘‘For the children of Nagapattinam, smiles like these are few and far between... these innocent smiles may not last forever (she motioned the camera to pan towards the toyless), only despair seems to be their lot.’’

On Monday, when the first State-run orphanages became functional in Nagapattinam, a nifty young correspondent of a national news channel cradled a baby on her hip, flashed a smile and ad-libbed: ‘‘Lots of beautiful babies are available here for adoption...’’ You could be forgiven for thinking the tsunami had made the children beautiful instead of rendering them destitute. And then there are the NGOs: a handful of genuine ones but swarms of frauds, mostly accompanied by a videographer who records every food packet handed out, every child cuddled.

All one has to do is to walk into the Nagapattinam Collectorate on a day when any of the top IAS officers are present. One would find the man or woman running the NGO patiently waiting.

The moment the official car drives in, out come both the camera and the smile and after a few handshakes are faithfully recorded for the sake of sponsors and foreign funders, the man/woman’s mission is accomplished.

One such NGO even has a cellphone-toting man stationed at the collectorate to inform whoever it is at the other end when a particular IAS official is driving out to a relief camp. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

As earthmovers scan the Nagai beaches, throwing up more of the dead, the cameras only get hungrier.

Anybody knows which is the 'national news channel' that blabbered on about "beautiful babies"? NDTV by any chance?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Shekhar Gupta and Team: Manipulators, or the Manipulated? - 1

Also: The Hounding of Zahira

LET us, for argument's sake, assume that Indian Express is a newspaper of conscience. We assume that all of Express's assertions in the Best Bakery case were made with no hidden agendas, and with no other motive than to serve public interest. Let us further assume that the said assertions were made in good faith even when they were mutually contradictory, provided the original claims and their contradictions were issued at different points in time.

That is, if Express makes claim X, and then a while later goes on to make claim Y which contradicts X, we assume that the facts available to Express at the moment of asserting X supported making such a claim. In the course of time, other facts come to light, which supercede the older ones, leading to claim Y, which may contradict X.

With this assumption in mind, let us explore Express' role in the Best Bakery case, and see where that exploration leads us to: a strengthening of the assumption, or to a negation of it?

But, you might ask: why focus on Indian Express? Why not on Times of India, India's major vendor of softcore porn (packaged, of course, as infotainment)? The short answer is: Arun Shourie. For a longer answer, please bear with me.

* * *

To begin with, Indian Express was convinced that Zahira Shaikh was initimidated into giving false witness in the Baroda court. The paper was convinced of this beyond a shadow of doubt, with a degree of conviction bordering on that of a religious zealot, as we shall show shortly. So question arises: what were the facts before the paper that led it to this emphatic conviction?

Answer: the anguished cry of Zahira's mother Sehrunissa Shaikh that she trembled in fear in court; followed by Zahira's own "admission" in Mumbai at a Press Meet orchestrated by an alleged NGO that she too did the same.

Indian Express swallowed the Shaikhs' story hook, line and sinker. But of course, it would have done due journalistic diligence to their story before swallowing it lock, stock and barrel. Any two bit journal would have done it, so there is no reason to believe that a paper as serious as Express, a paper of conscience, would not have done it. We are certain that the paper would have deliberated on the plausible reasons for the Shaikhs' behaviour, reasons such as that mother and daughter might have been bribed, or that, even more fundamentally, they were in fact (horror, horror!) telling the truth. A hint of the first possibility even crops up in Ayesha Khan's tete-e-tete with Sehrunissa: Ms Khan asks the latter: did she turn hostile because she was paid off? Sehrunissa responds in the negative, and Ms Khan appears satisified with that denial.

Thus, after weighing lots of options, Shekhar Gupta and his team of conscientious journalists had opted to believe in Sehrunissa's story. The clinching argument that sealed their decision must have been, if we might hazard a guess, that people who saw their own kith and kin burnt alive couldn't possibly be lured by lucre to forsake their shot at justice; ergo, if they claim that they were threatened, they must have been.

Thus born, Express's belief in the Sehrunissa Line turned out to be total, not marred by even a teenyweeny bit of self-doubt or circumspection. The amount of conviction that Gupta's editorialists brought to the aforementioned line can be gauged from the intesity with which they peddled it in the oped page. The paper's editorial the day after it broke the Sehrunissa story was, in part, a mushy slush of maudlin verbiage on the subject of The Suffering of Sehrunissa: if the title bore the quintessential newspaper-of-conscience air, the script was vintage Bollywood:

Sehrunissa Sheikh's reasons for turning hostile indict us all

... try explaining Sehrunissa's narrative in The Sunday Express. In a narrative of intimidation and apprehension, she attempts to explain why she turned a hostile witness... listen to her, and the reasons take shape. She received threats, she says, that she would be killed if she repeated in court what she had said outside...

.. she stood isolated not only from her attackers and their benefactors, but also from fellow witnesses. She feared. For her life. For her daughter's life...

A grandiose statement of Lessons Learnt follows the plugging of this tear-jerker Narrative: the criminal justice system (in Guajarat of course) sucks. There is Fear all over, in the courts as also outside of them:

To understand what Sehrunissa's words mean for our criminal justice system, remember that those legal arguments are tossed back and forth in an atmosphere surcharged with fear. Remember that the reassuring rhythm of legalese is often not carried beyond the courtroom's hallowed precincts by victims of violence. If outside there is intimidation, beyond the safe enclave of the court also lies fear.

* * *

The Indian Express, as we saw earlier, scored a major victory when the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of Best Bakery case in Mumbai. The court bought into the argument that witnesses were intimidated in Baroda, that witnesses will continue to be initimidated in Gujarat, and therefore a fair trial is possible only outside of Gujarat. This was the argument of Shekhar Guptas, the Citizens for Peace and Justice, and of NHRC.

But that is an argument that collapses if you accept the claims of Tehelka's latest hidden-camera job, assuming, again for argument's sake, that:

1) the tapes are genuine; that, unlike in its previous sting, Tehelka resorted to no doctored recording of the proceedings

2) the claims of people filmed in the tapes are true, and,

3) no prostitutes or pimps were used in the operation.

(Indian Express ought to be able to comment on the last assumption, but we digress.)

If the claims of Tehelka's so-called expose are to be believed, then, the case in Baroda court flopped not because the witnesses were frightened into tunring hostile, but because they, of their own volition, without even coming under pressure from the accused, offered, extremely cynically, their crucial legal testimony for a lucrative price. And sold it eventually.

If the claims of Tehelka are to be believed, then, the case in Baroda collapsed not because the court or the prosecutor did a poor job, but because, to repeat, the witnesses, of their own volition, sold their testimony at a premimum.

(Express once carried a story titled 'Biased Bakery'. No kidding. That was the actual headline. The gist of the story was that the Baroda fast track court delivered a biased judgement. The paper's legal eagle Manoj Mitta even laced his manure with special venom for the court's judge: he insinuated that the judge was a "Sangh Parivar" man. So here's helping Express with some more innovative headlines:

Compromised Cake

Premeditated Pastry

Prejudiced Pudding

etc., etc. But we digress again.)

Of course, we are reckoning without the super-smartness of Shekhar Gupta's eagles. One advantage of belonging in a media cartel that comprises the whole of the media is that you can constantly change goalposts without getting challenged publicly for your endless cascade of flip-flops. Having all along advanced the argument that the fast track court's judge and prosecutor must have probed the "fear" factor, Gupta's boys will now nonchalantly contend that they failed factoring in a bribery angle. They will definitely want to know: but weren't the judge and the prosecutor supposed to divine the fact that witnesses were bought over?

Answer: but how? How were they supposed to know it when no less an entity than Indian Express, with all its sleuthing skills and legal eagles, could not suspect it; when in fact, the paper actively considered that possibility and jettisoned it in favour of Sehrunissa's sob story? How were they to know it when the NHRC was none the wiser about it, and even the Citizens for Peace and Justice were blissfully clueless about it? How were they to know a "fact" that could only be unearthed by deploying a crack team of Tehelka commandos, ably assited, possibly, by a couple of prostitutes as well?

* * *

Therefore, assuming that Indian Express is a newspaper of conscience; and also that Tehelka, its "journalists", its hired team of prostitutes if any, are up to no dirty tricks, we arrive at the following balance sheet:

1) Indian Express gullibly swallowed Zahira and Sehrunissa Shaikhs' mischievous claims.

Let us put that in different ways. Shekhar Gupta and team were manipulated by the Shaikhs. They were fooled, scammed and defrauded. Indian Express allowed itself to be made a consummate clown of by a couple of semi-literate women.

Mr Gupta and team must no doubt have felt deeply, deeply embarrassed at this farcial turn of events. Just as embarrassed as the editor of NYT must have been when he learnt that Jason Blair pulled a fast one on the paper, making it a target of public ridicule.

2) By hawking vigorously as verified, confirmed fact that which now transpires to be a misplaced personal belief in the Shaikhs' claims, the paper led its readers up the garden path.

Put in other words, Shekhar Gupta and team, albeit unwittingly, fooled their readers.

3) Launching a campaign for a retrial of the case outside of Gujarat on the basis of the fradulent Sehrunissa Narrative, the paper has cast aspersions on Gujarat's judiciary.

Put in other words, Shekhar Gupta and team have liberally slung mud on Gujarat's judiciary.

* * *

So how did these fellows react when wisdom dawned on them that they were manipulated by Sehrunissa Shaikh and her daughter? Surely, they must have cringed in embarrassment, and profusely apologized to the parties they wronged through their foolishness: their readers, and the courts of Gujarat? Surely, once bitten, they must now have vowed to do solid homework henceforth before peddling as valid another set of politically charged claims in the Best Bakery case?

We turn our attention to these questions next.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Poodle Trust of India

From a PTI report datelined Delhi, December 21st:

Taking serious note of the "sensationalisation" of the MMS sex scandal involving the minor boy of a reputed public school, the Juvenile Court today urged Press Council of India (PCI) to ask the media to desist from identifying juveniles even as it issued show cause notice to a national daily for "violating" the law in this regard.....

Criticising the national daily for violating the mandatory provision of section 21 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Child Act), the Magistrate said "I had seen the text of the newspaper attached with the application. There is a mention of school name time and again in different news item under different headings.

"I am concerned about the manner the reports are made in the newspaper about the incident. The text of the report per se contravenes provisions under section 21 of the Act.

"I deem it just and necessary to issue show cause notice to the publisher, editor and concerned reporter of the newspaper to appear in person on December 24 and give explanation as to why action should not be taken against them for violating the mandatory provision of section 21 of the Act," the Magistrate said in the

The judge only said not to publish the name of the minor involved in the MMS case. But why is the Press Trust of India shying away from naming the publisher and editor of the newspaper that the judge ordered to the court? Surely, these fellows aren't minors?

Guess who is the managing director of Bennet Coleman and Co, the corporate outfit that publishes Times of India, the newspaper that brings us our daily dose of smut, the newspaper that Magistrate Mann castigated?

Guess what is his connection with PTI?

He was formerly chairman of its board of directors, and currently a member.

* * *

And this, from an India Abroad News Service dispatch:

After onlookers and journalists stormed her court Monday during the first hearing, Mann kept all television crews outside the court at the gates and only print journalists were allowed in.

The court also issued notice to the publisher, editor and concerned reporters of the Times of India to appear in person and explain why did they report information which could lead to revealing the identity of the boy.

The court also said that it would consider asking television channels Zee and NDTV to place some records of their reports before it.

"I deem it just and necessary to issue show cause notice to the publisher, editor and concerned reporters of the Times of India to appear in person and give explanation as to why action be not taken against them," said the court order.

"Since no record is before me to support the allegations of violation of statutory provisions by NDTV and Zee, no notice is issued to them at this stage. Prayer of the applicants shall be taken into consideration on their placing on record some material in this regard."

Thank you, Magistrate Mann. What you have done will not make you famous, because you have earned the wrath of very powerful entities in the media. But you've also earned the eternal gratitude of media consumers for paving the way which, hopefully, will lead to ending the smut menace in the media.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tejpal's Connections in High Places

Also: It is indeed effing sleazy, Mr Tejpal

If somebody posts a porn clip on your website -- the site could be something an innocuous as your blog -- there's a mighty good chance that you may get arrested. But supposing you install a hidden camera in somebody's bedroom, and shoot what essentially amounts to a porn video, and then claim loudly that you've done it to expose "corruption in high places", and get sexy media channels like NDTV to give you plenty of airtime to peddle that line, and get your pals and minions in the media to sing paeans to you as the dare-devil hack who took on The System ... if you can manage to do all this and more, well, baby, you're gonna kick butt, Tarun Tejpal style.

Lest we should forget: Tehelka used prostitutes to get stories. Tehelka clandestinely filmed people having sex. And this was long before the "DPS dhamaka" scandal burst on the scene, getting the unfortuante CEO of Bazee.com imprisoned for no fault other than not being vigilant enough.

Get that right. Somebody posting a porn film on your blog can get you in trouble, even if you have nothing to do with the making of that film. But if Tejpal's boys secretly film sex acts, nothing can touch them.

* * *

If you ever happened to catch Tejpal on the Idiot Box -- on, say, NDTV 24x7 or its earlier Star News avtar -- you couldn't have missed his sales pitch: he was into the business of exposing "corruption in high places". He rolled this phrase about his tongue with the nonchalance of a Laloo chewing his pan masala.

That was a clever line. It meant that he was the underdog, in "low" places; taking on the brutal power of the corrupt "high" places. It -- and not the dotcom bust -- also supplied a neat 'explanation' for the folding up of his website. It enabled him to paint a halo of vicitmhood around himself. It allowed him to project what arguably was the sleaziest, slimiest media operation in India ever as a good-faith deception carried out in "public interest".

Just when Tehelka's bluff was about to be called, luck smiled on Tejpal. The (now-disbanded) Justice Phukan (earlier Justice Venkataswami) Commission was to pronounce its opinion on the authenticity of Tehelka tapes. The British expert appointed by the Commission had stated that the tapes were recorded in such a manner as to give the same result as careful editing: that is, switching the cameras on and off at "appropriate" times. He added though, and rightly so, that it was the Commission's brief -- not his -- to say whether this was done with a malafide motive. And so the Commission was seized with the task of forming an opinion on this matter and making it public.

But then the NDA lost power, and Tejpal saw his chance. He became an Intellectual, that little bit of porn-shooting experience in the repertoire of his internet journal's achievements notwithstanding. He co-signed, along with other "intellectuals" such as Harsh Mander and Teesta Setalvad, a "plea" urging the Communists to join the government "at this historical juncture which calls for a creative and constructive initiative from the Left".

Intellectuals ask CPI(M), CPI to join Government

Soon enough, Tejpal's Connections in High Places stood him in good stead. The desired "initiave" came, and the Phukan Commission was disbanded.

A case was foisted on Jaya Jaitley, the soft-spoken yet gutsy woman who refused to be cowed down by Tehelka's high-powered tactics.

* * *

Lest we should forget: Tehelka bribed people to get stories. Cash and gifts were shoved into the hands of surprised people who were not anticipating them. Even its first burst of fame came through what became its running theme: fraud. Manoj Prabhakar, with who Tejpal tied up, went around town with a hidden camera, accusing Kapil Dev of match-fixing. As it turned out, he himself was found involved in match-fixing, as also in a chit-fund scam.

One of Tehelka's "journalists" was arrested for encouraging poaching in the forests of UP. He paid a man to bite the dog, so to speak, and make news out of it. He paid people to kill wild animals. Presumably, the idea was to palm off the video footage of the killing as a true-life recording of poaching.

Sleaze was always uppermost in Tehelka's mind. Its erotica section advised visitors on how to seduce their neighbours' wives. Its report on "Assam sex scandal" was found to be fabricated.

* * *

And with the Phukan Commission wound up, Tehelka is off the hook, forever.

Moral of the story: never let anybody paste a porn clip on your website. But if you must shoot a porn video, do it Tehelka style.

* * *

"It is just so f-- sleazy", Tejpal told a sympathetic Sevanti Ninan back in 2001. Eventhough one was taken aback by the casual use of expletives by somebody as "serious" as Tejpal, one thought then that he was referring to the way the system of defence procurements allegedly operated.

It appears now that the man was so sure of himself that he had his tongues, both of them, firmly in cheek.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"The Entire Case Was Sought to be Reopened by ... Indian Express"

IT appears that Ayesha Khan, an Indian Express staffer, operated usually out of Gujarat. But around 7th July, 2003, she seems to have travelled to Bombay to report on a certain press conference.

In the July 8th edition of Express, this conference was front-page news: screaming banner and the works. It appeared under Ms Khan's byline, not that of any Bombay staffer of the paper.

Why did she get this (what appears to be a) special privilege? After all, if Express front-panged her story, it must have been a big story, and reporters love to see their names associated with big stories. Why were local Bombay correspondents of the paper pipped at the post in favour of the out-of-town Ms Khan?

The reason, Express might claim, is that it was her story. She got the lead on it, so she followed it through. She broke it first from Baroda. As the story moved from there to Bombay, the paper might add, so did she.

On the face of it, it would appear that there's nothing more to Ms Khan's authorship of the said story than this seemingly simple explanation.

Or is there?

* * *

Ms Khan's stories were very important reports, indeed. The High Court of Gujarat took notice of her Baroda report thus:

"... it maybe stated that the entire case was sought to be reopened by an English daily newspaper Indian Express, whose reporter approached Zahirabibi on the next day after the judgement was pronounced, and at that time, for the first time, Zahirabibi came out with a case that they were threatened, therefore, they did not tell the truth before the court."

While the substance of the High Court's averment is correct, the detail, unfortunately, is not. We do not know for sure whether it was "the next day after the judgement was pronounced" that Zahira was approached by Express, and we do not know for sure whether it was she that the paper approached. What do we know, for certain, is that Express approached Zahira's mother Sehrunnisa, and it was she who, for the first time, "came out with the case that they were threatened".

Sehrunnisa must have felt something very reassuring about Indian Express correspondents Ayesha Khan and Abhishek Kapoor, for she poured her heart out to them. And to nobody else. Only Express carried Sehrunnissa's story, authored by Khan and Kapoor. Judging from the front-page, screaming-headline treatment it got in the paper's weekly "big impact" edition, The Sunday Express (of 6th July), it appears that some special planning had gone into it.

* * *

The paper doesn't forget to tell us that it was a tape-recorded interview.

"Dehelte dehelte kaanpte kaanpte jooth bola tha court mein", told Sehrunnissa to our guardian-angel correspondents. They helpfully translate: "Trembling in fear, we lied in court."

But why was she not trembling anymore? What made her gather the courage to tell the truth now, to Khan and Kapoor, the courage that failed her in the court?

There was a profound explanation: because she was approached by Khan and Kapoor!

K&K tell us that they met Sehrunnissa at the latter's house in Ekta Nagar, Baroda. And they offer no explanation as to why they talked to the mother but not to the daughter. Was Zahira not home? Was she in hiding? Did she refuse to speak? Were they not allowed to speak to her? They do not tell us. Strange as it may seem, they make no mention at all of Zahira's absence (or presence).

(Imagine that. You are a reporter. You go to the house of the lead protagonist of a story you're working on. You don't (get to) talk to that person. And you offer nothing to the reader, nothing at all, by way of explanation as to why you didn't.)

Then, when our friendly journalists, whose soothing presence so magically allayed the fears of Sehrunnissa, suggest to her if she would have the Best Bakery case re-opened, she is quick on the cue: yes, she would, if she gets support.

Where Express takes special interest, can "support" be far behind? And so support she gets, barely hours later.

* * *

Which brings us back to Ayesha Khan's big story of 8th July.

Teesta Setalvad's non-governmental (sic) organization, "Citizens for Peace and Justice", called that conference. Zahira Shaikh, whose absence at her mother's interview to Indian Express goes unexplained by the paper, surfaces at this media event.

The paper has special access to Zahira at Bombay. Ayesha Khan met her before the rest of the media got to:

"Hours before she addressed the press, flanked by (CJP's) members, Zaheera told The Indian Express: .. My mother has spoken the truth, we were frightened then. Now we will speak the truth, now we have got the support."

Reporting from Baroda, Ayesha Khan tells us that mother would tell the "truth" if she gets "support".

In Bombay, Ms Khan, meeting the daughter hours before the rest of the media meets her, helps her make the logical ends meet: Zahira reveals that she was about to tell the truth now that she got "support". Everything fits neatly. Almost.

Ms Khan reports:

"After The Indian Express story, Zaheera was moved to Mumbai by the Citizens for Justice and Peace, a local social activist group."

After the Express story?

Let's see. K&K's story appeared in the July 6th edition of the paper. Since our reporter knows it be a verified fact -- there's no mistaking the assuredness in Ms Khan's tone -- that Zahira was moved to Bombay after the story broke, she must have been moved between the morning of 6th July and the hour Ms Khan met her in Bombay on the 7th.

In the course of 24 hours, the Citizens for Peace and Justice move swiftly, covince the Shaikhs of their unflinching support, and succeed in shipping them to Bombay for a special Press conference. The wind of which conference, no doubt, Ms Khan gets earlier than the rest of the media gets, for she ships herself to Bombay to meet Zahira before the conference begins.

If believing all of that stretches your credulity a bit -- especially in the light of the fact that Zahira, in her latest affidavit, alleges to have been forcibly carted off to Bombay at midnight by Setalvad's men -- consider this alternative:

Teesta Setalvad and Indian Express are good, very good, pals. Together, they work to a plan: planting Sehrunnissa's interview first, preparing the ground to "explain" the "turn-around" that Zahira was to effect a couple of days later. Together, they'd try and get a bunch of twice-acquitted people to stand trial all over again.

That doesn't sound credible either, does it? Can Indian Express, a newspaper of conscience, be that devious? Doesn't it crusade for probity in public life?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Order the Top Ten

I'd like to run a poll where visitors could vote by clicking a button, but haven't yet figured out how to do that. In the meantime, here goes.

What is the most corrupt big media entity in India?

1. The Times of India
2. Indian Express
3. The Hindu
4. The Hindustan Times
5. India Today
6. Outlook
7. The Week
9. Star News
10. Aaj Tak