न्यूयार्क टाइम्स में बरखा – नीरा प्रसंग पर स्टोरी

न्यूयार्क टाइम्स के न्यूयार्क एडिशन में 4 दिसंबर 2010 को पेज ए-10 पर एक स्टोरी प्रकाशित हुई है. नई दिल्ली डेटलाइन से यह स्टोरी न्यूयार्क टाइम्स संवाददाता लिडिया पॉलग्रीन की है. शीर्षक है- A Journalist in India Ends Up in the Headlines. स्टोरी बरखा दत्त और नीरा राडिया प्रसंग पर है. बरखा के प्रतापी अतीत और संकटग्रस्त वर्तमान के बारे में स्टोरी में काफी कुछ बातें कही गई हैं. साथ ही एनडीटीवी पर बरखा के मसले पर लगी संपादकों की अदालत का भी इस स्टोरी में तफसील से जिक्र है. न्यूयार्क टाइम्स में प्रकाशित उस स्टोरी को साभार लेकर यहां प्रकाशित कर रहे हैं.

A Journalist in India Ends Up in the Headlines


December 3, 2010, NEW Delhi

ALMOST any night of the week, Barkha Dutt can be found under the harsh glare of television lights, asking tough questions and demanding frank answers. But last Tuesday Ms. Dutt, the most famous face of India’s explosively growing 24-hour cable news business, found herself the subject of the kind of grilling she normally metes out.

Before a jury of four of her peers, she parried questions and struggled to control her anger. It was, perhaps, the toughest interview of her career. Caught on tape talking to a corporate lobbyist, she stood accused of cozying up to the powerful people she should have been covering and agreeing to pass messages to the governing Congress Party.

“It is an error of judgment of enormous proportions,” thundered one of the panelists, the editor of Open Magazine, Manu Joseph.

India’s vibrant and hyper-competitive news media have been celebrated as a great success story. They have played a vital role in exposing corruption, highlighting India’s growing inequality and rooting out abuses of power.

Ms. Dutt, as the 38-year-old star reporter and anchor of the biggest English-language cable news network, has become the most recognizable face of this media explosion. But the scandal threatens to undermine the reputation of members of the news media as guardians of the world’s largest democracy, and Ms. Dutt has found herself, fairly or not, at its center.

The controversy revolves around recorded phone calls between a corporate lobbyist, Niira Radia, and a wide range of Delhi’s powerful elite. The calls, taped by tax investigators in May 2009, have exposed a sordid world of deal making and information brokering in India’s capital. Copies of the tapes were leaked to the news media and published two weeks ago.

In the tapes, Ms. Dutt appears to offer to pass messages between Ms. Radia, who appeared to be trying to get a politician suspected of corruption reappointed as telecommunications minister at the behest of her clients, and senior leaders of the Congress Party.

Some critics accused her of acting as a power broker, a charge she vehemently denied. Ms. Dutt says that she was simply stringing along a news source who had access to information on a fast-moving story, and that in any case she never passed on the messages.

Still, Ms. Dutt admits that she should have been more careful in her dealings with the lobbyist.

“I look at some of the conversations, and I do feel I should have been more alert,” she said in an interview on Friday at the studios of her television station, NDTV. “I should have been more skeptical. I should have known better.”

The tapes make for cringe-worthy listening, and many journalists have said they are evidence of a chummy relationship between the press and the powerful.

“The robust Indian tradition of adversarial journalism has been mortgaged at the altar of cozy networks,” wrote Rajdeep Sardesai, another top television journalist, in a column in The Hindustan Times on Friday.

But Ms. Dutt said she had been unfairly made to answer for the failings of a whole industry.

“At a moment when the public gets anxious about the state of the Indian media, I am suddenly made to answer for everybody else,” she said.

Indeed, only a tiny fraction of the recordings feature Ms. Dutt. Many more involve unseemly conversations with some of India’s top industrialists, other journalists and political power brokers. But she has, for better or worse, become the face of the tapes scandal.

Her fame and outsized personality might have something to do with that.

MS. DUTT has been called the Oprah Winfrey of India, but that description both overstates and understates her influence and reach. Ms. Winfrey, best known as an empathetic talk show host, cemented her place in the American media firmament with her shared narrative of personal redemption. Ms. Dutt blends the hard-charging bravado of the young Christiane Amanpour with the feel-your-pain empathy of Anderson Cooper.

Ms. Dutt earned her stripes in the rough and tumble world of hard news. She became famous for her dramatic, you-are-there front-line reports from the battle between India and Pakistan in the Kashmiri town of Kargil in 1999.

Even as those early assignments cemented her reputation as a force in the new Indian media landscape, they also brought tough criticism. During the attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists in 2008, critics said she and other television reporters were excessively theatrical and melodramatic.

Her florid style would be familiar to most cable television viewers in the United States, long accustomed to reporters who put themselves at the heart of the action. But in India, where for decades the government’s subdued broadcasts were the only option, her breathless, from-the-battlefront dispatches were a revelation.

“I have got to find a way to communicate, and I have to convey what I am feeling,” Ms. Dutt said. “I don’t do the two-steps-removed journalism. It works for some, and other people hate it. But it’s me.”

Ms. Dutt has followed in the footsteps of her mother, Prabha Dutt, who was a trailblazing female newspaper reporter, barging her way onto the front lines of the battles with Pakistan in 1965 despite her editors’ reluctance to dispatch a woman to cover a war.

“She was a very aggressive, first-of-her-generation kind of reporter,” said Sevanti Ninan, who is now a media critic running a journalism Web site called The Hoot. Ms. Ninan was a contemporary of Prabha Dutt, who died of a brain hemorrhage when Barkha was 13.

“I grew up as a child of news,” Barkha Dutt said. “When I was 5 years old, I was made to look at covers of Time magazine and identify the world leaders.”

Ms. Dutt has been criticized for failing to recognize that the mere fact that a corporate lobbyist was so deeply involved in trying to get a particular person named to a cabinet post was a story in itself. The lobbyist was trying to persuade the government to reappoint Andimuthu Raja, the politician at the center of a telecommunications scandal that may have cost the Indian government as much as $40 billion. Mr. Joseph, the editor of Open, the magazine that broke the tapes story, called this “the story of the decade.”

BUT reporters in the fast-paced world of 24-hour cable news often miss the forest for the trees, said Mannika Chopra, a media critic.

“They are so eager to get that one bite,” Ms. Chopra said. “So they overlook the big picture.”

The focus on Ms. Dutt has distracted from the larger question of journalistic ethics, said Shoma Chaudhury, a senior editor at Tehelka Magazine.

“This really was an opportunity for the community to get together and do some soul searching” about media ethics, Ms. Chaudhury said. Instead, “it has just become a misogynistic, medieval witch hunt.”

Indeed, some of Ms. Dutt’s most vocal detractors admit they have focused their ire upon her because of her celebrity. Rajeev Mantri, a venture capitalist who frequently writes opinion columns for local and international newspapers, set up a Facebook group called BarkhaGate, though its name has since been changed to India Media Watch.

“I think personally Vir Sanghvi is more at fault than she is,” he said, referring to another prominent journalist caught on tape in the scandal. “But if this thing had been called VirGate, very few people would have caught on to it.”

(साभार : न्यूयार्क टाइम्स)

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Comments on “न्यूयार्क टाइम्स में बरखा – नीरा प्रसंग पर स्टोरी

  • Nayan Sharma says:

    Great…. The Virs and Barkhas of Indian Fourth Estate were doomed to be international anti-heroes of our (fictitious?) democracy, where no free-thinking, independent, harsh media is allowed to sustain….but only intermediary-in-character, secular-in-articulation and above all, media-houses dominated by the people dedicated to the bizzare ideology of shameless dynastic sycophancy are encouraged to be NATIONAL HEROES in the garb of free press. Today, India has to rethink and redefine its reputation as the Mecca of Free Media.
    – Nayan Sharma, New Delhi

  • nilesh rajasthan says:

    my feeling all facts r right.chalo accha hua indian jounaralist ke charche ab usa me Bhi hone lage he. badnam houe to kya hue naam to hua.


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