Conscience – Clear as mud

Amitayu Sharma
Amitayu Sharma
“Oh God! So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?”… “What am I accused of?”… “Judgement is fixed”… “What story do you want me to do?”… Yesterday we saw Mr. Vir Singhvi experience a “conscience clearing” experience. For the uninitiated, the symptoms leading up to this life altering experience can be traced to that moment when the high and mighty during the normal course of business start conducting themselves in a shadowy way forcing authorities to expose them. The more corrupt and murky the proceedings, the greater the impact of this soul cleansing exercise. This process of “Conscience clearing” peaks when the protagonist is forced to resign or abdicate in the presence of overwhelming proofs of his wrong doing.

Thus, Mr. Vir Singhvi joined Mr. A. Raja, Suresh Kalamadi and Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas amongst the select few who have gone to the town advertising their deeply personal experience. So, we saw a thoroughly chastised Mr Vir Singhvi, who gave an impression of someone who has been rattled to the very foundations of his being, seeking forgiveness from all and sundry.  Indian journalism cannot, even if it tried its level best, now descent further. It has hit the absolute nadir and has now successfully checked itself right and correct on all the low lying parameters of journalism.

The largest and the most reputed media house openly seek favors in cash or kind to publish biased opinion or promote a political party. Many so called reputed and senior journalists who are supposed to be upright, be loud and clear with their views, sadly salivate and obsequiously trot after PR heads, promoting themselves as the best player of Chinese whispers. They are keen to perform the role of king and queen makers in the corridors of power. They use their newspaper columns to manage and swing public opinions to promote a business house interests. The media will now do anything to up their ratings, journalism it seems is secondary, and money making is primary.

Mr. Vir Singhvi, was caught on tape and exposed as taking dictation from Niira Radia, a PR consultant, representing a powerful business house, on the form and content for his next newspaper column. He acquiesced by dishing out a “verbatim” write up. He also promised to speak to Rahul, of the Gandhi fame not Dravid, and a certain Sonia, again a Gandhi. However, he after undergoing recently through a “clear Conscience” process has now retired, according to him “temporarily” from presenting any further counter- points. We understand his circumstances, writing columns that are honest and original, needs lot of effort and thinking, especially now that dictation taking is a big no-no.

Then we have Ms Barkha Dutt, the patent holder of “error of judgments”. NDTV tried to redeem itself by inviting senior journalists to question Ms Barkha Dutt’s conduct. Sadly, only Ms Dutt was unaware that this open house was to discuss her conduct not to explore the philosophy that journalists need to subscribe to. She seemed more intent in exploring the different schools of thought that existed in God’s world, rather than answer questions honestly.  She made an error of judgment by not realizing that she is now fighting for her career and must take responsibility for her wrong doings.

Simmering with anger, seething with barely concealed detestation and disdain for her senior journalists, she at that moment would have warmed the cockles those who believe in taking things outside to settle the scores one on one, using the ancient Indian martial art form of Kalarippayat.  It appears that she was restrained in her seat by nuts and bolts or else the entertainment value of that live unedited telecast would have shattered all TRP’s put together. That, right there was an error of judgment by NDTV.

Her quest for information had not diminished. She wailed and implored to Niira, “Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?” While she regaled Niira Radia with an open ended question, here in front to senior journalists she gave them a multiple choice question to quench her thirst of knowledge. What is it that she is accused of? a) Lobbying b) Corruption c) Not doing her journalistic duties honestly d) Power broking e) Hobnobbing with non political PR professionals for getting political information f) Lying to hitch and reel in an unsuspected source for a story g)being haughty and not apologizing?

Then we have Mr Prabhu Chawla. Definitely cut from an unusual cloth, woven of incredible threads. Senior most of all, maybe it is his extraordinary life experiences that made him the person that he is today.  In his conversation he comes across as an enduring detractor of all humans in general and the Ambanis in particular and sees no luster in character or conduct in either. No light weight himself, Mr. Prabhu does take the form of a comparative David based on the Goliath like adversaries he unfortunately picks up. The Senior Ambani, he tells us, is stagnant in fact backward looking in thought belief and action, the junior Ambani, though of a rapid countenance, fails to pass muster and is privileged with choicest of expletive that Hindi language has to offer. After negating the most powerful brothers in India, he moves on to pass judgment on the most powerful institution of India, The Supreme Court.

The judgments’, he says convincingly, are fixed at Supreme Court level. A phone line in London, as per him, still holds the power to move the unmovable.  On top of that he is bristling and hot under the collar and wants us to believe that he has done no wrong. Clearly, the “Conscience clearing” wringer is yet to cleanse him. But, then, Mr Chawla never had a game changing dignified style that young aspiring journalists will look forward to ape. Yet, he is the very tome of what – not – to- do – as- a journalist. Whether he decides to hang his boots is entirely his decision, viewers have already hung up on him.

All three cases above are just the tips, a slice of what we think that hides more underneath. The journalists themselves have to figure out to what standard they want to adhere? Whose bidding would they do? In case Ms Dutt is still having trouble putting her finger on what she is being accused of, we the general populace can help. All she has to do is stand in front of mirror and take a good look. Peer in her soul. As for us, out of the options listed above in her multiple choice question, she undoubtedly qualifies for “all of the above” option.

In case she again comes face to face with another “Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them” moment, here is the plain answer – she must tell them, whoever they are, that she has now stopped compromising her values, and have steeled herself against taking directions from people with glaring conflicts of interest and is constantly working on not taking the easy route of lying through her teeth to spin a yarn for a source to get hold of a story. Lying, as a first grader will enlighten her, is not good.

Story is not important; it is the values and people who are important. A life circling around career promotion is a wasted life.

She cannot afford another judgment of error, or later, any amount of errors she might make, none will care. Another thing that journalists must practice as normal course of practice is of not trying to pull wool over the eyes of others. Ms Dutt you are advised to please contact Lalu Yadav and Paswan to understand what we just talked about.

Amitayu Sharma

Free Lance Journalist


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