राम भड़के तो एक्सप्रेस वाले पीछे पड़े

एक्सप्रेस समूह वाले तो एन. राम और ‘दी हिंदू’ अखबार के पीछे पड़ गए लगते हैं. कुछ लोग कह रहे हैं कि देश में अंग्रेजी में दो ही सर्वाधिक प्रतिष्ठित अखबार हैं, एक ‘दी हिंदू’ और दूसरा ‘दी इंडियन एक्सप्रेस’. इन अखबारों के जो सर्वाधिक चर्चित दो नाम हैं वे हैं- इंडियन एक्सप्रेस के एडिटर इन चीफ शेखर गुप्ता और ‘दी हिंदू’ के एडिटर इन चीफ एन. राम. शेखर गुप्ता और एन. राम में अगर तुलना की जाए तो कई मामलों में एन. राम लोकप्रियता में बाजी मारते दिखते हैं. दिल्ली में न रहने के बावजूद, चेन्नई से दी हिंदू की कमान संभाले एन. राम की खरी-खरी लंबे समय तक पाठकों तक पहुंच रही है. वे सिर्फ अखबार के एडिटर इन चीफ ही नहीं हैं बल्कि पब्लिशर व डायरेक्टर भी हैं.

यही बात उन्हें दूसरे मालिकों से अलग करती है क्योंकि देश में एन. राम जैसा कोई और अखबार मालिक नहीं है जो इतना प्रखर पत्रकार भी हो. चर्चा है कि इसी वजह से एक्सप्रेस ग्रुप अब एन. राम और दी हिंदू को निशाने पर लेकर इनकी छीछालेदर करने पर उतारू है.  आमतौर पर मीडिया हाउसों के बीच एक अघोषित किस्म का अनैतिक गठजोड़ होता है कि अपने घर-परिवार में उठा-पटक की खबरें किसी हालत में नहीं छापेंगे. लेकिन यदा-कदा यह अघोषित अनैतिक समझौता टूट भी जाता है. एक्सप्रेस समूह दी हिंदू व एन. राम के परिवार में मची हलचल को प्रमुखता से पब्लिश कर अपने अखबार की छवि मजबूत व पड़ोसी की छवि कमजोर करने में सफलता पाई है. पर जानकारों का कहना है कि एन. राम इतनी आसानी से इंडियन एक्सप्रेस को फिलहाल लीड नहीं लेने देंगे.  

सूत्रों का कहना है कि अभी तक की जो स्थिति है उसमें इंडियन एक्सप्रेस के लोग ‘ दी हिंदू’ व एन. राम को अपनी रणनीति के जाल में फंसाने में कामयाब हो गए हैं. एन. राम ने जिस तरह से एक्सप्रेस समूह के अखबारों को मानहानि के दायरे में लपेटने की धमकी दी है, उससे एन. राम की छवि बिगड़ी है. इंडियन एक्सप्रेस की रणनीति यही थी. इससे एक्सप्रेस को डबल फायदा हुआ है. एक तो वे यह फिर साबित करने में सफल रहे हैं कि वे किसी भी तरह की बड़ी खबर, चाहे मीडिया के अंदर की ही कोई बड़ी खबर क्यों न हो, प्रकाशित करने की हिम्मत रखते हैं. दूसरे, एन. राम की धमकी को आज पहले पन्ने पर छापकर एक्सप्रेस ने एन. राम की ‘छोटी सोच’ का प्रदर्शन तो कर ही दिया, यही काम खुद ‘दी हिंदू’ ने भी किया है. ‘दी हिंदू’ के पहले पन्ने पर भी एन. राम द्वारा इंडियन एक्सप्रेस के खिलाफ मानहानि का मुकदमा करने की बात प्रकाशित हुई है. इससे पाठकों तक यह बात पहुंच रही है कि आप दूसरों के खिलाफ कुछ भी छापें, वो तो सही लेकिन अगर आपके अंदर की हलचल को किसी ने छाप दिया तो उसे आपने गलत करार दिया, यह कौन सा प्रोफेशनल रवैया है?

इंडियन एक्सप्रेस में आज भी दी हिंदू परिवार में एन. राम के उत्तराधिकार को लेकर मचे घमासान के बारे में कई जानकारियों व तथ्यों का खुलासा किया गया है. एन. राम से संबंधित दो खबरें इंडियन एक्सप्रेस के पहले पन्ने पर प्रकाशित हुई हैं. इन खबरों को हम इंडियन एक्सप्रेस की वेबसाइट से साभार लेकर यहां प्रकाशित कर रहे हैं, साथ में इन खबरों के साथ इंडियन एक्सप्रेस की वेबसाइट में आए कुछ कमेंट्स भी दे रहे हैं ताकि यह समझा जा सके कि पाठक दो मीडिया हाउसों की लड़ाई को किस रूप में ले रहे हैं.   


The Hindu war in the open: Ram strips Murali of powers, he says won’t quit

Archna Shukla

Mar 26, 2010,  New Delhi : Battlelines have been drawn for what could be a protracted dispute among board members of Kasturi & Sons, the publisher of The Hindu and The Hindu Business Line.

Stripped of his powers by publisher and group Editor-in-Chief N Ram, Managing Director and his brother N Murali has hit back saying that he will not quit. And that he would try to “make Ram see reason and retire as Editor-in-Chief as committed by him in September 2009 and ensure a smooth transition.”

Ram, incidentally, has denied that he made such a commitment.

“Some members of the Board of Directors have been trying to systematically undermine and erode my authority and responsibilities and rights and obligations,” Murali wrote in an email to “colleagues” in the company today. “I will not allow that to happen.”

Murali, as The Indian Express reported today, is said to have proposed a retirement age for members of the board — one of the hot-button issues that polarised the board.

The board is split with one faction proposing that all directors retire at 65. Ram turns 65 in May. The other faction is opposed to the proposal.

Murali was blunt in his email: “At the Board meeting on 20th March, some Directors subjected me to utter humiliation and attempted disempowerment. I will resist all attempts to deny me my rights, responsibilities and duties as the Managing Director.”

When contacted by The Indian Express, Murali said his email was in response to a circular sent by Ram to heads of departments announcing a change in his designation and his role.

“The circular was sent announcing my re-designation as senior managing director whereas I am currently the managing director. Along with this, all my powers were substantially and purportedly removed. My post has been given to another board member,” said Murali. “My responsibilities have been farmed out to some other members on the board.”

While Murali declined to name the new appointee, sources said K Balaji, the younger brother of K Venugopal, currently the joint editor of The Hindu Business Line, has been appointed as managing director in place of Murali by the faction supporting Ram.

In an email response to The Indian Express yesterday, Ram had declined to comment on Balaji’s appointment saying it was an “internal” matter of the board of directors.

Meanwhile, some members of the board posted messages on Twitter indicating their stand in the fight. Responding to a message from Ram on his decision to initiate defamatory proceedings, civil and criminal, against The Indian Express and The Financial Express, N Ravi, his younger brother and also a board member, said: “When The Hindu has taken a strong stand against criminal defamation, to use it as a threat to silence journalists does seem strange.”

Another board member Malini Parthasarathy said in her message: “As journalists, why should we be afraid of public scrutiny?”

Besides the proposed retirement age, another bone of contention among the family members is the appointment of two children of two board members in senior editorial positions in the US and Europe.

Sources in the group said the anti-Ram faction raised objections to the manner in which these appointments were made. Ram, in his email response yesterday, maintained “any appointment of a relative of a Director that needed approval by both the Board of Directors and Shareholders before going to the central government was approved unanimously, without a murmur of dissent by any Director or Shareholder.”

Sources in the company, however, said that three shareholders of the company expressed their concerns. They are Murali’s children Kanta and Krishna and Ravi’s daughter Aparna.

In fact, in a strongly worded letter to board members, all three of them questioned the manner in which family members were appointed. They wrote: “It is essential that the Board considers issues of corporate governance and the appointment of family members seriously. To point out the obvious, the business cannot accommodate every member of the family, particularly when there are no institutional mechanisms in place to prevent the receipt of unjustifiably large entitlements over a long period of time. Each of us, whether in the previous, current or next generation, has received and continues to receive tremendous benefits from Kasturi and Sons, which far outweigh those received by non-family employees. It is high time that we recognize that our privileges are derived primarily from the contributions and loyalty of over 3500 non-family employees. Each one of us has, in some way or the other, abused their loyalty, trust and contribution.

“The inequitable and arbitrary system that currently exists is not only unfair to non-family employees but to shareholders as a class as well. If there is ever any intention of instituting sound and modern corporate governance practices and discontinuing the feudal system that exists, then issues such as the ones we have raised need to be addressed squarely, honestly and without fear or favour.”

इस खबर पर अब तक आए कमेंट्स इस प्रकार हैं….

Badrinath : It is very disheartening to know that a reputed media group is under trouble. The Hindu should set an example to transperancy to which it has stood for all along and set an example of good corporate governance. In best interest of the pillar of democracy Ram should shed his responsibilities as Editor-In-Chief irrespective of such an ssurance was given or not. Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion.

insiders : When Ram grooms his own dynasty in his backyard “the hindu” why would he speak aginst Karunanidhis growing dynasty in Tamilnadu. Instead of criticising it he was heaping praise Karunanidhi family for the past years. In this way he completely muddied the credibility which “The Hindu” was enjoying among readers. Now all readers would conclude the reason. Moreover Ram’s daughter is a jounalistic beginner with no experience of proper interpretations and opinionising. What is the legitimate argument for appointment of her as european correspondent. Can ram justify this filthy imposition of greed on the heads of readers of “The Hindu”???

ajay : I don’t think it is the job of the Indian Express to report on another newspaper’s internal matters.

S.Sridharan : After Ram took over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu the reports are rather biased.He seems to be lobbying for the party in power especially in TN,to stay in power.The paper painstakingly nurtured by Kasturi brothers and known for excellent editorial and impartial reports has gone into the hands of self seekers.

Sidharth : It is in the interest of The Hindu newspaper if Mr. Ram quits at the earliest. He has done so much damage to the reputation of the news paper by playing partisan politics -inside and outside the news paper. People who have been supporting The Hindu are now deserting it. It will be very difficult for the news paper group to remain valid if the current spat continues or Mr. Ram continues. Mr. N Ram should start learn the art of truth. Of late his actions are like a perfect schemer.

S.N.Iyer : The HIndu is perhaps the only credible newspaper in India. It will be unfortunate if N.Ram engineers a coup and tries to get rid of those who have built the paper. Although Mr N.Ram doesnt seem to influence editorial policies at present. it will be unfortunate if he is trying to get his own views projected by those whom he is backing in the new set up. MKany Companies in the South hyave gone down over a period of time due the succession problem and I sincerely hope that N.Ram and N.Murali sort out their differences withot affecting the future of their publications.

Indian : N. Ram has fallen and how does he. He has shown in recent past that he would do anything to please the temple bhaat and his family, which is ruling chennai at present. The same N. Ram would lick Ms. Jaya’s feet when she was in power. In short , This Kalyugi Ram would follow whoever is in power, and this behaviour is also seen in his recent power tussle for The Hindu. Anyways, why his Newspaper named “The Hindu”? When all he would do is to try to humiliate Hindus and India over every issue. This Guy is doomed like his Worlds Most Secular pal MFH. May be time for him to shift to Qatar too.

avid follower : The Hindu, in any case, was never a member of the ‘free press’nor a big representative of people’s views.It had never taken cudgels on behalf of citizens and raised its voice against the govt in power,central or state, the rare exception being the Bofors scadal when Arun Shourie( then out of Express) and Chitra helped Ram do the investigative report. I recall attending a two hour lecture by this guy Ram at Rani Seethai Hall in Mount Road, two weeks after Tianenmen Square massacre, calling the entire thing a ‘Western conspiracy ‘ and justifying the Chinese army’s action against its students. He supported CEC Chawla blindly,Dalai Lama is an untouchable,Karunanidhi & family are darlings…Except for sports coverage, columns on music and dance ( and crossword perhaps!),this paper is a rag and could just as well be Xinhua news agency report. I won’t shed half a tear if were to close down.

S.S.Rangan : It is a typical power struggle within the family. That it did not happen all these years in the case of The Hindu was a big surprise. The news that N.Ram – a champion of freedom of expression by journalists – is planning to take Indian Express for defamatory , is hilarious! At 65 Ram should gracefully quit and plan to settle down either in Tibet, a place he visits often to write about the ‘glorious’ developments under CHina or in Qatar, where his bosom pal M.F.H. has settled down. Ram can enjoy his retired life in total peace in either of these two places!

N.Krishnan : The episode shows Ram in his true colours.The so-called projection of him as a very liberal journalist has turned out to be facade. His highly biased and self-opinionated views on various issues, are well known.

a citizen : I can only pity this modern ram who has created a big problem to himself and to his friends. He should have sorted out the internal problems. Now it is open he must cleverly solve the issue.

a citizen : when we go through the details-if they are true- i am sure Mr.Ram is getting into further troubled waters. I think he should immediately forgo his ego and sort out the internal problems in the interest of THE HINDU.

Krishna : This guy N Ram dare to crisize everyone. He always pat his own back by journalistic standard. Now why he is threatning other Journo? Power has changed this Ram as Ravana.


इंडियन एक्सप्रेस में आज छपी दूसरी खबर…

Will sue The Indian Express, The Financial Express: Ram

Mar 26, 2010,  New Delhi : Responding to a report in The Financial Express and The Indian Express today about the battle in The Hindu boardroom, The Hindu, in a statement on its website, said that its Editor-in-Chief N Ram “has decided to launch defamatory proceedings, civil and criminal” against Senior Editor Archna Shukla (the reporter), the Editor-in-Chief, Editors, and Publisher of The Indian Express and The Financial Express responsible for the publication of “highly defamatory material”.

“This relates to news stories published in The Indian Express and The Financial Express… purporting to be reports on Mr Ram’s role and actions in relation to developments within the newspaper group and the company”, the statement said.

The statement quoted Ram as saying that the reports are “riddled with demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions, some of them attributed to unnamed sources, made with reckless and malicious disregard for the facts and the truth”.

Ram added: “And this despite the professional courtesy I extended to the journalist and the newspapers by responding precisely and factually to five specific questions emailed to me on March 24 by Ms Shukla.”

In a statement, The Express Group said today:

“The report, ‘Battle for control breaks out in The Hindu very divided family’, (The Indian Express, The Financial Express, March 25, 2010) is based on information received from multiple and high-level credible sources.

“All facts were verified and cross-checked to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness that The Express Group holds itself to. We believe our report was neither malicious nor defamatory.

“We have great regard for The Hindu as an institution and for its Editor-in-Chief N Ram as a journalist and editor for their commitment to principled journalism.

“We stand by our report and the reporter.”

Here, in full, is the email exchange between Shukla and Ram.

Shukla’s e-mail:

Mr Ram:

This is with regard to reports doing the rounds that there is a sort of power tussle going on at The Hindu. I have gathered the following information and I will appreciate if you could comment on them.

1. I have gathered that in a board meeting in September last year, it was decided among board members that you will step down as editor-in-chief of the group in May this year when you turn 65. Is this correct?

2. I am told that you have decided against stepping down and while some members are supporting your decision, some, including Mr Ravi, Ms Malini Parthasarathy and Mr Murali, are against this decision. Is this correct?

3. Has The Hindu board stipulated a retirement age for board members and also, the editor-in-chief or can one hold these positions for as long as he or she has the support of the board?

4. I am told that you and some other members of the board have decided to divest Mr Murali of his powers and instead make Mr Balaji the MD. What are the reasons behind the removal of Mr Murali?

5. I am told that Mr Murali was opposed to the induction of the children of some of the family members hired at very high salaries and that led to unpleasantness among members and finally, his ouster. Is this correct?

I have to file my story today. I will appreciate if you could respond to this email at your earliest convenience or allow me to call you on your phone.

Ram’s response:

Here are my answers to your five questions. They are on the record:

Answer to Q1: Completely, utterly wrong.

Answer to Q2: No comment because it is at present an internal matter of the Board of Directors of Kasturi & Sons Limited.

Answer to Q3: No retirement age has been stipulated for Directors or the Editor-in-Chief or Editor etc. No retirement age is stipulated in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company.

Answer to Q4: No comment for the reason mentioned in the answer to Q2. If any relevant decision is communicated down the line in the Company, you will know.

Answer to Q5: Totally wrong, as the written record will show. Any appointment of a relative of a Director that needed approval by both the Board of Directors and Shareholders before going to the central government was approved unanimously, without a murmur of dissent by any Director or Shareholder.

Every one of the 12 Directors of the Company approved every such appointment. To describe the relevant salaries as “very high” would be laughable; in fact, if the precise numbers were revealed, the salaries or remuneration would be characterised as “rather low.” They are similar to what other foreign correspondents of our newspaper Group get.

Best.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The Hindu and Group publications.

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