India’s 1st 500 crore defamation case to/fro Media: Will it be free-for-all now ??

In MXM India, Pradyuman Maheshwari and Shruti Pushkarna takes quotes from some senior journalists of India about the first every defamation case filed by a Media against another Media in India.

 On April 4, The Indian Express carried a story by editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta with Ritu Sarin and Pranab Dhal Samanta on two key army units moving towards New Delhi without informing the government. Ajmer Singh contributed to the report.There was outrage and denials issued by all and sundry in the government and armed forces. However, save the outbursts, it wasn’t proven that the Express story was incorrect.

…..Those in print may have been a lot more gentle, but a few television discussions were indeed scathing. And then came this interview with Outlook’s editorial President (and former editor-in-chief) Vinod Mehta in newsmag Open on the issue. The headline of the interview said it all: The Mother of All Mistakes (issue dated April 21, 2012). In his inimitable style, Mr Mehta suggested that Mr Gupta was taken in by a story that was planted on the Express.

…The notice asks for an apology and pulling the story off Open’s internet edition At the time of filing this report, Open hasn’t done either and two senior staffers told MxMIndia that the magazine does not intend to do either.

The notice also demands damages of Rs 100 crore each to the lawyer’s clients. That’s five of them – the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta and Ajmer Singh. The Rs 500 crore damages have to be paid regardless of the apology.

MxMIndia asked a few senior editors for their views on the issue. While many of them did not want to be drawn into the controversy, there were a few who told us that they didn’t know enough of the matter to be able to comment.

Our questions were: Is the media too sensitive to criticism? Just as the Express, Shekhar Gupta & Co sent a legal notice to Open and Vinod Mehta, can governments, politicians, businesspersons and even film-makers who are critiqued by the media also send notices and ask for crores as damages?

Here are reactions from four veteran commentators:

Dileep Padgaonkar, former editor-in-chief, The Times of India:

…As it is, the censorship of cartoons was a dismal warning of the sensitivity of the political establishment. Now if media is going to go at another section of media, there is going to be a free-for-all and the big casualty out here would be good, decent, honest journalism.


Sevanti Ninan, editor, The Hoot, columnist and media-watcher:

….You are saying the chief editor and his colleague are susceptible to plants, thereby seriously questioning their credibility. So I guess the Express could hardly ignore it. IE did come in for a lot of criticism on the import of the story and the display given, including a critical editorial in the Hindu but nothing quite as damning as Mehta’s statements.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, independent journalist and commentator:

I think The Indian Express has over reacted. I think it’s gone a little over the top. … my personal view is that it’s a point of view which obviously the Express doesn’t agree with but I don’t think that what Mr Mehta has said can be construed to be criminally defamatory. …I mean these are ridiculous sums of money. I think we’ve become an extremely intolerant society. ….I think even sections of the media are becoming extremely intolerant of criticism. If you are in a democracy, you have to give the right to everybody to disagree with you.

Sucheta Dalal, senior journalist and commentator, consulting editor, Moneylife:

… It’s the first time that somebody in the media is suing another person in the media, we need to look at how it goes… Otherwise the notice is also a way of making a point, it’s a way of putting pressure. It’s not just Vinod Mehta, if he looks at what was said about that story on the social media, then there are a lot more people that they would probably need to sue. So maybe he is making a case out of Vinod Mehta and Open magazine, we need to see whether they follow through. I would say that the test is not in the legal notice, the test is in seeing whether they are actually going to follow through, stand in court and argue it out.

Read the full feature in MXM India: Apology + Rs 500cr: Is Indian Express right in sending Open a legal notice?

Hot Vidya Balan from on-screen ‘dirty’ to off-screen ‘clean’!

Looks like, the mania of ‘Dirty Picture’ has caught the Indian Government as Ministry of Rural Development has decided to rope in sexy starlet vidya balan to feature in their ” Clean Picture”, i.e.: educational campaigns of Sanitation ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.. She will work for two years as the Brand Ambassador for this Ministry offering her support and services in development of Drinking Water and Sanitation in rural areas. That’s a good fortune for Vidya to reach more into public with a Clean Picture.


‘This will be a clean picture. What could be a matter of more pride than doing a dirty picture on screen and a clean picture off it? This is the real me. This duty will work a lot because this is a National Movement. I take this as an opportunity to do a Clean Picture off the screen after doing Dirty Picture on the screen.’

said vidya balan gracing 59th National Film Awards 2011 function in New Delhi recently. Minister Jairam Ramesh informed that Vidya will appear in promotion of construction and use of Toilets in rural areas and will be involved into restructuring of Total Sanitation through ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.’

Hindu has better business sense than Times !

Two different newspapers, and two contrasting views on how to deal with giving brands unpaid publicity.

This morning, The Times of India carries a story on a survey which has found Bangalore as scoring the lowest among seven cities in motorist behaviour. This is what The Times of Indiareports:

That the motorists in Bangalore don’t seem to care for pedestrians has been a subject of intense debate for long. The debate has been set to rest by a New Delhi-based green group’s report that statistically shows Bangalore’s deficiency in this category.

What is the name of the ‘New Delhi-based green group’? We’ve tried to find out; we’ve googled it and have come up with a blank.

The Times of India’s reticence to name the company stems from their misplaced principle of not giving ‘brands’ free publicity. They go to great lengths to avoid naming brands, even to the extent of not calling IPL teams by their actual names, but referring to them as Team Kolkata, Team Mumbai, etc.

When they take a position as they have, they stand to lose out on popular culture – and brands play an increasingly significant role in popular culture.

So The Hindu saw no conflict between editorial and commerce when they carried the cartoon on the left on its editorial page.

The cartoon rides on a recent (Ramesh and Suresh) commercial for Cadbury 5 Star chocolate, which is currently dominating TV channels.

Readers who have seen the commercial immediately make the connection — and there is no doubt, that Cadbury is a big gainer.

And what is the gain for The Hindu? Visit the Cadbury 5 Star facebook page and you see thatThe Hindu cartoon is reproduced.

“Ramesh and Suresh are being an inspiration for the entire nation. Don’t believe it? See this cartoon that appeared in The Hindu yesterday,” says the update.

How many would have seen the cartoon on the Cadbury 5 Star page? Well, they have over 1,000,000 likes and over 15,000 people talking about the page as this is being written.

The Hindu wins big – because they chose to plug a brand. That’s editorial sense – and business sense. Courtesy: Anant Rangaswami  &

‘National’ govt & media sinks into obsolescence

This sentence has no meaning: “Tea to be declared Indian national drink.”

But that was the headline this week in several newspapers that reported on a proposal of the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India, a government body that plans things. What will happen after tea is declared the national drink? Nothing much, of course. But once word got out, an influential cooperative society of milk producers said that milk, and not tea, should be declared the Indian national drink.

Manu Joseph, Editor of  Open and author of the novel “Serious Men” writes in The New York Times: 

‘National’ Loses Power as an Idea in India

It is odd that this fuss has arrived at a time when the very idea of “national” is becoming irrelevant in India, especially in matters far more serious than tribute to tea. The political supremacy of New Delhi and the central government is being challenged by state governments and other regional forces.

..It is not just in politics that the power of the national has diminished. The news media are increasingly forced to become regional. Most of India’s English-language newspapers consider themselves national publications. But they are not so in spirit. They have multiple editions, and on most days local reports overshadow national news…

..Accustomed to decades of concentration of power, Delhi’s elite is a well-run confederation of cozy cartels containing politicians, bureaucrats, merchants, middlemen, journalists, novelists and people whose day jobs cannot be easily described. They take care of their own. That is how they guard their mediocrity…

..As the idea of “national” sinks into obsolescence, it will one day liberate the rest of India from the hold of Delhi. In a way, that has already begun to happen…

(Read full column :

Old wine in new bottle: Mining is an addiction, Goans will die if stopped says BJP CM Parrikar


Hartman de Souza  Cavorem, Quepem (South Goa) writes in  HARDNEWS (

Look at Goa, where barely thirty to forty kilometres east of the sea, that sacred day was celebrated by virtue of being a Sunday, and for that reason alone, providing respite from all the illegal mining operations, now being given the go-ahead by a BJP government brought to power to ensure that the mining in Goa will continue.

His terse email to the group bears repeating in full:

“Met with Manohar Parrikar and the Attorney General, Sushant Nadkarni yesterday on the Regional Plan. Though they sat through most of it silently, there were a couple of comments from both of them on mining that were disturbing. The SLC had recommended termination of mines in the buffer zone and phasing out of mines in 3 years and providing alternate employment in a proposed industrial belt close to the mining areas.

“Parrikar said mining is like a drug and even though it may be bad, you have to continue it as the people will die otherwise. But he is trying to reduce the amount of ore extracted and in the meantime while a policy is being set he has allowed mine owners to export all the dumps as in any case the damage has been done by extraction. 

There was another, from a Goan woman in the UK, a doting grandmother who was once a regional director with Panos and designed the first State of the Environment report brought out by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi in the early 80s.

She wrote:

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“My heart sank…I am really disappointed with Parrikar’s level of understanding of mining in Goa and as I keep saying (beginning to sound like a broken record!) he needs to be educated about mining issues. Parrikar needs to hear our voices and opinions on the mining issue.

“To say the mining is like a drug and must continue , shows his limitations and lack of relevant information – who are the “drug addicts” here and what about the victims of that addiction?  Allowing them to sell all the dumps is totally idiotic and shocking; has he forgotten that the dumps need to go back into the pits when they rehabilitate the land? I am really furious and angry about what is going on. Mining is the Bloodline of Goa? Who is he kidding?

“Once again I plead with you guys to have a meeting with Parrikar and tell him what he needs to know.  As things stand he has an excuse of being misinformed, as the only information he gets is from the mining lobby. The least we can do is demand a meeting with him and tell him a couple of truths about mining.

“I feel like taking the next flight to Goa and confronting Parrikar myself!”

From an organization that is swimming in cases filed against the mining companies, came this:

“It appears we will continue to fight because the change in government will only mitigate but not provide a permanent solution. The Attorney General we all know was representing Sesa Goa in the High Court for a couple of years. He has openly defended mining in interviews.

Read full article :

courtesy: Hartman de Souza  & HARDNEWS

India’s star news channels & Baba

P.N. Vasanti , Director of New Delhi-based multidisciplinary research organization Centre for Media Studies (CMS) writes in 

A classic example would be the numerous shows featuring Nirmal Baba (alias Nirmaljit Singh Narula) on almost 35 channels, including 15 news channels. Paid slots showing a large number of devotees getting advice and solutions to problems have made this former businessman into a baba reportedly worth crores (a few reports claim an annual turnover of more than Rs.200 crore!)….

….They may find a place on our numerous channels, especially the dozen-odd spirituality channels such as Aastha TV, Sanskar TV, MH1 Shraddha, Sadhna TV, Dharm TV, Paras TV and Sanatan TV. They may even help hold up ratings on a general entertainment channel.

….My issues are twofold. One, these are paid slots and not news or current affairs programmes, so what are they doing on a news channel? Many channels do not even inform the viewer that it’s a paid programme and not produced by their channel. Second, where is the moral and ethical responsibility of any news media in promoting such blind faith and superstition?

…In September 2011, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) issued an advisory to its 45 member channels “to voluntarily improve the broadcasting standards by desisting from airing such reports (on matters propagating, promoting and advocating superstition, occultism and blind belief)”

….And yet, we see a large number of NBA members such as Star News, Aaj Tak Tez, IBN7, India TV continue to promote and regularly show paid programmes featuring Nirmal Baba, even today.

She also heads the CMS Academy of Communication and Convergence Studies. Read the full column

“Shekhar (gupta, EIC/CEO, IE) is the general of the “Sonia bhakts” !?! Scoop is sensationalist and full of unwarranted conjectures

Mohan Guruswamy writes on his facebook page & his opinion is widely received and commented upon:
The Indian Express story this morning about two crack Indian Army units moving towards Delhi on the night January 16-17 is sensationalist and full of unwarranted conjectures. Obviously the “details” have been provided by someone high up in the security and intelligence apparatus, and the leak is meant to keep the Military circled out and kept isolated from the Government. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.

The first time it happened was during the funeral arrangements for Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964. The COAS had ordered up some units to be prepared to assist in the funeral ceremonies with crowd cordoning and VIP security. The DIB interpreted this as a preparation for a coup and warned the acting PM, Gulzarilal Nanda. The Army was asked to explain. Gen. JN Chaudhry replied appropriately and said the Military was sworn to uphold the Constitution and that it was commanded by men of honor.

I recall an acrimonious discussion in the early 90’s related to me by a COAS. The Indian Army was pressing for putting the BSF under full military control in J&K for effective counter-insurgency operations. The BSF balked and its then DG argued before the then HM, with the COAS present, that the BSF must be kept independent of Army control at all times as it was the bulwark against any Indian Army attempt to seize political control. The COAS scoffed at it saying, that knowing the calibre of the IPS in command of the BSF, it would not even take hours for the Army to subdue the BSF and confine it to the barracks. He asked him not to talk nonsense in front of the Home Minister to protect his turf.

The friction between the Army and the IPS is well known, and its testy relations with both the IB and RA&AW, apart from the BSF and CRPF are well known. The Defence and Home Ministry bureaucracies love this situation as it allows them to play off one against the other.

The Government will do well to get to the bottom of this news report and track down its “sources”. But who will the Government turn to trace these sources. The IB?

VK Cherian I do wish it is just “sensationalist and full of unwarranted conjectures”..But what ever is it not a good sign for our democracy, just as the row with the General…
Akhil Shastry Nehru had enormous contempt for the armed forces.He said soldiers were mindless zombies who killed on orders without even bothering to think about the rightness or wrongness of the order.
Machimanda Appaiah Deviah Akhil: In my opinion Nehru had no opinion on this. He was probably parroting Krishna Menon’s words. He was the real Chanakya in all this.
Manoj Joshi Hit the nail on the head, Mohan
Vinay Talwar VK, in my opinion Shekhar is the general of the “Sonia bhakts”, he has consistently shown his great capacity to ‘spin’ and would rank ahead of Bhajji as India’s best spinner 🙂
Niranjan Pant I agree with MG that it is probably a planted / inspired story by vested interests. With a weak central leadership, everyone has visions of grandeur or nefarious designs, especially with some foothold in the media. Highly condemnable. Every public servant – uniformed or civil – knows that whistle-blowing against powerful vested interests is a perilous task. Very few therefore undertake it The article has mischief written all over, what with fanciful bold scary headlines interspersed with slimy praise for the professional and ‘impeccable integrity’ of the General.
Prakash Nanda I am ashamed as a journalist that such a horrible story has appeared in Indian Express. My friends say that it is an IB plant. As it is becoming increasingly evident that the letter of VK Singh to Manmohan Singh has been leaked by “Babus”, not military personnel, it is another trick to prepare grounds for sacking the General. I hope my friends are wrong. It is really enemies of India who want a weak Army in India….
Rikeesh Sharma Soul selling and loyalty issues aside, this piece is irresponsible journalism. especially looking at the timing of it all. there is no need to splash sensationalism and negative news on the front page. Poor ethics…in my view!
Manas Paul Lo…this is queer development….now…its not the army but the power lobby in Delhi corridors that seeks to enforce …’force multiplier’…
Outlook’s Churumuri writes (asks, doubts, questions ?) about it his blog:

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The front-page, full-page report in the northern editions of The Indian Express this morning, that two units of the Indian Army moved towards Delhi on January 16, 2012—the day the Army chief V.K. Singh‘s petition before the Supreme Court on his date of birth was coming up—has sent New Delhi into a tizzy.

The report, anchored by the paper’s redoubtable editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, with reporting from Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta and Ajmer Singh—that barely disguises its attempts to hint at a “coup” that wasn’t—has been stoutly denied by the ministry of defence and an official statement from the defence minister A.K. Antony is due.

As the old saying goes, never believe a story until it is officially denied.

Still, is the Express story a “scoop” throwing light on something that was hidden or unknown; a rehash of previously published stuff; or just plain Delhi-style “spin”, against the backdrop of leaks and plants that have been coming in a torrent in the crossfire between the outgoing Army chief and the “establishment”?

To give Express its due, the three-deck, four-byline, eight-column banner headline suggests plenty of leg work.

What blunts the edge somewhat on the Express story is that the Army manoeuvre wasreported by 22 days ago—on March 13, 2012. What also muddies the waters is that the Army itself held an official briefing on the subject 25 days ago—on March 10, 2012—in Agra.

So, regardless of the official denials, is the Express story a scoop, a rehash or spin?