Rajdeep justifies Barkha; Blames Open Magazine and Outlook!

published on December 3, 2010

Tempers run high at meet as scribes debate ethics
PNS | New Delhi

Emotions ran high as mediapersons expressed outrage over Editors’ Guild president Rajdeep Sardesai’s comment on Friday that two magazines had violated principles of journalism by publishing raw data contained in corporate lobbyist Nira Radia’s tapped conversions with some leading journalists.

Rajdeep’s statement that the journalists concerned were guilty of “professional misjudgement” rather than “professional misconduct” and not taking their reaction before publishing the conversation was “bad journalism” came under sharp criticism at an interaction on “Radia Tapes and Journalistic Ethics” organised by the Editors’ Guild along with the Press Association, Press Club of India and Indian Women’s Press Corps.

“I find it absolutely disturbing and disheartening that the President of Editors’ Guild is not only condoning but also justifying carrying of messages from a corporate to Congress,” a woman journalist responded expressing the feelings of the majority of those present.

Defending his decision to publish the transcript of tapes, Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief of Outlook magazine, said that even in major exposes like Watergate and Bofors, response is not taken because evidence in the raw material is “so compelling.”

Asserting that the fundamental norms and ethics of journalism have been existing for long, he said information provided by a corporate lobbyist should have been taken with a “bucket full of salt.”

On the question of quid pro quo, Mehta said it will be “completely bogus” to believe that the journalists were “stringing on” their source. “Why will she (Radia) keep on giving information knowing that her instructions were not followed?” Mehta asked.

Sunil Jain of Financial Express said the best way of curbing such tendencies among journalists is to “name and shame” them than discussing questions of ethics. He also suggested that lobbying should be codified if not legalised.

Prasar Bharati chairperson Mrinal Pande said, “If people concerned had apologised the matter would have ended,” but worse was that one channel went about having a “reality show” on the issue, she pointed and wondered whether it was sponsored like other reality shows on TV.

Meanwhile, responding to the demand by many journalists that editors should also declare their assets so as to explain how some journalists become channel owners, Sardesai said that the Editors’ Guild will take up the issue in its meet scheduled on December 24.

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