November 10, 2011

Sack Sagarika

Dan Rather, an internationally acclaimed journalist, was the first to break the assassination of John F Kennedy. He also covered Watergate and many wars. In 2004 he ran a report about military records of George W Bush using documents which later turned out to be forged. Rather did the morally right thing, he quit CBS in 2006. His only fault was that he hadn’t fact-checked the story and the documents, although there is still no concrete evidence that the documents were unreliable. That was probably a rare mistake from Rather in career spanning over five decades. What does it say about journalists in India who continue to not only hold on to their jobs but continue to sermonise the nation as if their character were soaked in the purest of waters?

We first had Barkha Dutt, the Radiagate hero, stringing along a lobbyist and indulging in power-brokering who continues to moralise the nation. We now have Vir Sanghvi, another Radiagate hero, who now claims the tapes were doctored and he is innocent. This is the same brazenness with which politicians hang on to office despite being tainted with acts of corruption. If I have consistently maintained that a corrupt media is more dangerous to democracy than corrupt politicians then the media doesn’t stop providing more evidence to that belief.

Most Indian businesses are family-run and owned. But it is a common practice among many corporate entities to not employ two or more members from the same family, at least not in the same department. There is no particular reason behind this practice except for the belief that all the acts of the members may not be free from prejudice if they were from the same family. And what if your spouse also happens to be your boss in a news media enterprise? It then makes it all the more likely that sometimes even trash can be passed off as journalism. In all the posts on this site I have never once referred to Sagarika Ghose as the wife of Rajdeep Sardesai. I have always referred to her as the deputy editor. However, now I do believe the deputy editor must go. That any other Managing Editor in the seat of Rajdeep Sardesai would not tolerate the outright rubbish that Sagarika churns out so frequently. The latest one really has to be the last straw. That Rajdeep himself has a lot to answer for is another story.

Media is not a private body as the Editors Guild would have the Standing committee on Lokpal believe. The power to influence people, opinions and even elections is not in the private domain. There is a strange streak in Sagarika Ghose that leads her to believe that people are idiots and can be fooled all the time. That there are ordinary people and there are elites and she stands independently as an observer. Her boss should have repeatedly told her that she was part of the elite. On 9th November on her programme ‘Face the nation’ Sagarika ran the debate “Sri Sri on 4 day yatra in UP: should spiritual leaders take part in anti-corruption campaigns? FTN 10pm”. There were a few usual panellists along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Except, SriSri wasn’t there!

First of all, the clear answer to SG’s question is anybody in this country is free to run a campaign against corruption at any place and at any time of his or her choice. Sagarika doesn’t have any moral business to question the rights of SriSri. This country’s values have been built on the spiritual cleanliness which outsiders find easier to recognise than people like Sagarika. The right question would now be: Does Sagarika have any moral right to continue as a journalist?

Sagarika Ghose conducted the debate as if SriSri were live on the programme and was responding to the comments made by other panellists. That wasn’t all, when panellists made a comment she even turned to SriSri to seek his response. What was being used was footage from a previously recorded interview with SriSri and suitably edited to make it appear as if he was responding live. This is nothing short of blatant mischief and fraud on the viewers. This is something CNN-IBN’s Cyrus Broacha does on his comedy show where the viewers are aware of the interviews being fake.

Some days back SG ran a debate on whether Justice Katju, the new PCI chairman, should apologise for calling journalists “uneducated”. I hope she now realises what exactly Katju was referring to. Not done with that, she frequently passes judgements on judges of High courts and Supreme Court some of which may actually be an act of contempt. In a recent article, ‘The Elite’s on trial, here is what she wrote:

The 2G trial too is one of India’s “million mutinies”. The overthrow of bail jurisprudence, the CBI’s failure to provide comprehensive evidence so far, the many weaknesses of the case beyond its rhetoric, have been highlighted by several legal experts. It is no longer even clear how much “loss” there was to the exchequer, with the CAG’s R1.76 lakh crore figure now being systematically questioned. Yet the 2G accused, before the trial, before proof of the money trail, appear to already have been declared guilty”. This not only reflects her terrible lack of understanding of the law but it also appears the article was written without a thorough scrutiny of the judgement by Judge O.P.Saini which denied bail to Kanimozhi and others. She probably implies that Indians simply want to hang the rich regardless of evidence or sense of justice.

I have said often that it’s not possible to hide in the tech-age. Faster than she could say SriSri people on Twitter quickly pointed out the recorded interview of SriSri being misused by Sagarika on her programme. She later tweeted that it was a bug and that FTN will carry a full apology to the viewers and to SriSri. I believe one can apologise for a mistake or an error. This was neither a mistake nor an error but wilful deception. The apology can pass but if Rajdeep Sardesai has any moral decency left in him he has to let his deputy editor go. Willingly perpetrating a fraud on the viewers is not a mistake that can be covered up by an apology. It is far too serious a crime. It is time for Rajdeep, the Managing Editor, to sack Sagarika.

PS: Those who missed the episode on CNN-IBN can watch it here on


Neeraj Pai said...

As always, a well-articulated post on the "Host" of a show.
Keep up with the great work.

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