In Kolkata, it’s the media that is the news, and for all the wrong reasons. The fraternity is still reeling from the shocking and embarrassing exposure that some journalists accompanying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her recent investment-seeking trip to London were caught stealing silver cutlery from a five-star hotel! The journalists were at a VIP dinner in honour of Banerjee at a prominent five star hotel when some of them started slipping the expensive looking silver cutlery into their bags, unaware of discreet CCTV cameras recording the theft. Journalists from Anandabazar Patrika (ABP) and AajKal, Bengali newspapers, were among those taken aside after the dinner by the hotel security staff, informed that they were under surveillance, and asked to return the stolen items. While most returned the silver, one senior and well-known journalist refused to admit to the crime, even daring the staff to search his pockets. His bravado was misplaced. The camera had caught him depositing his loot into the bag of a fellow journalist. The culprit was told that unless he forked up the stolen items, the police would be called in. He did so and also paid a 50- pound fine. He has accompanied the CM on previous foreign tours and even sits on the dais with her when she holds a press conference. He is now likely to be sacked.
The Big Flight
NDTV was known for its impressive lineup of credible and intelligent television anchors but of late, it has started to lose some of the best. First Barkha Dutt left to start her own ventures, followed by Maya Mirchandani who now does video programmes for The Wire. The latest to quit to start his own, well.., start-up, is Vikram Chandra, former CEO and anchor of The Big Fight. He stepped down as CEO last October to return to anchoring and journalism in NDTV but was clearly working on a secret project of his own. Chandra is known as a techno buff— he also anchors Gadget Guru with Rajiv Makhni—so it is no surprise that his new venture will be a news app. Who is financing the startup is under wraps but he has already started hiring people. Watch this space.
Biography to Biopic
Journalist and former TV anchor Sagarika Ghosh is on a roll. She had returned to The Times of India after she and husband Rajdeep Sardesai had to leave CNN-IBN after it was bought over by Mukesh Ambani, but was back in a starring role following the publication of her biography of Indira Gandhi titled, Indira: India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister. The buzz is that it will soon be made into a movie with Vidya Balan in the lead role. Ghosh has apparently signed a contract with Balan’s filmmaker husband, Siddharth Roy Kapur. Sardesai too had a book out recently on Indian cricket—but Balan is a lot sexier than Vijay Merchant and the movie rights give Ghosh bigger bragging rights.
It was a good week for the media as far as defamation suits and the courts are concerned. First, a special court in Ahmedabad lifted its ban on The Wire writing about Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s business dealings. Late last year, the court had barred The Wire from writing anything on Shah but the same court has now removed the ban with the rider that any future article on the subject should avoid linking it to the prime minister. The same portal also received relief for another defamation case filed by business tycoon Gautam Adani for an article it had republished by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta titled, “Modi Government’s Rs 500- Crore Bonanza to the Adani Group”. Principal Senior Civil Judge JR Pandit, in Bhuj, rejected the defamation plea against the publishers and authors of the article while directing them to remove a sentence and one word. In rejecting the application, the judge observed that a questionnaire and an email were sent to the Adani Group before publishing the article, and that the article was published “upon material available”, therefore the article “cannot be said to be defamatory”, and “there is no prima facie case.” The irony is that the board of The Economic and Political Weekly, for which it was originally written, had ordered the article be removed from its website which led to its editor, Thakurta, resigning in protest.