Interventions by Professor Romila Thapar and P. Sainath at the Praful Bidwai memorial award on June 23, 2016, Deputy Speaker Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi
Tag - Media
Two weeks ago, many public-spirited Indians complimented the country’s Election Commission for banning public campaigning by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh chief election manager Amit Shah, and the Samajwadi Party’s fiery Azam Khan, both of whom spoke provocatively for or against specific religious groups.
When Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in 1975, the vast majority of Indian academics, intellectuals and media commentators protested. Barring a few publications like India Today, most newspapers carried sharply critical comments and truthful, horrifying accounts of the excesses perpetrated in the name of defending India against contrived “threats”—until censorship was imposed, and sometimes defying it.
There always were two components to the disclosures contained in corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s telephone conversations tapped by the government and eventually leaked to the media. The first was the role of certain high-profile journalists as political fixers and corporate stooges, who acted at Radia’s behest to promote particular business interests and offered to carry messages to key politicians. The second was a demonstration of the enormous power that Big Business houses wield over politics, which they brazenly use to influence major official appointments, and the processes of policy-making and licensing of industries and their regulation.
The Radia tapes expose the rot in our media and demand radical reform of journalistic and industry practices to restore its independence and credibility.
As the 2G scam reverberates, shocking revelations have emerged of another, related, scandal involving collusion between big corporate houses, political parties and the media in influencing key policy decisions and ministerial appointments. Outlook and Open magazines have reproduced partial transcripts of telephone conversations between Ms Niira Radia, a corporate lobbyist for the Tata and Mukesh Ambani groups, and several top journalists, industrialists and politicians, which show journalists playing political roles well beyond the legitimate bounds of their profession.