Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sab mere ko hi bol rahein hain

November 30, 5.30 pm. On my balcony taking a break from work. A grandmother is trying to mediate between two fighting children. And one is saying, `aap sirf mere ko bol rahe ho, usko kuch nahin bol rahe'.
November 30, 10.30 pm. Am watching NDTV's The Buck Stops Here, where the show's usual host, Barkha Dutt, is being questioned by a panel of editors (including Manu Joseph of Open) on her figuring in the Radia tapes. As I watch her alternate between playing wronged victim, being churlish and brazen I am suddenly reminded of that little kid: aap sirf mere ko bol rahe ho; Manu aur Vinod uncle ko kuch nahin bol rahe.
If NDTV organised this to give Barkha a platform to show she is being targeted unfairly, it backfired badly. Barkha behaved badly throughout the show. She first tried playing the injured innocent (`I did not know that much about Niira Radia because I am a essentially a political journalist'; it was a `mere error of judgement', `innocent error of judgement'). Then as the questions got tougher, she kept interrupting (especially Manu, who was ticked off for interrupting her whenever he insisted on his questions being answered), trying to divert attention from her role by talking about media ethics, defamation, questioning of her integrity (when everyone, including Manu, kept saying that her integrity was not in question). As Manu Joseph kept pointing out, she was obfuscating issues. Finally Sanjaya Baru was forced to point out that he had not been invited to a discussion on media ethics but for a discussion on the way NDTV handled  the Radia tapes. Did that silence Barkha? No. `But isn't it connected?' she interrupted. It is, said Baru, and I made that point in the Karan Thapar show, which was a different format.
When two editors made the point that Radia chose her and not any other journalist to convey messages to the Congress, she retorts immediately: how do you know? Only these tapes have been made public. Once again, an attempt to show only she was being targeted.
She also expected the editors and the viewers to believe that she, `a cynical political journalist' as she described herself, didn't know exactly how Radia functioned. `When I look back, with hindsight, with everything that one knows about her, I made an error of judgement.' So now Radia is at fault for being a good professional by someone who blurred the ethical boundaries of her profession, seeing nothing wrong in journalists conveying messages, depending on the content of the message or in not doing an obvious story (a corporate lobbyist lobbying on behalf of a political party in cabinet formation). And being brazen about it: `I am not accepting error of judgement in not doing the story'.
She claimed that she never passed on any message. But when one of the editors read out a portion of the transcript that appeared as if she had, she immediately countered with `I was fibbing (to Radia).' As veteran journalist T J S George pointed out in an article: "Is a veteran networker like Radia so easily fooled? Obviously she is close to her journalist contacts and must have had promises from them before. She wouldn't waste her time if she knew that they were promises not meant to be followed up."
Since Outlook's Vinod Mehta didn't come on the panel, Manu Joseph was alone to bear the brunt of her attacks: "You do journalism where you don't contact the person you report on"; "I don't think you have a full understanding of how political journalism and politics works".
When Baru made the point that everyone makes mistakes and she would have come out better if she had on Day One, expressed regret, she said `In my personal statement I spoke about what I learnt from this.' But that personal statement did not come on Day One. That day there was only a statement from NDTV, which threatened legal action. Her personal statement came much later.
Sonia Singh was an ineffective moderator who couldn't stop Barkha from constantly interrupting and sidestepping questions by attacking others.
Ultimately Barkha Dutt came across as an ill-mannered brat. And NDTV came worse off by giving her a platform to brazen out an indefensible act.
http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/barkha-dutt-other-editors-on-radia-tapes-controversy/178964
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