Aastha Manocha has a post-graduate diploma in journalism. She worked for The Indian Express portal for close to two years as a sub-editor. She is young and idealistic in her journalistic pursuit. We don't know what she's doing here either.
Itna Sannata Kyun Hai Bhai?
What does a media house do if the richest man in India sends it a defamation notice for telecasting a press conference criticising Mr Richie Rich himself? Take the oft-criticised stance of most of their interviewees it seems, and go with the “no comment” response if questioned on the matter. How about raise a voice of dissent or publicise the absurdness of receiving such a notice? Don’t be ridiculous. This is the Silence Of The Media Lambs Redux.
Reliance Industries Limited is said to have issued a legal notice to TV news channels that had telecast live two of Arvind Kejriwal’s press conferences in which he made allegations against Mukesh Ambani. According to sanserif, the seven page-long notice was served by law firm A.S. Dayal & Associates in mid-December. It is believed to have told TV channels that “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you.”
“Each of the two press conferences were telecast live without making any attempt to verify the truth or veracity of the statements and allegations being made during the press conference.” The following is a copy of the alleged notice that The Aam Aadmi Party had posted on its facebook page.
Newslaundry contacted various news channels to confirm whether they had indeed received a legal notice. After being given the run around from editorial to corporate communications to legal departments, we were greeted by a wall of silence and a “no comment” policy which would make most politicians proud. While we understand that being a pending legal matter, organisations can’t comment on their response to the notice, it is slightly strange that they are even refusing to comment on whether they’ve received the notice or not. The long arm of the Ambanis it seems is very long and very quietening.
Not even Reliance seems ready to comment on this. When Newslaundry contacted the company’s corporate communications department, they requested for some time to get back on the matter, and then undertook a disappearing act which would make Houdini proud.
A little ironic that while TV news debates demand high level of accountability in public life, there is a pin-drop silence on what goes on within their organisations. Even CNN-IBN refuses to comment on the matter.
Interestingly, while most TV channels – whose only sin is that they were doing their job and reporting the news, and telecast a press conference which was being covered by everyone – are believed to have received the notice, the errant Aam Aadmi Party has not. Arvind Kejriwal, anti-corruption activist and head of the party told us that no such notice had been received by him or anyone in his party.
Prashant Bhushan too, told Pioneer, “They (Reliance) have studiously avoided legal notices to us and deliberately targeted only the media to scare them”. And just to add insult to injury, Kejriwal has sent a letter to Mukesh Ambani asking him to stop threatening the media and questioning why a notice has been sent to news channels but not to Prashant Bhushan or Kejriwal himself. It’s obvious, he writes to Mukesh Ambani, that this was done with the sole intention of steamrolling the TV channels into subservience. And if anyone has defamed Ambani, it is Ambani himself through his misdeeds. He also writes that if the allegations are proved correct “you (Mukesh Ambani) should be put in jail”.
The English translation of Arvind Kejriwal’s letter to Mukesh Ambani:
Dear Mr Mukesh Ambani,
You have recently sent a defamation notice to a number of TV channels. Their “crime” is that they aired the press conference held on the 31st October 2012 and 9th November 2012, by Prashant Bhushan and me, live. In our press conference, we presented before the country how you had illegally pressurized the government into increasing gas prices. We also told the country that your associates and your companies have accounts in Swiss banks where black money had been stashed away. Many TV channels aired our expose live. All these TV channels have now received defamation notices from you.
I find it quite perplexing. If you felt that you have been defamed by what Prashant Bhushan and I said, then we are the real culprits and, if you had to send a defamation notice, it should have been to us. The TV channels merely broadcast what we said. Despite this, instead of sending us the defamation notice, you have sent it to the TV channels. It is evident that your sole purpose of sending this notice was to steamroll the TV channels into subservience.
The people of India want to ask you some straight questions:
· Is it not true that the list of those who have accounts in Swiss Banks, as received by the Government of India, includes your name and the names of your relatives, your friends and your companies?
· Is it not true that a balance of Rs. 100 crores is shown against your name in this list?
· Is it not true that you have paid the tax on this amount after this list was received by the Government?
If the above is true, as we suspect it is, it proves that you have admitted your guilt. As per the law of the land, you should be tried and, if the charge of tax evasion is proved, you should be sent to jail.
However, this would never happen. Why? Because the Government of India is intimidated by you. You have been reported as saying that the Congress Party has been bought by you – it is your dukaan, to be precise. You are right. according to some media reports, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi sometimes travels by your personal aircraft. People believe that Mr. Jaipal Reddy’s ministry was also changed because of your influence.
Why only the Congress? Even BJP and many other parties are in your pocket. Earlier, Mr. Advani used to make a lot of noise about Swiss Bank accounts, but since your accounts have been exposed, BJP has suddenly gone quiet. BJP has not mentioned a single word in the Parliament about your accounts.
It appears that almost all parties are afraid of you. Most leaders are scared of you, too. However, the citizens of this country are not scared of you. All parties could be your dukaan but India is not up for sale. India is ours, it belongs to the people of this country. You can purchase political parties and political leaders with your money but we will not let India be sold.
You say that the TV channels have tainted your reputation by airing our press conference live. That’s wrong. I would urge you to answer this question honestly – Did Prashant Bhushan, myself and the TV Channels defame you or did you defame yourself through your own misdeeds?
1. In 2002, you gave 1 Crore shares with a market price of Rs. 55 per share to Mr. Pramod Mahajan at just Rs. 1 per share. This was a straight bribe to get “Full Mobility”. When you were caught, you took back the shares. Presently, the matter is In court. Didn’t you defame yourself by doing this?
2. You have made your multistoreyed residence on Wakf land. This land had been set aside for an orphanage. You have stolen the right of poor and orphaned Muslim children. Didn’t you defame yourself by doing this?
3. A few gas wells belonging to the Country were allotted to you in 2000. You were supposed to extract gas and give it to the government. The gas belongs to us, the people of India. We are the owners of this gas. You were only a contractor appointed to extract the gas. However, cleverly you became the owner of the gas. You started “selling” the gas to the government.
Because the Congress is in your pocket, it always bowed before your bullying. The Congress kept increasing the price of gas under your pressure and the nation kept wailing. Because of you, the prices of electricity, fertilizer and cooking gas kept rising. When it crossed all limits, Mr. Jaipal Reddy opposed you. He was the Minister for Oil and Gas at that time. You got Mr. Jaipal Reddy transferred. Because of you many things have become increasingly expensive in India and the people are groaning under the load of these high prices. Do these shenanigans suit you? Do such acts not defame you?
The list of such illegal acts done by you is quite long.
The majority of the traders, businessmen and industrialists want to do their work honestly. But the system forces them into wrongdoings. But when a businessman like you brazenly subverts the system for his personal benefit, the entire industry and business world gets a bad name.
You are on one side with immense wealth. On the other side are the people of this country. The people have now awakened. Fire is raging in their heart. History is witness that whenever there has been a clash between money and such rage, the rage has won.
Kindly do not try to intimidate the media of this country. There may be some mediamen who may have done wrong things themselves. Such media-persons may succumb to your pressure. However, the majority of media persons keep the interest of the Country at heart even today. They are not going to capitulate so easily. History is witness that whenever the judiciary, bureaucracy and legislature crumbled, it is the honest fourth pillar, comprising such media-persons that kept democracy alive.
You have invested in some media houses directly or indirectly. It is possible that these media houses do your bidding. However, the journalists working for such media houses will not barter their integrity so easily.
What is your dream? Do you want to become the world’s richest person through dishonesty? Suppose you became the owner of all the wealth in this country. Would that make you happy? Happiness does not increase by accumulating more and more wealth. Happiness comes with sacrifice. If you stopped doing business dishonestly and contributed your wealth for the development of the nation, this country will remember you with pride forever.
Scared or not, the news channels have certainly chosen the Zen path of silence and decided that their verbosity and bombast is best left on-screen.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/6338935891/]