The Quint’s ‘surgical strike’ on NDTV aborted

The Quint’s ‘surgical strike’ on NDTV aborted

Sources told Newslaundry that the article lacked ‘proper vetting’

By Subhabrata Dasgupta

Published on :

On October 15, The Quint published a strongly worded piece titled “Media’s banality: Bowing, Bending and Breaking Before Modi Government”. The piece, authored by The Quint’s opinion editor Chandan Nandy, took on NDTV for “playing into the hands of the Narendra Modi government over the surgical strikes.”

Ironically, The Quint story which took NDTV to task for allegations of “self censorship” may have fallen to that same axe, as the article was removed from the website hours after being posted.

On October 6, NDTV dropped an interview of senior Congress leader and former Home and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. The channel had played bits of the interview, and it was to be broadcast on the evening of October 6, before being dropped. This was apparently done as Chidambaram was critical of the Modi government’s “political handling” of the “surgical strikes” in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) conducted by the Indian Army on September 29.

In his scathing criticism of the network, Nandy wrote: “NDTV’s acts of omission and commission, willing or otherwise, might reflect that the human animal just cannot detach itself from the world it lives in while reporting about events over which it should have no interest, preconception or opinion”.

He went on to say: “Suddenly, the subcontinental media world appears to have become transposed in a way in which our respect for at least one Pakistani publishing house, Dawn, has gone up while we assail NDTV at the same time.”

The article noted that NDTV should not be the only channel to be “crucified”. It was equally, if not more, critical of Times Now for its “shrill histrionics and jingoism”. By way of conclusion, Nandy lambasted both news networks for “reducing” journalism to “visual simulation as a substitute for thought”.

Less than five hours after it was published, the article was pulled down. No explanations given. A look at Nandy’s Twitter account shows that his tweet about the article is still online at the time this article was being written.

Newslaundry reached out to him for his thoughts on the matter, to which he said, “It is an internal matter, about which we don’t speak to others.”

Ritu Kapur, the website’s co-founder and CEO, refused to comment on the issue. However, Newslaundry learnt from two senior journalists at the organisation who asked not to be named, that the article generated quite a lot of heat in The Quint’s newsroom.

They said that the article was removed because it was posted without “proper vetting” from the top. It was still awaiting final approval when it went up. They claimed that Raghav Bahl, The Quint’s co-founder, had reservations about the article, and faulted its analysis.

He is also said to be unhappy with the cries of “censorship” raised in the article, and felt they were unnecessary. Newslaundry reached out to Bahl for an insight into what these reservations might have been, and why the article wasn’t updated instead of simply being pulled down, and if the readers of The Quint were owed an explanation for this move. This story will be updated to reflect his response.

It must be mentioned that Nandy was recently in the news for a story he wrote on September 22, which claimed that Indian Special Forces had avenged the Uri attacks, in an operation across PoK. Later, on September 29, when the Director General of Military Operations briefed the media about the “surgical strikes”, The Quint indulged in some chest-beating. The site even conducted a Facebook Live session with its editorial team. Bahl and Nandy were also part of it, and everyone present congratulated Nandy for his “scoop”.

Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor at The Caravan, believes that the very fact that Nandy’s piece was pulled means that what he had written was correct.

He told Newslaundry, “Articles don’t go up without approval, and it does not take five hours to realise that something is wrong with an article on the site. Clearly, somebody read it and realised ‘Oh My God, this is not what we want to say’ and pulled it off.”

“The pulling off of the article is the best proof that what it was saying was right. That the media has become subservient to the government, and that they are afraid of the taking on the government,” he concluded.