Hafta letters: Role of courts, Democrats vs Republicans, feedback on new show

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
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Hafta letters: Role of courts, Democrats vs Republicans, feedback on new show
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Hi, NL Hafta!

I have a question and a request.

First, I recently read the book Viral which investigates the origins of Covid-19 and realised that the majority of left-leaning media houses (in India and across the world) either did not cover the lab leak theory and brushed it aside, or did a shoddy job about it. Does the NL team have a view why this is the case?

Second, would it possible to interview the authors of Viral or Katherine Eban, who wrote a piece for Vanity Fair, or @TheSeeker268 on Twitter, or any other person who has investigated this? As a disclaimer, I am vaccinated, believe in climate change and flying spaghetti monster :)

Ashwin

***

Hi NL people,

I've been meaning to write this email for a while when you mentioned crowd-sourcing ideas on how to expand NL.

With new podcasts, I see the direction you are taking. Although it is good for me (someone in their late 20s), however a majority of urban households do not listen to podcasts or read the news (unfortunately). They put on news at 9 pm at night when they sit down for dinner.

Now that you have an app (that can be downloaded on smart TVs), you can create a new subscription of Rs 100 with limited content and give them a daily news briefing (sort of like what we used to have on Doordarshan) through a 30-minute show. In most European countries, it is still the norm where there is no 24-hour news channel and thus they don't need to fill timeslots with absolute crass.

I believe there is a significant market for this at this price point but, of course, you can do your own analysis. Here is one from Denmark.

Best,

Faheem

***

I have a question regarding journalism in general and the writing styles followed by Indian journalists.

It feels like very often, they bury the lede and keep key information at the bottom of the article. In this particular egregious example, the article does not mention where the guy got his MBA or where he worked!

Is this on purpose to hide information or just really poor writing?

Aryan

***

Just wanted to give first feedback on the new series. I heard the first episode and it disappointed me a lot. Request to stop it or at least make it more watchable. The tone of both Kamra and Sanjay was really mean.

Jeethendar

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Hi NL team,

I have been following Zubair's case and, to be honest, it is disappointing and depressing. Time and again, Indian courts, specially the lower courts and the Supreme Court, have proved that under tremendous pressure and a strong leader, they will crumble.

My question is not just to you but to all the members of Digipub, since the matter deals with a cofounder of a digital news portal.

After Zubair's arrest, Digipub released a condemnation regarding the same but nothing else has been done till now. If I am not wrong, Digipub didn't take any legal action against the IT rules when it came out. It was the Wire and LiveLaw which took the government to court.

In such cases, and the cases to come, if digital news portals don't stand together, what's the point of having an association of digital news portals? I don't really mean this as a criticism but really would like to know how you all are dealing with it.

Anyway, love your work and continue doing the same.

Regards,

Kingshuk

***

Hi NL team,

Thanks for all the wonderful ground reports and podcasts.

I have a suggestion. I would like to see if a "subscribers only" podcast can be created for all the video feeds. As I see it, many of the videos are interviews or ground reports. Even Tippani, Saransh and Newsance can be consumed in audio. And if anyone finds a particular audio feed insufficient, they can anytime go to the app or YouTube to watch the video.

This will be the same content as mufatkhors or just with an edge to subscribers that they can listen as podcast too.

Thanks. Keep up the good work.

Abhishek

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Hi all,

I continue to enjoy the great work your team is putting up. Hats off on the topics and research that goes on in the background.

I am reading The Silent Coup currently which I bought after your interview with Josy, so thanks for that and will recommend for all. The situations and stories that he covers in his book are alarming and daunting to say the least. Listening to Hafta this week, it's saddening to see that we are still in the same situation of countless people of similar background or community being slapped with UAPA and god help them with the legal proceedings after.

Jyotsna

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Email 1

In India, discourse on media and social media on the judiciary is confined to whether a public figure of a particular ideological tribe will get bail or not, when will the Supreme Court hear constitutional bench cases (abrogation of article 370, CAA, electoral bonds) having huge political significance. Liberals write "scholarly opeds" in national dailies suggesting the SC exercise its extraordinary powers under article 142 bypassing conventional due process to grant bail to Mohammed Zubair in all cases, even though his lawyer sought relief only in the Sitapur case.

On the other hand, BJP supporters and also leaders express solidarity only when people like Arnab Goswami and Ketaki Chitale get arrested. These folks invoke the police state in their criticism of illegal arrests, as if India has a historically tremendous record on rule of law.

India is a country where there is no rule of law for the majority of its citizens.

Email 2

In continuation:

One who feels so outraged by these illegal arrests should also trigger debate on the plight of lakhs of undertrials. Their incarceration does not negate what Zubair is going through but discourse should not be dedicated to individuals. Following are a few media reports from the past year that reveal the shocking state of underprivileged undertrials and convicts.

In UP, a convict got acquitted after spending 20 years in prison. During this period, most of his family members died. He was not given parole to attend the funeral of his brother.

In another case in UP, a murder accused (not convict) came out of prison after 27 years.

Email 3

I would like to end my letter by commenting on the SC not hearing a constitutional bench case (case heard by a bench of five or more judges). A perception has been created by some critics of the SC, that it is not hearing constitutional bench cases (article 370, CAA, electoral bonds) that can embarrass the current regime.

In reality, there are more than 35 constitutional bench cases pending before the SC (as per one report, 45 are pending). There are two seven-judge bench cases pending since the mid-1990s that have nothing to do with the Modi government.

The Supreme Court has always been a pro-executive court. It only expanded its power by PIL jurisdiction to decide frivolous cases, like whether the national anthem should be played in a cinema hall, and it intervened where it should not have, like taking charge of BCCI.

Koshik Singh

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Email 1

Hi NL team,

I wanted to applaud you for bringing Hilal on the podcast. It was very refreshing to hear an informed and nuanced view on the topics and a clinical diagnosis of issues.

One gripe I did have with the Hafta was the random interruptions that Abhinandan mainly put up when Hilal was making points. I get that Hafta is a gabfest but it really does take away from the listening experience, especially when someone is making new points that a regular listener may not hear. I personally felt Hilal's arguments could have been dealt with more informed opinions, and his ideas be critically engaged with, especially because they were well-informed. Rather than reverting to the usual banter of Hindu-Taliban and such that we hear regularly from the panel.

I would like to request the panel to let well-informed guests like Hilal speak and leave the semi-conspiracy theories and predictions for guests who enjoy that, rather than have it imposed on guests who make serious academic points.

Thanks!

Email 2

Disappointed with Hafta 388! Massive eyeroll when Abhinandan started the Hafta with the peeing incident in front of the guest. I was also taken aback at Raman Sir's confident claim that Nupur Sharma's utterances led to Kanhaiya Lal's killings. Going by his logic, every single person on Twitter, including Zubair who shared the Times Now video, could be held guilty of causing violence in the country. This hurts journalists doing their jobs as they could be held guilty for merely reporting stories.

While Nupur Sharma is a vile, despicable excuse for a human being, she does not deserve violent threats or calls for arrest for saying those statements. She said crass and vulgar things on the debate, which has been going on for the last several years on these shows. To link statements that Nupur Sharma made, which are no different in their crassness to anything else uttered on these shows, to Udaipur incident is unreasonable.

Ankur Sen (aspiring for upward mobility)

***

Dear Abhinandan and Hafta team,

Your long-time subscriber Harjant here, writing in from Washington, DC with comments regarding last week's episode.

Even though I stan Manisha and her reporting, I take umbrage with her assertion that both Democrats and Republicans resort to denigrating behaviour while expressing their political displeasure. Manisha cited the example of people "playing soccer with bible" following the Supreme Court decision. While such examples of deliberately provocative behaviour can be found in all arenas of life, including politics, there is stark difference between how Democratic and Republican parties deal with such egregious behaviour.

Democrats are often quick to reprimand anyone caught engaging in offensive behaviour, even in situations where it might not have been warranted (poor Al Franklin!). Republicans, on the other hand, over the past four years have blown apart all political norms and decorum; they have prompted extremist personalities like Marjorie Taylor Green, Josh Holly, Lauren Boebert to positions of leadership in the interest of consolidating political power. All three are nutters; they endorsed Q-Anon conspiracy theories. More than 100 GOP candidates running for Congress this year who won their primaries have endorsed the big "election fraud" lie that Trump is still peddling.

Sorry for the long email, but I just want to point out the zameen-aasmaan-ka-farq between the two parties, which is why I cannot conceive of supporting the GOP.

Lastly, please watch and review the 2021 Danish documentary Flee on Hulu. I've recommended it on A&A before, but I want to recommend it to the Hafta panel. The film manages to capture what displacement and being a refugee does to an individual and their psyche; how it makes one suspicious and scared of everything and everyone. Given that there are over 26 million refugees living all around the world today, anyone who has yet to experience displacement should watch this film to understand their plight.

Sincerely yours,

Harjant Gill

***

Dear Abhinandan,

I was heavily traveling throughout the month and and hence couldn't renew. I did as soon as I could focus on my personal life.

Just watched the great show Yeh Bhi Theek Hai and I absolutely loved it. However, I noticed that Kamra was muted for a few cuss (?) words. Fine! Right after that, I watched Awful and Awesome and you said the f word at least five times (I am 10 minutes into it).

Any particular reason for this unwarranted censoring? I would love to be enlightened about it since I am the same age as you, born in 1973. It would be nice to hear from you. Please feel free to include this email in your podcast emails if you find it appropriate.

Once again, I love the work you do and will support as far as I can.

All the best, NL team.

Sincerely,

Abel Desai

***

Hi NL Hafta team,

Thanks a lot for your great work.

Question: What steps are we taking/should take to make sure Newslaundry doesn't become a left-biased mouthpiece? How do we keep the balance of voices that news organisations badly need, imo?

Suggestion: This is an interesting podcast on new alternative business models for companies trying to stay independent and away from hyper profit-motivated entities. It's called the zebra movement.

Hope it helps give us ideas for the long-term roadmap for Newslaundry.

Cheers,

Ram

***

Hello team,

I am one of the silent subscribers but I am writing in for the first time to reiterate that Bhindranwale is not revered by all Sikhs.

The dark years of terrorism took Punjab back a decade, or maybe more, and most of us who have been through those nightmarish years have not forgotten what a terrible era that was.

I am a Jatt Sikh and I can tell you his supporters are not widespread. Please refrain from making generalised statements regarding support for this person. I can wax eloquent on this topic but would end my email keeping in mind the given word limit.

Kind regards,

G Virk

***

Hi NL team,

In a week's Hafta, one of the letters described the issue of US visa appointment delays. My family is facing the same problem. We have been looking for an appointment since March, with no luck. If you plan to do a story, here are some inputs:

1) Personally for me going to India this year is critical. My mother has been sick since last October, and has not met my second child, as he was born in the middle of the pandemic. She is also visually impaired and hence a video call doesn't help us at all. The embassy has provisions for an emergency appointment, however I am not sure if I'll qualify for one. My mother suffers from chronic issues, not acute problems. Their site states that during the interview if they deem my case was not an emergency, they may reject my visa. I have two small kids, one of whom starts school soon. It would be pretty disruptive, if we are stranded in India. Of course, I don't know what would happen to my employment. Given the situation, I am not able to decide if I should continue to wait for a regular slot or take the risk of requesting an emergency slot.

2) As always, there are people taking advantage of the situation. There are "agents" who are booking slots at an additional cost. My guess is that it's illegal. I know many friends who booked it through an agent, but some were duped as well. I think the standard rate right now is Rs 10,000. I resisted reaching out to them for long, but I finally got desperate and contacted a few. Unfortunately, since the embassies completely stopped giving appointments to anyone who wasn't a student, for the months of June through August, all the agents refused me. I do not know how they operate, but my guess is that it's very similar to "tatkal" reservations.

3) There are many active Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram groups where you would find a lot of people in the same boat. I am sure many will be happy to share their experience for your story.

I think I have included all that I know, but let me know if you need more info. I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can.

Long-time subscriber and a big Hafta fan! Keep up the good work.

Regards,

Nivedita

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