R​anjona Banerji: Why ignore a good story?

06 Oct,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Why does the Indian media fear the Adani group so much? Respected and well-known journalist Paranjoy Guha-Thakurta was forced to resign from the Economic and Political Weekly after carrying a series of stories on tax fiddles by the Adani Group (plus lack of action by tax agencies) only because the magazine received a legal notice. Legal notices by the way are par for the course for any journalistic enterprise.

Journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative programme 4Corners had their “cameras shut down, footage deleted and were questioned for hours by the police” in Gujarat, according to their website, while working on a story on Adani Group’s “opaque financial operations” as well as the impact in Queensland, Australia where the group’s Carmichael Mines threaten the Great Barrier Reef, among other issues.

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digging-into-adani/9008500

Since the report appeared – as well as reports about the journalists being questioned in Gujarat – it has been picked up by the international media.

This is from news.com.au:

http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/mining/what-happens-when-you-investigate-adani/news-story/13cfb0dd0dbc8f01fad9f0c13b801af9

 

These are some reports from The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/03/adani-needs-carmichael-mine-to-stave-off-income-crash-report-says

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/16/adani-mining-giant-faces-financial-claims-as-it-bids-for-australian-coal-loan

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/04/mining-companies-links-with-politicians-susceptible-to-corruption-report

 

In each of these, corruption plays a major role. And in India, we hear the government, its members and its party and some sections of the media discuss corruption a great deal. In recent times, even the age-old Bofors scam, which was about a bribe amount of Rs 64 crore and a case which came to nothing although governments fell, is being re-discussed.

But the Adani Group’s suspected fiddles of several mind-boggling crores – Rs 15 billion being one estimate – has been largely ignored in the mainstream Indian media. In this I include newspapers as well as television, although news websites have carried the international stories. The only news event which got some traction is that of the Australian journalists being detained by the police in Gujarat.

Does one need a PhD in entire political science to figure out what’s going on? That editors and newspaper managements are terrified to write anything about the Adani group because of its reported closeness to prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP and its strong presence in Gujarat? That corruption is only corruption when it is carried out by non-BJP affiliates? Why would news channels try to suck out juice from a dead Bofors case and ignore a juic​y

Adani case. Is Rs 64 crore (about Rs 640 million) paid in bribes in the 1980s so much more important than a Rs 15 billion question mark now?

Even if we do not co-relate the two cases and accept that the Bofors scam needs an ending, why should the possibility of a scam involving Adani be ignored? Especially after what happened to Guha Thakurta, one would have expected many more India journalists to work on the Adani story and not leave it to foreign journalists. (By the way, you can cue Bofors here again and find out that it was Swedish journalists who broke the story…)

It is this lack of journalistic integrity which is going to break us. Forget the social media and oped discussions about left versus right and liberals versus the others. The Adani Group is a good story regardless of affiliations and if you are ignoring it, hoping it will go away, you are damning the future of journalism.

 

**

 

In other news, it is interesting to see that the snide and whiny Opindia.com, bought and legitimised by the superior intellects at Swarajya.com, goes after Delhi college student Gurmehar Kaur over some trifling issue in what looks like revenge for her taking a stand against the ABVP earlier this year. It is even more interesting to see the online editorial director of Swarajya retweeting this “story” as if it is some great example of fine journalism.

A magazine and website started in the name of C Rajagopalachari and Minoo Masani might consider that both those great Indians would really appreciate an expose by Swarajya into

​t​he Adani ​story​? No?

 

​Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are her own​

 

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