Friday, April 10, 2009


Sometimes newspapers and T.V. News Channels decide what we should know and what we should not. Subramaniam Swamy's allegations against Sonia Gandhi were a case in point. We read about them day in and day out, without being told what the allegations were.
At some point in the month of March or April maverick politician Subramaniam Swamy who has been described as "a one-man demolition squad in Indian politics" held a press conference to make a series of serious allegations against Congress Party president, and the leader of the Opposition in India's Parliament. Most Delhi newspapers ignored them. With one or two exceptions, they did not even report his press conference. But Swami is persistent. He followed up on his charges with the government, and then suddenly it was announced that they had been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Now suddenly the newspapers were full of these charges, without telling you what they were. Some mentioned them briefly, somewhere in the body of the copy in passing. Other papers like the Hindustan Times covered the story of the incensed Congress party creating a daily rumpus in Parliament without telling you what the "baseless allegations" were that were angering the Congress. Very few magazines or newspapers wrote full-fledged pieces on them. They decided collectively, that the public had no right to know more.
On the day the Prime Minister clarified that there was no CBI inquiry as yet into these charges the Express reported the story as a first lead and put the charges (with the word in inverted commas) at the bottom of the story. The politics of the charges now made sure the story was on page one day after day but the substance of the charges was still not news. Congress Party spokesman Jaipal Reddy confirmed this when he said at one of his press briefings "even the media chose to ignore these allegations."
When asked why the press had been so shy of telling us what exactly Sonia Gandhi had been accused of, veteran political correspondents gave the following reasons: Swami is a loose cannon. His credibility is not high. The charges were serious, and difficult to prove. The press corps felt uneasy about them. So they would refer to the charges but not go to tone with them.
One allegation had to do with Rahul Gandhi receiving funds from the KGB. The second was about Sonia Gandhi being an insurance agent when she was not an Indian citizen. And the third and most serious was that her mother and sister had links with the LTTE, the Tamil guerrilla organisation that had assassinated her husband Rajiv. A fourth said she had illegally exported antiques.
The political editor of a newspaper adds, when charges are levelled against the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, the press is circumspect about them unless there is adequate proof.
Point taken, but still, readers have a right to know. Precisely because she holds such a crucial post in a democracy. And also because recent past history has shown that Subramaniam Swamy's persists with his charges. As Neerja Choudhury pointed out in her profile of him in the Indian Express, All India Anna DMK chief Jayalalitha has been convicted in two out of six cases he filed against her. If we have to keep reading about these allegations, we should know what they are.
To see all articles of writer visit

No comments:

Post a Comment