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Reliance Ashton Martin crash: Open Letter to Justice Markandey Katju Press Council of India

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The following letter is written by Rajan Alexander and a s request  to all to  shoot off your own letters to the Press Council.
The Chairman-Hon’ble Mr. Justice Markandey Katju
Soochna Bhavan, 8-C.G.O. Complex,
Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003
Dear Sir!,
“I would rather have a completely free press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated press”
– Pandit Nehru –
The Indian media is gigantic and apparently vibrant as never before. But is it free in supposedly free India?
The Aam Aadmi usually accept at face value what’s said in the newspaper or what’s shown on the television. We do not normally even question the sanctity or air of self-righteousness put on by some of our TV anchors.  We also usually never doubt the author’s intent behind the story; never bother to check the editor or owner’s dubious associations, if any.
But the Nira Radia tapes have shown how the media can go overboard and start power broking instead of doing their duty of honestly putting facts in public domain and let the people judge them. This was prehaps the first instance of our confidence in the media ending up rudely shaken. The Tarun Tejpal and Tehelka episode eroded this confidence further with even the media tacitly admitting its far reaching impact:
“When gods have feet of clay, even believers become atheists. Tarun Tejpal, just over 50, used to be an iconic figure in Indian journalism. He was a man who led a media organisation which shook a government, unseated influential officials, broke new ground in investigative journalism using sting operations, and championed causes in favour of the underprivileged. Today he has been disgraced and humiliated, accused by his young daughter’s close friend and his employee of sexual assault and abuse of power.
The accusations have not just created turmoil in the media in India but raised a political storm in the country, going viral on the social media, hogging headlines in newspapers, and dominating discourses on prime-time television since November 20 when the episode became publicly known.”
– Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in Al Jazeera –
The second driver leading to our confidence in the media getting badly eroded was your own untiring and on-going and praise worthy campaign Justice Markandey Katju against increasing instances of paid media. From such campaigns we learnt to appreciate that the media is but a tool in the pockets of the corporate, political, and financial establishments that seeks to mold and even manipulate public opinion in the favor of those who have vested interests in various channels around the globe.
The third and more recent driver that led to decrease public confidence in a free media is the recent incidence of Rapide car crash in Pedder Road, Mumbai. A majority of the media houses chose to remain uncharacteristically silent. A handful who promptly chose to publish the alleged involvement of Aakash Ambani, one by one deleted the contents though the link to the article can be still be accessed from the internet.
Hans India: Aston Martin car crash Mumbai police shielding Akash Ambani? The Url of the news item also hints that Police is trying to shield Aakash Ambani. http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/2013-12-16/Aston-Martin-car-crash-Mumbai-police-shielding-Akash-Ambani-79505
Checkout the screenshot of the deleted page
ZeeNews: Mukesh Ambani`s son involved in Aston Martin crash? The URL of the news item indicated that `s son involved in Aston Martin crash … As soon as the accident took place, Reliance’s security team following the Aston Martin Rapide whisked him off the scene…http://zeenews.india.com/news/maharashtra/mukesh-ambani-s-son-involved-in-aston-martin-crash_895942.html
Checkout the screenshot of the deleted page
DNA: Aston Martin crash: Reliance driver owns up but police seek forensic evidence reports: The ambiguity and mystery over the identity of the person who was driving an Aston Martin which was involved in an accident in the wee hours of Sunday continues to baffle the police. The Gamdevi police recorded the statement of the man, purportedly employed as a chauffeur with Reliance..The ambiguity and mystery over the identity of the person who was driving an Aston Martin which was involved in an accident in the wee hours of Sunday continues to baffle the police. The Gamdevi police recorded the statement of the man, purportedly employed as a chauffeur with Reliance..http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-aston-martin-crash-reliance-driver-owns-up-but-police-seek-forensic-evidence-1933019
Checkout the screenshot of the deleted page
 
These kind of deletion by the press is unprecendented in India’s media history. See box item…

As you know sir, India has dropped nine places to 140 in the list of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index, which its authors, Reporters Without Borders, said was the lowest for the

“world’s biggest democracy” since 2002.

According to PUCL:

“Having accepted that the freedom of the Press is of vital importance especially in our contest, the question arises: is this freedom threatened and, if so, by whom?

It has been frequently alleged, especially in India, that the freedom of the Press is in danger because of the ownership of the newspaper industry and the predominance of some newspaper groups and chains. It is also suggested that the editors and journalists cannot have adequate freedom of collecting and disseminating facts and offering comments as they are under the pressure of the capitalist owners. It is further pointed out that free collection and dissemination of facts is not possible in the case of newspapers which depend to a large extent on revenue from advertisements as the advertising interests cannot but influence the presentation of news and comments. Unless this whole structure of ownership and control in the newspaper industry, and also the manner of the economic management of the Press, is changed, it is therefore suggested, the Press cannot be really free.”

This story of a Reliance Ashton Martin Rapide car crash appears to be a classic case study of confirming the PUCL assertion. Accordingly the Press Council has to institute an independent enquiry to ascertain into the reason why these articles have been deleted without a formal retraction by such media agencies viz. to determine what kind of pressures led to these deletion
– was it the inducement of money
– was it political pressure
– was it the effect of both – inducement of money and political pressure
The Press Council has also enquire why this particularly Peddar Road car crash is not considered strangely not news worthy as the press have previously gone berserk over lesser mortals. An Aston Martin Rapide (MH-O1-BK99) costing Rs 3.5 crore-worth luxury sports car into ugly metal scrap surely should be a story by itself. That the car belonging to Reliance Industries, a bluest of blue chip Indian company should have been yet another reason for news worthiness of the story. That the driver of the crashed car was whisked away purportedly by two Reliance security details should have whetted the appetites of news hungry journalists. That it didn’t, should be a story by itself. That a driver working for Reliance Industries took responsibility for the crash 12 hours after the crash with police refusing to file a FIR against him must be surely newsworthy just as ascertaining whether it is standard operating procedure (SOP) for Reliance Industries to provide two security details for each of their chaffeurs under their roll for driving an empty car?
Besides, there have been reports that suggested that the driver was none other than Akash Ambani, the son of Reliance Industries president Mukesh Ambani. Let’s face it Justice Markandey Katju. If it were rumours that linked a car crash to a Rahul Gandhi, a Narendra Modi or a Kapil Sibal or Arun Jaitley, you and I know that the Indian press would have instaneously gone beserk and jostling with one another to interview them. Why is it that neither Mukesh Ambani or his son Akshay Ambani face no such ordeal?
Arnab Goswami of TimesNow now famous line is “India wants to know”. Even he pretends no such incident occurred or the story is newsworthy. This prompts me to write an open letter through my blog to request an enquiry into India’s media inexplicible behaviour in this instance.
Anticipating your prompt action and looking forward to hearing from you.
Yours cordially
Rajan Alexander

 

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