Indian media is now running for cover. The 2G spectrum scam, which has snowballed into a major controversy involving Indian politicians and businessmen has now become hotter for journalists to handle as it allegedly involves two of their senior members.
Two Indian magazines put the audio tapes and transcripts of conversations between corporate lobbyist Nira Radia of Vaishnavi Communications and her media friends on their websites. Other Indian media houses have hushed it up.
Vir Sanghvi, editorial director of Indian national daily Hindustan Times and India’s television news channel NDTV’s group editor Barkha Dutt are apparently featured in the transcripts. They are heard promising to fix things for Radia, who is known to be close to the sacked minister A Raja, and her clients besides her political cronies.
While Sanghvi allegedly took notes from Radia on what he could point out in his weekly Sunday column of Hindustan Times even as Radia asked him to write against Reliance Group's Anil Ambani and the high court decision on the gas pricing issue.
Barkha Dutt had allegedly assured Radia of getting ruling Congress party’s general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad to talk to the supremo of his party’s chief ally in the government M Karunanidhi to fix portfolios for the ally according to wishes of Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi.
The excerpted tapes, which have now been made public, were recorded between May 11 and July 11, 2009. Radia’s phone lines were under surveillance by the Income Tax Department between 2008 and 2009 for a few months.
The tapes are now a major cause for media embarrassment as it exposes how frequent hobnobbing with politicians had given them a taste of power and seats of influence.
The transcripts of conversations between Radia and journalists suggests that they expect return of favours, which come in different forms from free trips abroad to free stays at suites in plush 5-star hotels.
Politicians also help out visiting scribes along with their families by providing government guest houses at cheap rates. Free all-expenses paid holidays to writers and campaigners are also doled out as part of the deal.
With the tapes out, Indian media is now running for cover, in the name of professional exigencies.