Awards for 2G news stories: What not?

Sushil Kutty

“Public perception has no place in judicial proceedings.” These are words from the 2G verdict that set free 17 accused.
The judge without saying it plainly blamed the media – especially the tribe of investigative journalists – for blowing up the case into a scam.
Special Judge O P Saini said that his seven year wait for evidence was “all in vain” because the case was mainly based on “rumours, gossip and speculation.”
With that “truth” out in the public domain, should not the media, especially the print media, make amends, give an unconditional apology to the public at large for the “media frenzy” and write apologies on front pages to all the 17 accused who walked free after Judge Saini ruled out any “criminality” in their actions which the media blew up into a political scandal, second only to Watergate, of mammoth proportion.
Should not the Indian Express ask The Pioneer special correspondent J Gopikrishnan to return the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year Award given to him in 2012 for uncovering the 2G Scam? Gopikrishnan wrote his first investigative story on the 2G Scam in 2008 and followed it up with many more.
Another prominent investigative reporter on the 2G Scam trail was Shalini Singh. She wrote a string of stories for the Times of India. On December 21, within hours of Judge Saini delivering his coup de grace to 2G Scam, Shalini wrote this in the First Post…
So, what all rumours did Shalini pick up from the Telecom ministry? One, there was a “scandal”. Two, the scandal (which can be confused with a scam) was “massive”. Three, the massive scandal had a “modus operandi”. Five, the massive scandal with a modus operandi was beginning to “unfold”.
She went on to write: “Raja ran amock, twisting every rule in the book. And every single deviation was documented in great detail. But Raja was unstoppable. He and his team went ahead as per plan, immune to the fact that their intent and modus operandi to eventually loot the nation to the extent of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in full public view had already been detailed in one of the country’s leading national dailies.”
Was that rumour, gossip, speculation or “every single deviation was documented in detail”?  The Judge said there was no “evidence” and that he sat in open court for evidence to walk in. She speaks of “as per plan” there was “intent and modus opernadi to eventually loot the nation to the extent of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in full public view” as detailed in a leading national daily. Which was that daily that the Judge did not subscribe to, read?
Gopikrishnan’s Wikipedia profile identifies him as “an Indian journalist who uncovered the 2G scam” and was awarded the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year Award in print in 2012. “His first report on the 2G Scam appeared in ‘The Pioneer’, English newspaper on December 11, 2008, exposing the hidden list of companies floated by the relatives of the then telecom minister A Raja.”
A Raja did not refute the story in 2008. But A Raja walked on December 21, 2017, after the Judge set him free saying that there was no scam, only “rumours, gossip and speculation” that created a scam where none existed.
Gopikrishnan and others of his tribe of investigative reporters like Shalini Singh stand discredited. The least that can be done is to take back the award given to Gopikrishnan and admit that the Express award jury blundered.
Gopikrishnan tweeted this on December 21, 2007: “If TKA Nair and Pulok were chargesheeted…at this stage Saini will say some Santa or Banta in PMO did it…how he came to the conclusion not summoning TKA Nair and Pulok? Bad 2G judgment.”
He was angry, disappointed. Present at a TV show that evening, he borrowed Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘neech’ analogy to PM Modi to hit back at the 2G verdict. He kept repeating “neech verdict”.
A youtube video dating back to 2013 said Gopikrishnan was “the first man to unearth the huge 2G Spectrum Scam.” Gopikrishnan was no stranger to A Raja. The jailed DMK politician had branded journalists like Gopikrishnan and Shalini Singh “mad dogs running after stories.”
There are questions. Why did Raja, Kanimozhi and the babus of the Telecom ministry not take Gopikrishnan and Shalini Singh to court? Why did Raja and Kanimozhi keep silent even after they were jailed? After all, the journalists were peddling “rumours, gossip and speculation.”
There were no charges of defamation and fake news levelled against the journalists. Why? Was it because the reports were true, then? Was it because there was a scam, then? Was it because the reports were not “rumours, gossip and speculation,” then? What happened during the silent seven years, between then and now?
Will the exonerated 17 take the journalists to court, now? Did the journalists not carry out a media trial to send them to jail with rumours, gossip and speculation? Were they not called liars, corrupt, crooks and cheats? Such patience and thick skins the 17 have, it’s admirable.
Look at the irony. Two days before Judge OP Saini dropped his shocking verdict, another edition of the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism was presented in the Capital.
It is for the Indian Express now to take a call. Either fight for J Gopikrishnan and his Journalism of Courage – what the very Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism – or ask Gopikrishnan to return the Journalist of the Year Award, 2012.
Nobody, not even a Special Judge, should be allowed to make a clean getaway after leaving a public perception behind that the 2G Scam was only “rumours, gossip and speculation” cooked up by investigative journalists and that the Indian Express gave an award to a peddler of “rumours, gossip and speculation”. (IPA)

Thursday, 28 December, 2017