Journalists should disclose if they’re in relationship with a politician: Barkha Dutt

Barkha Dutt, the former NDTV journalist, is speaking her mind these days over questions that she earlier avoided due to various reasons, one of them being the employment with the beleaguered news channel.

Recently she had accused her former employers of adopting double standards on issues like freedom of speech and economic offenses, and had got into an online duel with some of her former colleagues, especially Nidhi Razdan. The relationship between NDTV and Barkha especially deteriorated after CBI raids against NDTV promoters Prannoy Roy in a case of alleged tax evasion and financial fraud.

She was seen once again in the same avatar while interacting with students at TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) in Mumbai on Thursday, where she delivered a talk on “changing face of news”.

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Responding to a specific question by a TISS student Vishakha Joshi about NDTV journalists being relatives of politicians, especially from Congress and the left parties, and thus a bias possibly creeping into their reporting, Barkha Dutt said that she believes that media organizations and journalists should be transparent about such connections and disclose such relationships, which can be deemed as potential conflict of interest by many.

“There is always a potential conflict of interest in many arrangements. The honest thing to do is to reveal it,” Barkha said.

“Somewhere in NDTV’s public articulations has to be the disclosure that this editor is married to this politician, or is seeing this politician (sic). This owner is related to this, and then you have that information as an element in your information, and you have a right to reject that news if you want,” she explained her position on the issue.

Later, on Twitter, she reiterated that viewers had a right to know any conflict of interest and determine perceptions of bias based on that information.

“I am not related to any politician so this is not personal for me. As an observer conflicts of interest need to be outed. Then it’s for people to decide,” she said.

It should be noted that many senior NDTV journalists indeed are relatives of active politicians, especially from the Congress party and the left parties. For example, Sonia Singh, the current Editorial Director of NDTV is the wife of Congress leader RPN Singh, who was Minister of State for Home Affairs in the UPA government.

Ravish Kumar, the most well-known face of the Hindi news channel of the NDTV network, is brother of Congress leader Brajesh Kumar Pandey, who was the Vice President of Bihar Congress until February this year. Ravish Kumar’s brother had to resign from his post after being accused of sexually exploiting a minor Dalit girl. Brajesh Kumar still remains a Congress leader.

Not just employees of NDTV, even Radhika Roy, the promoter of NDTV and wife of Prannoy Roy, is related to politicians. She is the sister of senior CPM leader Brinda Karat.

Not many common viewers of NDTV are aware of such relationships and Barkha Dutt believes that it is only fair that such relationships are disclosed. She further said that such disclosures should also apply to information like who is funding a media organisation, and who owns them.

Apart from this statement, which might not please her former employers and colleagues, Barkha once again reiterated that she left NDTV because there was too much interference with her work, her stories were being censored and NDTV was not what they said they were.

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