Watch : Madhu Trehan obfuscates when it comes to talking about corruption in the media

I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I do however watch Newslaundry. In fact, this vice of mine has taught me several things over the years. Watching Newslaundry descend from watchdog to lapdog has given me several insights about the psyche of the privileged and arrogant liberal elite.

If you have ever wondered why there had to be a break between Newslaundry and someone of Anand Ranganathan’s intellectual capacity, look no further than this video of Newslaundry’s latest “Media Rumble.”

So what is the Media rumble? It is Newslaundry’s big annual bash, for which they accept, among other things: corporate money. Being the inexorable troll that I am, I ended up tweeting this to Abhinandan Sekhri, the CEO of Newslaundry.

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To his credit, Sekhri replied thus, which I thought I should reproduce here.

So, as Newslaudry itself says: when corporations pay, corporations are served. Yet, for some mysterious reason, when corporations pay for annual conferences that bring publicity to a news website, the news website should be trusted to serve the ‘people’ instead of serving the corporations.

Are you buying this excuse? I leave it to your judgement, but may I suggest you make up your mind after hearing some of the stuff that happened at this conference? You may please decide after that if it was the ‘people’ or the corrupt establishment that was served.

The video I posted above is from a debate anchored by Madhu Trehan at the Media Rumble. The fun begins around 23:30 when Pankaj Pachauri starts saying the uncomfortable stuff. Let me reproduce some of the best stuff here:

On ABP News (watch from 23:30)

Pankaj Pachauri: The relations between the govt and the journalism and media they have become toxic and let’s talk about that if you want to talk about what’s happening…

Madhu Trehan: Well, let’s talk about ABP News.

PP: Yeah, let’s talk about it. ABP News before the last election held an award function where I met the ABP News promoter owner who told me very grandly that all our awards have gone to the BJP states because they are running such good  … Chief Ministers are running such way. I said fine, very good… 

For three years after that, the ABP News is totally talking about the government … on the basis of govt functionaries coming to your event, you will get your sponsorship and your money and one day that stopped and then you become a rebel then you become a champion of Freedom of Speech. What the hell is this?

On media houses and mining industry (watch from 24:50)

Pankaj Pachauri: Right now, there is a crisis in the mining industry in the country and believe you me there are eight to seven, eight to nine media houses who have interest in mining and it’s going on everywhere. 

On Indian Express (watch from 26:00)

Pankaj Pachauri: I’ve seen managing editors sitting outside mukhyamantri’s office for two days and it pained my heart as a journalist. It really killed me because these are the people I worked with, they are the people who are like my icons in journalism…

Madhu Trehan (interrupting): Pankaj, I don’t know what you are talking about because …

PP: I am talking about how media has become subservient to the government of the day.

MT: The point is that is like saying everything is bad because we know that there are journalists and editors who stand up to the government and will not sit outside anybody’s office to get an audience, they are not waiting for handouts for their visits to their conclaves or summits there are enough media houses who function in an as upright way as is possible in a country like ours or any other country for that matter. 

PP: Name me two. I can challenge that name me two and I’ll give you instances. 

MT: Indian Express.

PP: Indian Express, okay. 

MT: Be careful. 

PP: Indian Express invited the head of RSS in 2013 or something because they were going to print both Panchajanya and Organizer in their printing press and…  Indian Express since its inception, since the Emergency and everywhere has always sided against a certain kind of politics in this country and it continues to do that. I mean from Ram Nath…

MT: No, you are talking about dishonesty..you are talking about catering to ..

PP: I am talking about dishonesty. I have reported on Indian Express running a campaign against Ambani in the 80s which was funded by the Wadias. The pictures. I have reported on them. 

MT: Be careful Pankaj, this is defamatory. 

PP: This is all reported. 

MT: Reported doesn’t make it right. It is defamatory so be careful.

PP: I have written about it, I have interviewed Mr Arun Shourie who was running that campaign those days.

MT: And Arun Shourie told you that Nusli Wadia was paying him? 

PP: No, we found out who was paying it we got pictures from Bombay.

MT: (desperate interruption) We’ve really run out of time and I really wanted to.

PP: I wanted to tell you. You can’t give me two names, you gave me one name.

MT: I gave you Indian Express which you said was corrupted … I mean this discussion is being sidelined… 

Now, I have no idea if Pankaj Pachauri’s accusations were true. What I do know is that Madhu Trehan would not let him complete. And that the discussion went on for around 7 minutes after Madhu ji allegedly “ran out of time” to let Pankaj Pachauri finish. Since the whole discussion is 35 minutes long, that is a good 20% of the total time that was still left when Madhu ji allegedly ran out of time.

Here is another interesting thought that came to me. Pankaj Pachauri asked Madhu to give two names of honest media houses. But she gave only one name: Indian Express. And since Pankaj Pachauri was in Manmohan Singh’s team, he would certainly know about media being subservient to the ruling dispensation.

Why didn’t Madhu Ji name India Today? After all, she was the founding editor of India Today magazine. Her brother Aroon Poorie is the Chairman and Editor in Chief of India Today Group.

When asked to name an honest media house, would it not have been more natural for Madhu Trehan to name India Today? Why didn’t she think of it then? Was she worried that Pankaj Pachauri would say something damaging? Who knows…

Like I said, I leave it all to your judgement. Who you think was being ‘served’ at this Media rumble: the establishment or the people?

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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