An FIR was filed recently against Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of The Wire, for spreading fake news about the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath. The FIR was filed after he had attributed a fake quote to the Mahant of the Gorakhnath Muth in order to whitewash the deeds of the Tablighi Jamaat, which was responsible for spreading the Wuhan Coronavirus all cross India. Since then, an organized campaign has been launched to paint him as a victim despite the obvious mala fide intent on his part. As it turns out his sins are many and it has been going on for quite some time.
In this report, we shall highlight the numerous occasions on which Siddharth Varadarajan has violated the ethical principles of journalism and in certain cases, where there are clear conflicts on interest. During the course of this report, we shall not mention the barrage of propaganda that The Wire has been indulging in and keep it limited to the conduct of its founding editor alone.
Suppressing the Vadra Scam Expose
Siddharth Varadarajan had suppressed the expose on Vadra’s dealing with DLF for seven months, according to journalist Shalini Singh. Shalini Singh had joined the Hindu in February 2012 and had submitted the Vadra story around March-April 2012, after emailing detailed questionnaires to both Mr. Robert Vadra and the DLF. She further said that after she submitted the Vadra report, the editorial team communicated to her that the story wasn’t good enough and couldn’t be carried. As a result, the story remained shelved for 7 months. The Editor of The Hindu at the time was Siddharth Varadarajan himself. In effect, the onus of the Robert Vadra scam story being shelved for that duration lies squarely on his shoulders.
In an earlier interview, Ms Shalini Singh has said that when she realized that there was no interest in carrying the story, she sought permission to give the story along with the documents to Mr. Prashant Bhushan who was at that time involved with “India Against Corruption”. Although there were several opportunities to carry the story even then, none were taken. The story was eventually only carried AFTER Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s press conference where he talked about the dubious business deals of Robert Vadra.
Spreading Propaganda regarding the Gujarat Riots
Suddharth Varadarajan spread a great deal of propaganda regarding the Gujarat Riots, while maintaining the garb of neutrality. He insinuated that the post-Godhra riots would have occurred anyway and attempted to whitewash the Godhra massacre by Radical Muslims, where even women and children lost their lives. He wrote in August 2004, “Far from being a spontaneous mass reaction to the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra the day before in which 58 Hindu passengers died, the killings across most of Gujarat seemed scripted. So well chosen were the targets that it is almost as if there was already in place a plan to do something dramatic as part of the ongoing Ayodhya agitation, probably in order to polarise the state on communal lines in the run-up to state elections that the BJP might have had some difficulty winning on the basis of its actual performance.”
Siddharth Varadaran wrote further, “Had Godhra not happened, would Naroda Patiya have burned, would Ehsan Jafri have been killed, the Best Bakery been destroyed and Bilkis Bano been raped? These questions are deeply problematic because they are tainted by the bankruptcy of the Sangh parivar’s moral arithmetic. When you have an organisation like the VHP whose cadres are capable of the most horrific violence, when you have a police force that is willing to let innocent citizens be attacked, and when you have chief ministers and prime ministers who offer post-facto justifications for genocide, it is a dangerous delusion to believe the Gujarat violence occurred because of Godhra. The Gujarat violence happened because the government wanted it to. Godhra was just the excuse.”
Refusal to carry a woman’s account of sexual harassment due to funding from TATA
Reputed Columnist, Manu Joseph, claimed in January 2019 that in November the previous year The Wire had refused to report Anjuli Pandit’s account of sexual harassment at the Taj because of fear of the Tatas. Pandit is a former Tata Group Executive. Then, Tata was believed to be a possible donor to The Wire. Siddharth Varadarajan, the Founding Editor of Wire, had vehemently denied the claim.
As per Pandit’s account, which was later carried in Indian Express, she narrates how complaining against her abuser, her boss, she was robbed of her personal and professional goals. In her article, she mentions, without giving any specific names, that she was turned down by Indian journalists who didn’t want to carry her story. It was eventually revealed that the Tatas have funded The Wire.
The feud within the CBI had prompted the Modi Government to ask both the Director, Alok Verma and the Deputy Director, Rakesh Asthana to step down after a bitter turf war had broken out. Both Verma and Asthana had made allegations of corruption against each other. The Supreme Court had ordered the Central Vigilance Committee to file its report on the allegations in two weeks.
Following this, the Central Vigilance Committee submitted its observations to the court in a sealed envelope. The court was also given the answers provided by Alok Verma to the CVC. The report including Alok Verma’s response was given in a sealed envelope and was supposed to be highly confidential.
However, the leftist propaganda website The Wire somehow got a hold of the confidential documents and ran elaborate stories publishing Alok Verma’s version. They have contested that the reports were based on Verma’s response to the CVC before the SC had ruled and the responses were not in a sealed cover, hence, they have not contravened the SC order.
The Then CJI Ranjan Gogoi was furious at the leak. He said that Free Press and responsible press have to be balanced. Not only the CJI but even Fali Nariman, Alok Verma’s advocate, was distressed at the media leak. He said that the leak was unauthorised and that free press should not mean irresponsible press. Fali Nariman also asked the Supreme Court to summon The Wire’s Editor to get answers.
On October 8th 2017, the leftist propaganda website The Wire had published a shoddy hit job against Jay Shah, who is Home Minister and then BJP party president Amit Shah’s son. After the hit job by The Wire, Jay Shah had slapped a 100 crore defamation suit on the website and the author of the article, Rohini Singh. What followed was the usual liberal rhetoric. Opeds were written about how freedom of expression is in danger and Press freedom is being thwarted.
Soon, Jay Shah approached the civil court at Ahmedabad which granted him an ex parte ad-interim order against ‘The Wire’ and its founding editors, including the author of the article, Rohini Singh, stating that they be barred from publishing anything, directly or indirectly in connection with Jay Shah. “The Wire” then approached the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad, appealing against this particular gag order. The High Court made some interesting observations and rejected the plea of ‘The Wire’ against the ex parte ad-interim order.
The Court made it amply clear in its judgement in 2017 that till the ex parte ad-interim matter (gag order matter) was heard, none of the defendants (folks from The Wire) had filed even an appearance before the Trial Court, much less any reply. Defendant No. 2 (Siddharth Varadarajan) had filed appearance on 8th November 2017, only to take adjournment before the Trial Court.
Siddharth Varadarajan, on 13th November 2017, had tweeted that his team was outside the Ahmedabad court waiting for Jay Shah who did not show up. The court has observed that Defendant No. 2 (Varadarajan) filed an adjournment application on 8th in the Trial Court, citing the reason that the matter is pending in the High court, and that none of the other defendants had even filed an appearance or reply till 16th, when the matter was heard.
The court observed that under the provision of Order 39, Rule 4 of the Code, The Wire could have approached the Trial Court itself to modify and/or vacate the ex parte ad-interim impugned restrain order dated 12.10.2017 (Gag order), but ‘The Wire’ did not avail of this option. The court then makes a rather scathing indictment of team Wire saying that “there is reluctance on their part, even to put their contest, on merits, before the Trial Court”.
The High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad observed that since “there is no motivation on the part of any of the defendants to contest the matter before the Trial Court, keeping in view the above noted proposition of the law, this court finds that these Appeals need not be entertained on merits”. This would, in laymen terms mean that the court refused to entertain The Wire’s appeal of vacating the gag order on the ground that The Wire was least motivated to explore their options of approaching the Trial Court and argue the case on merits.
Rajya Sabha TV accused The Wire of stealing, illegally possessing and using copyrighted material
Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) served a legal notice to The Wire in April 2019 for intellectual property rights and copyright infringement. In the legal notice, RSTV has also accused The Wire of coming into possession of copyright material of Rajya Sabha TV in an “unauthorised and unlawful manner suggestive of either stealing or obtaining and making use of the stolen property”.
The notice asked The Wire to provide necessary details and documents within 2 weeks to prove that they had not stolen or come into possession of stolen property of RSTV, that they had not violated exclusive Intellectual Property Rights of RSTV and that they had not infringed upon Copyright vested in RSTV. The legal notice said that should The Wire fail to do so, they will be liable for civil and criminal consequences.
Siddharth Varadarajan and the CHRI
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is no fan of the Narendra Modi government and it is known to receive funds from the United States Department of State. The CHRI had issued a statement against the then ongoing process of the NRC and the issue of detention centers, which was signed by individuals such as Retired Justice Lokur. As per its website, “CHRI’s work is split into two core themes: Access to Information and Access to Justice, which includes Prison Reform, Police Reform, and advocacy on media rights and the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN). CHRI additionally monitors the human rights situation across the Commonwealth through its International Advocacy and Programming (IAP) unit.”
What is the SAMDEN? Again, its website states, “SAMDEN’s core group includes eminent professionals such as such as Bangladesh’s Mahfuz Anam of the Daily Star, Kanak Mani Dixit of Himal in Nepal, Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN’s unit on journalists in prison, Mrinal Pande, veteran editor and author, John Zubrzycki (a Sydney-based journalist, author specialising in South Asia), Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire, and Sanjoy Hazarika, former correspondent for the New York Times and now International Director at CHRI, among several others.”
CHRI had received Rs. 2,29,500 on the 20th of September, 2019 from the United States’ Department of State for the purpose of “Advocacy and Outreach Programme for Detainees in the North Eastern States of India”. This clearly amounts to foreign interference in India’s internal affairs by elements in the United States. The CHRI has also received huge amounts of money from the Oak Foundation, a shady globalist organization. It received Rs. 1,56,62,639 from the Oak Foundation for the purpose of “Reducing Arbitrary Detention in India 2016-2019” on the 12th of July, 2019. A year ago, the CHRI received Rs. 1,28,89,915 from the same foundation for the same purpose. Quite clearly, these are huge amounts of money that are coming in from abroad in order to meddle with the internal affairs of India.