Of WikiLeaks, Tehelka And Righteous Media

Posted on January 26, 2011 in Media

By Pratap Kaul:

In 2001 Tarun Tejpal-led Tehelka came into the limelight with its Operation West End, pushing the limits of investigative journalism. Tehelka, an Urdu word meaning ‘tumult’ managed to achieve just that with Operation West End. The ‘sting’ operation became an overnight phenomenon and exposed corruption in the highest echelons of Indian bureaucracy. Bangaru Laxman, President of the BJP was caught on tape accepting bribes from Tehelka journalist Mathew Samuel who posed as a representative of a bogus arms company West End based in the United Kingdom. Mathew Samuel went on to record around 105 tapes in which top officers from the armed forces as also ministers from the BJP led NDA alliance accepted bribes to see through high level, sensitive defense deals.

The Vajpayee government was brought to its knees. George Fernandes, Defense Minister, though, not directly incriminated was forced to step down from office. Parallels were drawn to the BOFORS scandal and Prime Minister Vajpayee was left red faced in the wake of these developments. His image of Mr. Clean was tarnished and questions were raised over the credibility of the government. A dot com media house had almost unseated the Prime Minister of the world’s largest (pseudo)Democracy.

What followed after that is what we witness again ten years later- a ridiculous and vulgar display of power games by people in high power positions. Tarun Tejpal and Tehelka became Government’s enemy number one. Allies of the NDA government threatened to pull out over inaction against the media house. The government had to do something to redeem itself. Court cases were slapped on Tehelka. CBI raids ensued; criminal cases against Tehelka were created out of thin air. Tehelka’s financiers were put behind bars. Tarun Tejpal was up against the wall. He issued the following statement when deposing before the Venkataswami Commission instituted by the government to investigate into Tehelka: “Everybody loves us but nobody wants to be associated with us. Not a single rupee has been invested in Tehelka after we broke the story of Operation Westend. Our financiers have been put behind bars. We are served summons by half a dozen a week. We have been harassed by all the government agencies. I have not paid salary to my staff for the past five months.”

So much for Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression in the world’s largest democracy?

Julian Assange, sex-offender, rapist , TIME magazine’s readers’ choice for Person of the Year and his non-profit media organisation WikiLeaks has brought the who’s who of the world to its knees. The release of over 91,000 secret dossiers on the Afghanistan war, the support of Pakistani ISI to Afghani Taliban, Iran and North Korea’s involvement in assisting the Taliban and numerous such issues related to the war has the US government reeling in its aftereffects. Also the leak of US diplomatic cables (documents basically) describing incidents surrounding international affairs from 274 embassies over almost four decades( between 1966 to 2010) has world powerhouses mulling over its repercussions. The information contained in these cables seeks to expose the truth behind many issues, including discussions over peace settlements in the Middle East, nuclear disarmamant, the War on Terror, US intelligence and counter intelligence, and the US support of dictatorship and so on.

In an attempt to cover up their tracks and use diversionary tactics the US government in tandem with its long standing ally, the United Kingdom had arrested Julian Assange on charges of sexually assaulting two Swedish women. (Assange is out on bail) As per text book definitions, transparency and democracy are synonymous. However in reality it is anything but that. This loutish exercise of power by guilty representative governments to curb the voice of truth is anything but forgivable. Agreed there may be some sensitive issues, not fit for public consumption.

But hiding behind the facade of being righteous and running a cock fight racket behind that is a completely different issue. We can’t continue to be taken for granted like this and allow representative governments to violate our rights.

If a wife suspects her husband of infidelity (or vice-versa); she hires a private detective. The private detective monitors the husband’s actions for a suitable time period and reverts to his client. Either the wife is a paranoid suspecting woman or her fears are justified, in which case she files for divorce backed by relevant evidence. (photographs, videos, tapped phone conversations, smses, emails and so on).

Surely this is a violation of privacy, but does the husband sue his wife for violating his privacy? No.The husband and wife entered into a legal agreement when they got married. Both of them are answerable and accountable for their actions, to each other and before the court of law. So also, is the case with representative governments (Democracies) and the people who elect them. The elected governments who have been conferred ‘power’ by the people don’t have the right to use this power against the people and censor sensitive information which exposes their shortcomings. They are answerable to the people for their actions. They are answerable to people for the Afghan War, Iraq War, Kargil War, CWG scam, 2G scam, Adarsh Scam, Defense scndals and another 1000 rackets.

We need media men like Tarun Tejpal and Julian Assange to check the uncrupulous exploitation of the people,by the Governments for the people. These two accounts just go on to show what the media houses can achieve if they stop clamouring over TRPs. As people that constitute a democracy,we need to ask questions. We need to give up our lax chalta-hai attitude towards most things. We need to Jaago. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ Never before have I agreed with this more.

Kudos to Tarun Tejpal. Kudos to Julian Assange ( You got my vote for Person of the Year). We need more like you.
Jaago re Jaago junta! Jaago re.

Images from here and here.