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Indian Express asks for the mother of all embarrassments

The Indian Express, Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, and journalists Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samata and Ajmer Singh have sent a legal notice to Manu Joseph, Editor, Open magazine, R Rajmohan, publisher, Open magazine, Open Media Network Pvt Ltd, Hamendra Singh, Hartosh Singh Bal and Vinod Mehta, former Editor of Outlook, threatening to sue them for a total of Rs 500 crore (Rs 100 crore each for IE, the Editor-in-Chief, and the four journos).

The reason: the magazine published an interview with Vinod Mehta during the course of which Mehta discusses The Indian Express story that hinted at a possible coup.

In the Open interview, Mehta calls The Indian Express story “the mother of all mistakes”. There is very little in the interview about Express story; the focus is on media regulation and the responsibility of editors in general. Most of the interview carries Mehta’s opinions on various aspects of media and various recent developments in media – including his opinion on Express story.

Finally, that is what they seem to be: opinions.

Screengrab of the Indian Express front page story.

However, Indian Express and the others who have sent the legal notice seem to believe that Mehta’s opinions have done them so much damage that Open should pay Rs 500 crore to compensate for the damage done. Are the reputations of The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta and the others so fragile as to have caused damage worth Rs 500 crore?

But before we come to that, what about the opinions bandied about by The Indian Express? Here are a few, from the last few days:

“In Uttarakhand, having created the problem by downsizing its star campaigner and former chief minister, B.C. Khanduri, in a way that his clumsy poll-eve rehabilitation failed to redress…”.

Should the BJP and Khanduri sue Express for their opinion?

“As Congress self-destructs at the Centre, BJP remains preoccupied with its crises in the states.”

Should the Congress and the BJP sue the Express?

“The UPA government may have only been true to character when it keeled over at the first hint of political uproar against cartoons in NCERT textbooks.”

“True to character.” Is that a fact or an opinion? Obviously, that’s opinion. So should all the constituents of the UPA sue the Express?

“It is incredible that the government — which has of late complained of the judiciary interfering in its domain — should have sought to drag the courts into a mess of its own making. This also brings into greater relief the government’s inability to square up to problems besetting “the national carrier” — to which much misplaced pride has been attached and massive funds poured in.”

“A mess of its own making. “Much misplaced pride”. How much damage do these opinions do?

And The Indian Express, like all of us, including Firstpost, make such comments every day.

As Mehta and Open magazine have done.

If Mehta describes the original IE story as the mother of all mistakes, this legal notice might cause the Express the mother of all embarrassments.