A firebrand reporter, Rana Ayyub's claim that her cliffhanger investigative report was nailed by cotton-eyed editors has triggered vociferous reactions in India’s beleaguered media space. In her recently self-published book, Gujarat Files: The Anatomy of A Cover Up, Rana Ayyub blamed Tehelka's editors for dropping a crucial sting involving Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi and top officials of his government in the fear he and his men could wreak havoc in the magazine.
But Tarun Tejpal, then the chief editor of the magazine, said he never dropped the copy because of fear — “This is graceless, we did not carry the story because it was simply incomplete. It did not say anything. And in 2010-11, Modi was not even a PM candidate. So what are we talking here?”
The publication — it needs to be mentioned here — once bore the brunt of the BJP government’s fury after a sting showed the then party president Bangaru Laxman accepting cash from interested parties. Tejpal said he was pained to be maligned by Ayyub and wondered what had he done to deserve this disrespect. “She did her best journalism in Tehelka, neither before or after, and goes on to blame us for something we never did. Her story was full of holes, we told her to fill in the gaps. It did not happen.”
“Some of India’s finest investigations happened in Tehelka, reporters travelled wide and deep into the countryside to probe, to question the wrongs. Rana was offered the moon, she had all the facilities. And what pains me is that she continued to stay with Tehelka even after the story was not carried. It was not a big issue for her, nor for us.”
“Shorabuddin and Ishrat Jahan happened after this. Howcome? We never worked under pressure, never. We lost investors because of our investigations. I simply do not understand why she has done this,” said Tejpal.
Some support has poured in for Tejpal. Former Tehelka investigations editor and current Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Ashish Khetan expressed his shock when he called up the former editor, historian Mamood Farooqi, who had called Tejpal to congratulate him for grooming Ayyub, expressed shock when told of her accusations.
Former Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, issued a note that read:
“I will leave Tarun Tejpal to refute the specific allegation Rana makes against him, but as the managing editor of Tehelka at the time, I find her assertions about Tehelka buckling under ‘political pressure’ extremely baffling, to say the least. The many hard-hitting exposes done by Tehelka on Gujarat hardly seems the track record of a magazine that was afraid to ‘touch’ Mr Modi because it had once been shut down...There is a simple reason why Rana’s sting on Gujarat was not carried in Tehelka: it did not meet the necessary editorial standards. While parts of the story were good, there were a lot of loopholes and serious concerns about the procedure that had been followed. Her assertion that she was treated as a ‘guinea pig’ and her story was withheld out of ‘political pressure’ seems a serious departure from the truth.”
But the reporter, Ayyub said that she stands by what she wrote in the book. “This was my biggest moment, the copy could have turned many things upside down. But it kept on going back and forth, eventually, I got tired and left it. Yes, I stayed back and did other investigations. Tehelka was a platform I needed. But I would always remember the story which got dropped. It was not an isolated sting, it was a combination of months of hard work. So lets not see it as an isolated piece of work. The sting, combined with my other work, could have been a great piece of investigation and nailed many lies that continue to exist even today. And I must say I am not the only one to complain about dropped stories in Tehelka, the list is fairly big,” she said.
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2016 12:08:57 IST