Essar links take its toll on media

Essar group, which was planting stories in all the major dailies through their corporate communication department (CCD), was in regular touch with the journalists for the work.

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Essar group, which was planting stories in all the major dailies through their corporate communication department (CCD), was in regular touch with the journalists for the work.

According to the papers accessed by dna, which are not part of the PIL filed in Supreme Court on Friday, the group's CCD, Delhi was coordinating stories with the journalists.

An email sent by Nancy Jain, deputy general manager, corporate relations group, dated January 6, 2012, states "Essar Group's stand that it is not involved in the 2G irregularities has been vindicated by the CBI. There are no charges of corruption or involvement in the 2G scam." It said that CCD Delhi coordinated with the journalists in getting stories carried in Hindu Business Line, Hindustan Times, Mail Today, Tehelka and Business Today.

Tehelka had published several stories, which defended Essar in 2G scam case. It is too much of a coincidence that the Essar group was also sponsoring media events in Tehelka soon after the magazine printed stories in favour of Essar. In November 2011, Essar group also sponsored Tehelka's first think fest, held in Goa. Essar chief Prashant Ruia was also a speaker at this event in a session on second day.

Nancy Jain also stated in her that the CCD (corporate communication department) of the Essar group had series of meetings with 45 journalists from different media organisations. These included PTI, Economic Times, Financial Express, Business Standard, NDTV, FEx, News Wire 18, Dowjones, Bloomberg, CNBC and Times Now. The company also lined up with Indian Express, Economic Times and Hindu Business Line for favouring articles protecting Indian Steel Industry. Nancy's email names all the journalist who were met in the month of December.
Meanwhile, Sandeep Bamzai, editor, Mail Today resigned from his job on Friday. The journalists had been named in the PIL stating that he had availed favour from the Essar group by asking for a taxi for around two weeks. Talking to dna, he said, "What would you need a car for? As far as my personal propriety is concerned, I have resigned from my post today."
Another journalist who resigned is Energy Editor of Hindustan Times, Anupama Airy. Hindustan Times chief editorial and content officer Nicolas Dawes said, "We came to know about her taking favour from Essar this afternoon and have suspended her." Later in the day she submitted her resignation.

Another journalist whose name has cropped up in Essar email leaks is Indian Express' Associate Editor Priyadarshi Siddhanta. However, the publication stated that Indian Express neither asked for nor published any article from Essar.
Besides, these three journalists the others who have been named by the PIL are Meetu Jain of Times Now, Mayur Shekhar Jha, consulting editor with News24, Dev Sharan Tiwari and a journalist from PTI referred as 'she'.

Mayur Shekhar Jha's name had appeared for booking a guest house for October 27, 2012 where he had asked for arrangements of lunch for 15 guests. The requests included two black label for the party.
In his response to dna, Jha said, "I used the guest house for a family function. I didn't pay for the guest house but paid up for the food and booze. I used this facility because Prashant Rui is a personal friend. I used the facility when I was on a sabbatical."

Meetu Jain, deputy news editor of Times Now said I would like to outrightly deny any allegations that I took a favour, such as a taxi, from the Essar Group of companies while working at my previous organisation. Meanwhile, I would like to add that my editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and the management of Times Now have sought an official explanation from me as of this evening which I shall be giving. Pending that, I am off my official duties with the organisation.

In response to dna queries, Essar spokesperson said, "We are a law abiding company and responsible corporate citizen and have not indulged any wrongdoing."

The news paper article and media news are based on the information that is stolen or fabricated. We have initiated legal action and a complaint has been filed against the suspected individuals responsible for act of steeling and fabricating document from a private corporate organisation which is as much an offence as theft from government department. Possession there of constitutes receiving and dealing with stolen information which is a punishable offence. The inferences being drawn from the information being published are completely false and incorrect.

In October 2011, Tehelka published a cover story 'The inconvenient truth of Soni Suri', written by Tehelka's then managing editor Shoma Chaudhary. The introduction of the story goes: "Why were two tribals and the Essar group framed by the Chhattisgarh police." The fact was brought up by Bobby Kunhu in his media critique through a post in Kafila. Kunhu through his article had said "Tehelka is arguing that Essar is also being framed in this narrative along with Soni Sori and Linga Kodopi."

Apart from this another story which appeared in Tehelka was Ashish Khetan's 'The madness in the CBI's method – a story on telecom scam, selective chargesheets and investigations place CBI in dubious light and raise questions about its fairly play and efficiency'.

Khetan says, "The story was based on meticulous research and brought out the conflicting government records to show how the CBI was adopting different yardsticks for different accused thus making a mockery of a sensitive investigation like 2G scam. What does the word coordination mean? Does the email say that the Essar Group coordinated with me? Which journalist does the mail refer to? Does the mail refer to my story? Does it refer to a specific published story? Does it say anything about my journalism or my conduct or anything unsavoury?''

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