Viral FB post: Why NDTV raids stink, in 10 points
In a Facebook post, former journalist Maheshwer Peri warns the media of setting a dangerous precedent of compliance.
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A lot of questions have been raised on NDTV and rightly so. But the civil society is making the mistake of confusing issues, mixing them up and serving us a bad one. Having faced and suffered raids close up, I know the anatomy of such raids. Here, I attempt to answer some of them.
1: If they are clean, they will come clear.
Right. The day you are accused of a crime you did not commit, say molestation and told that you will anyway come clean if indeed you did not commit the crime, you will understand. Understand, it is the process that is the punishment. And scaring away banks and any public institution from adverting on NDTV would be the consequence.
2: Just because they are media, they cannot be immune.
Agree. Media is not and shouldn't be immune. But the trigger or provocation has to be questioned. If we cannot link the apparent reason, the urgency, the scale of operation and the sense of balance, the fact that what is a civil case becomes a criminal one with CBI getting involved, we will lose the larger war to protect our freedoms.
3: NDTV has many skeletons in its cupboard.
Surely. All of us in the corporate world have lawyers interpret laws and use them in our best interest. And each interpretation leads to a skeleton too. NDTV did that. That doesn't make them criminal.
4: NDTV lost money every year. How can it be valued? Who funds their losses?
It is a listed company. The market cap, even after BJP assumed power, ranges at a high of 930 crore with a low of 385 crore after yesterday's CBI Raid. Go ask all the financial experts why they value, invest and stick with a loss making stock.
5: It is an anti-national channel, supports Pakistan, Naxalites and is against the Indian army.
Let us not get our personal grouses to influence our opinion on the current raids. I hate many channels as much as you hate NDTV. But I wouldn't support a CBI raid on Times Now or Republic.
6: NDTV got an undue favour in the settlement with ICICI bank.
This is a wrong message to banks. We are killing the banking system. No bank will hereafter take a prudent view and settle with any party and recover whatever they can. They will push files; lodge an FIR while not recovering a penny. Settlements have been killed for good. Also, let us raid every company who ever went with a bank settlement. And let us start the process with those in power, sitting in the parliament or ever sat in parliament. Then state legislatures. Let us file FIRs. Let us arrest them.
7: Shouldn't the CBI investigate criminal collusion?
This is about a loan settled by a private company, investigated by a public agency based on a private complaint by a private investor in a private bank of a princely sum of 48 crore. What should be CBI's priorities?
8: It has nothing to do with Sambit Patra.
Agree completely. Patra is too small a person for Modi to make such a big move. And that is where the vendetta lies. The hatred to the channel is too deep even for a Patra.
9: NDTV hasn't been raided. What is the noise about?
Precisely. That is the anatomy of a raid driven by vendetta. In 2001, everything around Outlook was raided but the magazine offices weren't. The next thing would be banks, investors, friends, supporters and family of NDTV being called for interrogation. They will attack everything around NDTV but will not touch the channel itself.
10: It still doesn't stop NDTV from saying all this on their shows. Their freedom is intact.
Right and wrong. NDTV will suffer. It will be made to suffer. Slowly but surely, they will be throttled, commercially and even news wise. The submissive lot amongst us will distance ourselves. Advertisers will pull out. Banks won't talk nor lend. Government advertising will dry out. PSU advertising will go missing. Govt. agencies will stop talking. The idea would be to kill them.
And this is my prediction. NDTV will be denied any ammunition to use its howitzers. It would be intent with no ability. And very surely, we would be denied the alternate point of view from a big news channel. Over 6 months, NDTV will not be the same. It would change. For survival. After 2 years, the Roy's will also come out clean. The case will be closed. But NDTV would have lost its sting. Remember, the raid on Indian Express on Gandhi's did not yield anything. Neither did the raid on Outlook.
This is a warning to all of us and NDTV is the message. Going forward, Media would be more pliant, more compliant, more fearful, and less critical. And it would be left for people like us to take on the baton. Are we prepared?
PS. I don't have any relationship with NDTV nor own any shares of NDTV. I met Roys once for 5 minutes exactly in 2009. They hated me and Vinod [Mehta] when I was at Outlook and I presume they continue to hate us for publishing the Radia Tapes which damned them. Simply put, this isn't a PR nut job. I have faced and suffered raids and know what it exactly means. And I also see a vacuum around. Hence I speak up in favour of even those who banned Vinod out of their studios. It is about India and not about me.
(This post first appeared on Maheshwer Peri's Facebook)