'Tape leaks to lobbyist show journalists crossing lakshman rekha'

Issues of journalistic propriety and structural reforms in the media were raised at the discussion "Editors as Power Brokers" organised here.

Opinions on the recorded conversation of journalists that have appeared in two weeklies and are doing the rounds on internet, varied with panelists terming it as "crossing journalistic propriety and lakshman rekha", "indiscretion" or "inappropriateness".

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, an independent journalist who is also a member of Press Council of India, said that journalists who interact with the rich and powerful can develop delusions of grandeur. "It is a psychological problem... We are at best bit players in the drama," he said.

He said that the taped conversations not only involved journalists but some big corporate names as well and there was need to look at the issue on a wider perspective.
Amit Goel from the Pioneer said that corruption was not a new phenomenon but that does not mean that when evidence comes out, no action is taken. "It is a sad day that things have come to such a pass that we have to organise a seminar," he said.

The tapes contained conversations of well-known journalists with a lobbyist who was in touch with A. Raja, who had to quit as communications and IT minister over the 2G spectrum scam.

Veteran journalist B.G. Verghese said journalists keep contacting all kinds of people and can tantalise them with information to draw them out. "But there is a 'lakshman rekha'," he said.

Pointing out that efforts have always been made to influence journalists, he said in the post-liberalisation boom "managers have taken over from editors".

Manu Joseph from Open magazine, which first published contents of the tapes, said they decided not to contact the people mentioned as "we understood the kind of pressure that would be on us".

"Some publications wanted to run (the story), but phone calls came," he said.
Krishna Prasad from Outlook said that while his magazine had carried part of the contents of the tapes, the website had all the conversation. He said excerpts were not picked up selectively. "We basically stuck to the 2G (spectrum scam) story," he said.
Questions were also raised about the powers of editors and the democracy of opinion in a news organisation.

The audience included journalists, journalism students and persons interested in issues concerning the media.

The event was organised by the Foundation of Media Professionals.

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