Letter to the Editor: Writing sans fear or favour takes a beating

It was nice reading George Abraham’s ‘Express Story‘. True, the clan of journalists of that golden era is gone. Moreover, writing the truth sans fear or favour for The New Indian Express (Madurai Ltd) and The Indian Express (Bombay Ltd) has been lost. In short, it has been put on the backburner as survival has become the necessity for the print media as a whole.

As a college student, the blank editorial in The Indian Express issue dated June 28, 1975 as a protest against Indira Gandhi’s emergency is still fresh in my mind. Truly, it was a nightmarish experience for journalists on the day of proclamation of emergency (June 25) as almost all the presses were raided and bundles of copies were confiscated across the country. Major chunk of newspapers did not publish for two days.

Goenka was bold to bring out the paper after a couple of days leaving the editorial blank while carrying an apology to the readers on its front page for not being able to bring the paper from June 25 to June 27. No sooner, the other newspapers including The Statesman followed suit.

Regarding Arun Shourie’s expose of former Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Antulay scandal, it’s termed as  India’s Watergate scandal or Antulay’s Trustgate scandal wherein Arun Shourie in his story titled ‘The Case of the Missing File’ exposed Antulay’s arm-twisting fund collection drive for the trust ‘Indira Gandhi Prathiba Prathisthan’. Interestingly, it was meticulously researched and exposed with supporting evidence that ran to 7,500 words and 140 column inches in Indian Express that was carried from front page to the inside open pages in 1982.  Antulay was forced to tender his resignation only to be re-elected in 1985 to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. However, the apex court gave a clean chit to him. Antulay becoming Union Health Minister forms the rest of the story.

The Indian Express lost its sheen after Arun Shourie’s exit with not-so-keen editors, who were just running the show enjoying all the perks. The desk and the field staff continued to get step-motherly treatment at the hands of the management. Significantly, there was no love lost between the management and the staff as many senior editors were shown the door.

M Rafi Ahmed, former bureau chief, The New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle

BG Verghese, Kuldeep Nayar and Arun Shourie: The Express Story

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