Why the Indian Express Row with Yogendra Yadav Stings Indian Journalism

04 March 2015
On 3 March 2015, the Indian Express published a story on how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had recorded a phone conversation with a journalist, which is now being used by the AAP to build a case against Yogendra Yadav.
Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
On 3 March 2015, the Indian Express published a story on how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had recorded a phone conversation with a journalist, which is now being used by the AAP to build a case against Yogendra Yadav.
Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

On 3 March 2015, The Indian Express published a story, ‘AAP politics: To target Yogendra Yadav, critics in party play tape of call with journalist,’ on how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) “recorded a telephonic conversation with a journalist—without her knowledge—who wrote a critical piece on the party and that recording is now being used to build a case against Yogendra Yadav in the ongoing feud within the party.” That journalist was Chander Suta Dogra, who was working with The Hindu at the time, and is now with The Indian Express

As detailed in an online post on the same day by The Indian Express, Yogendra Yadav responded to this report in a note on Facebook by questioning the newspaper’s failure to examine Dogra’s conduct in revealing a source. He went on to cite the email testimonies of two journalists who were present at the meeting and had stated that no sensitive information about Haryana included in the article, was disclosed at the meeting. The Indian Express stated that the emails had been examined and did not change the basis of their story.  The online post put up by the publication went on to quote Dogra, “Yadav wants to know why did I reveal my 'sources to an interested party'. Considering that nine people were present at the breakfast meeting, there was no element of confidentiality. Since he was the chief spokesperson of AAP, one assumed that the party was aware of the breakfast meeting. As a responsible reporter, I am fully aware of the sanctity of a relationship between a reporter and a source.”

One of the journalists present at the meeting in question was SP Singh, and his email was among the two cited by Yadav and The Indian Express. In this post, he describes the meeting as he saw it and goes on to raise some pertinent questions that challenge the claims made by the journalist, The Indian Express, as well as the conduct of AAP leadership.

In these times when one sound bite poses as a definitive version of events and the next one puts a spin on that version, all in a tearing hurry because yet another sound bite is waiting to pose as ‘the next most definitive version’ of what took place, journalism needs to pause, no matter how breathless the vocation’s pace as it hurries to keep up with the sound bites flooding in. Journalism, and journalists, need to pause because there is an urgent need to reflect on whether they indeed are what and whom they claim to be.

One such moment has been presented by The Indian Express’ edition on 3 March 2015. It is a very opportune moment, indeed, since not only is the subject some petty intra-party squabble within the AAP, but also journalism and journalists themselves. The fact that the journalist involved is on the payrolls of TheIndian Express itself is a happy happenstance since the newspaper would have had virtually no difficulty in contacting her, seeking her version, pursuing clarifications and clarifications about clarifications—an ideal scenario for a serious newspaper. In an even better happenstance, the journalist concerned did not just narrate her version of the events, she penned it down.

SP Singh is a senior journalist based in Chandigarh who currently anchors an hour-long weekly debate show on a Punjabi news channel.

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