Chyetanya Kunte is an Indian blogger living in the Netherlands. On 27th of November, 2008 during the terror attacks in Mumbai he wrote a blog post (now available through Google cache) criticizing Indian private television channel New Delhi Television (NDTV) and particularly their group editor Barkha Dutt's coverage of the incident.
The post was deleted from Chyetanya's blog, and on 26th of January, 2009 he posted this apology confirming unconditional withdrawal of the post. This has sparked anger and strong condemnations in the Indian blogosphere.
Gaurav Sabnis at Vantage point predicts:
It does not take a PhD in reading between the lines to guess what happened. NDTV probably sent Kunte a legal notice, asking him to pull the post down, apologize, never write about them again, and pay an absurdly massive amount of money.
Retributions confirms quoting Barkha Dutts's Facebook message that Chyetanya Kunte was indeed served with a legal notice on 3rd of January. She apparently wrote:
Just because some random bloke can sit at a computer and make up stuff doesn't mean he or others like him need to be dignified with responding to their utter and total rubbish. rubbish is what it is. And as already mentioned. Mr. Kunte has been served a legal notice for libel by NDTV. That should give you some indication of where we and I stand. The freedom afforded by the Internet cannot be used to fling allegations at individuals or groups in the hope that they will then respond to things that aren't worthy of engagement.
Gaurav Mishra at Gauravonomics Blog compiles a roundup of condemnations by Indian bloggers for silencing Chyetanya. He also reveals:
Chyetanya sent me an email on January 25th, requesting me to take down the link to his post in my roundup of reactions to media coverage of the 11/26 Mumbai terror attack. I haven’t taken down the link and excerpt yet, but I have refrained from blogging about the issue so far out of concern for complicating Chyetanya’s and, perhaps, my own legal situation.
The fact is that Chyetanya wasn't the only one criticizing NDTV. According to Gaurav:
Bloggers were scathing in their criticism of Barkha Dutt’s sensationalistic coverage of the 11/26 Mumbai terror attack, accusing her of broadcasting sensitive information about the position of hostages and security troops, sensationalizing the news coverage, and being borderline hysterical, in general.
Nanopolitan tells NDTV in the post “congratulations NDTV“:
The apology you extracted reminds us of re-education programs that totalitarian regimes impose on dissidents. Or of re-induction rituals in third rate gangster movies.
Gargi at POV writes:
Amongst the institutions that has rapidly lost my trust, especially in the last two years, is the broadcast news media. Between the Prince episode, the Arushi Murder Case, running recorded footage with live bugs, with the 26/11 coverage – i have stopped watching TV news. I read magazines, i read newspapers and I read blogs. I do these because i have far more faith in the credibility of those who write – than the credibility of those who produce and package news on TV.
Updates of the Indian bloggers’ reactions can be found at Desipundit. Blogbharti posts an appeal:
We urge all bloggers to send us their views on this issue. And to protest NDTV’s highhanded efforts to curb our freedom of speech.
I saw the NDTV coverage of Mumbai carnage. But I did not know about Cheytanaya’s blog. I am outraged at first how NDTV covers news especially riots and other special events like strikes, cananage and stampede etc, second at challenging anybody who is crtitical of their coverage. Somebody has to stand up to NDTV and tell them that media is to police itself or be policed by the government. It is very unpleasant to know that NDTV is so powerful that little bloggers are being intimidated.
I had read some posts related to NDTV’s sensational journalism earlier also. The lack of professional journalistic standards is very apparent. More than that, the fact that NDTV lawyers have forced a blogger to withdraw his post, is appalling. If the channel has the freedom to air their “VIEWS”, why take that freedom away from a Blogger?
O.k, maybe NDTV’s coverage of the Mumbai attack- to which I, personally, was riveted- was injudicious from the Security p.o.v. However, the rapidity with which they responded and the concentrated attention they gave the unfolding atrocity stood in stark contrast to both the State and the Central Governments ‘hota hai’ attitude. Thus, N.D.T.V, rather than the Government, became the outward and visible symbol of the Nation’s sense of Unity and outrage at this act of war against us.
In this context, much was forgiven them. However, the plain fact is India has lousy News Chanells- even when compared to Pakistan. In the case of NDTV, there is no obvious reason why this should be so. Surely, the Indian talent pool is not as shallow as all that? Why such unrelenting, in your face, unprofessionalism, stridency, self-importance and plain silliness on the part of NDTV anchors- amongst whom Barkha Dutt stands out but, I’m afraid, in no complimentary sense- can it be that these guys, who surely are aware of better models, are now in a race with the political class to see who can be stupider, shriller, uglier, and more strident in endlessly repeating self-righteous nonsense?
For generations, Politics in India has been about proving yourself stupider, more goon like, uglier, less stylish, less capable of a connected thought, than the next guy.
Barkha Dutt is balooning before our eyes. She is becoming a caricature of herself- not in the manner of an Indian Oprah Winfrey- but as the Media’s own home-grown Mamta Bannerjee.
Of course, it must be said, threatening bloggers with law-suits is an action to be commended. Cowardly little shits are all the better for being exposed as cowardly little shits. The outrage other cowardly little shits express on their behalf- though boldly expressed in the usual cowardly little shit manner- is a balm they can lay up agaist their lacerated breast- for such indeed is the Kingdom of the cowardly little shit- they inherit all Moral Outrage- though, naturally, the profit upon it remains in the hands of bullies chosen from the Gadarening swine not just of Politics but now also the Media.
I watch NDTV and read blogs as well. Frankly, I don’t know enough to say anything against either of them.
But I don’t understand how NDTV and Barkha Dutt can send a legal notice to Cheytanaya when he has the right to express his views just as Barkha Dutt has the right to express her’s.
Barkha Dutt and NDTV are not the only “media”, Cheytanaya’s blog is media as well – infact the media of tomorrow. If NDTV can cover an event and present their views, so can Cheytanaya present his opinion on the coverage. How did this amount to maligning either NDTV or Barkha Dutt? After all as a reader, I am intelligent enough to read both and judge them on their own merits.
It is time the blogosphere is recognized as a genuine media vehicle by governments and provided the same freedom of press, so that opinions posted on blogs can be read without threat from the traditional media vehicles of today.
Doesn’t freedom of speech include blogging and expressing one’s opinions, political or otherwise freely? Isn’t serving a notice violating a fundamental right? Or is it just plain hooliganism on the part of NDTV/Barkha Dutt?
Shame on Barkha Dutt and NDTV. I think Pranoy should give her the boot. He is to be ashamed for given her so much room.
Such a disgrace to the nation she is.
Barkha Dutt has been in news for not one but for many reasons lately for example Nira Radia case or running a new channel completely biased to Indian National Congress…etc. etc. these are not Bollywood gossips am sure that they themselves make money out of an Actors’ life…
A very important point that Spider Man learnt… “With great power comes great responsibility”. Huh! :)
Can’t really blame anyone here… Greatest of Human’s fall for a reason… else why don’t we have another Mahatma yet! Let them commit the mistakes… End is waiting for all, Good or bad!
CONGRATULATIONS http://globalvoicesonline.org AND ITS FUNDERS FOR THE EFFORTS PUT IN TO EXPOSE THE CULPRITS… IT WAS A REAL EYE OPENER…