Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Daya Nayak and Un-investigative Journalism

No news may not be good news, but irresponsible news is far far worse.

Today, all of Mumbai is talking about Daya Nayak. The credit, of course, goes to our overly creative media. When there is no news, let us manufacture news. Let us talk about a flat in Switzerland, a fleet of luxury buses, an absconding cop, a non-bailable warrant and a manhunt alongwith the Karnataka police. Let us talk fiction.

The first to break the Daya Nayak story was the Mumbai Mirror. This was very interesting, because so far the Mirror has confined itself to front page news about a woman’s hair getting burnt when she went for straightening it and how the vamp in the new Kxxx serial hates the actress who plays the mother in the older Kxxx serials [for the uninitiated, these are the Ekta Kapoor serials on primetime t.v.] And suddenly, here we had a tabloid trying to carry off investigative journalism about a very serious story. But unverified "sources" do not news make. To anyone who gave a thought to the 4 crore net worth story, it stank of a smear job. Which led me to wonder, how much money was paid and by whom, to carry that story?

It did not stop here. The next day, a lot of people wrote in to the Mirror and got published [because public sentiment must be honored] about how Daya Nayak is an evil criminal and how he should be punished severely to deter other corrupt people. The Mirror carried the next installment of their smear campaign alongwith the readers’ opinions. Really, you expect a 17 year old to understand what the MCOCA is? You print a businessman’s opinion on how corruption and bribery should be punished? Yeah sure... Then the ACB raided Nayak, and the Mirror patted itself on the back about how it was responsible for opening the eyes of the ACB. But suddenly, the net worth of Mr. Daya Nayak had gone down from the 4 crores that it earlier was to 41 lacs, out of which 36 lacs was in his wife’s name. Sure she’s a housewife, so she can’t possibly make any money, right? But what if she brought in a dowry and bought two companies with it and made them grow? What if she’s intelligent and capable of handling finances? Oh, but she’s a woman! She can’t possibly do all that! And all though one of those companies stopped working, about 3 years ago, it still kept making money for these criminal masterminds!

The parent Times of India had been silent so far, other than a tiny piece about ongoing enquiries in the Ketan Tirodkar vs Daya Nayak case. After the ACB raids, its head honchos thought, the Mirror’s been doing front page after front page on Daya Nayak, and everyone’s talking...we shouldn’t be missing out! And because they had nothing substantial to report, because nothing substantial had been found – they made up the Swiss flat + Dubai hotel story. It was the most shameful kind of journalistic hooliganism, even more so because it was the Times! Of course, it could have just been another journalist on the ToI who like on the Mirror sold out to Tirodkar or Shakeel, same difference...

The other newspapers were just as bad. The Midday’s reliable "sources" [God, how I hate this word!] divulged Nayak’s total wealth as over 100 crores. The Hindustan Times was largely non-commital but wasted a lot of newsprint on the "absconding" cop. The Indian Express talked about the now old matters of the luxury buses and the 3 flats in Mumbai. Only DNA [that’s Daily Analysis and News, the newest kid on the block] was surprisingly reserved in its comments and mostly stuck to facts, rather than imaginary sources.

Nobody, absolutely nobody bothered to remember the number of times that Nayak put his life on the line, for the system. Nobody talked about the Lashkar E Toiba militants that he gunned down; who would have certainly wreaked havoc in Mumbai had it not been for this man. [See The Real Nayak] No journalist had the guts to suggest that this could be a conspiracy to screw over Daya Nayak’s life. No journalist wrote about just how many people and what kind of people want Daya Nayak dead, destroyed or at least, in jail. No journalist bothered to bring out Ketan Tirodkar’s criminal antecedents before quoting him in their articles. They keep referring to him as a former journalist, as if that magic word absolves him of all guilt, when in fact, he only worked with a small time afternoon daily for less than a year. NDTV [formerly our best news channel, but changed preference from news to sensationalism in the last 6 months] carried interviews with Tirodkar and aired them repeatedly, without editing the rubbish that he spoke. If you can edit Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, can’t you edit a criminal’s? Instead of condemning the known criminal, you glorify his sleaze, put him on the front page and let him drag an innocent [until proven guilty, sure] man through slime down to his own low levels?

The media - and we who follow and believe unquestioningly its various channels – do not realize that a man’s life has been completely ruined by this uncalled for spotlight. From now onwards, Daya Nayak has ceased to be the man who shot down 84 hardcore gangsters and saved hundreds of lives, instead he will forever be remembered by the collective conscious as the cop who ran and hid, when in fact he has done nothing of the sort.

Certain others in this case that the media has reported about - without verifying facts or background checks:

 Raju Padte, close college friend of Nayak. Accused of having illegal cash dealings with Nayak and staying in Nayak’s Andheri flat. Detained by ACB for a day for questioning. The truth: Padte runs a cable network. Owns a fast food stall outside Andheri station. Has bought the flat in Silver Mists, Andheri himself through bank loans and has paid it off gradually. No illegal financial dealings.

 P. Manivellan, friend of Nayak from Coimbatore. Accused of illegal cash dealings and association of his company Deve Paints by lieu of Nayak’s wife being on board of directors of Deve Paints. Currently in police custody by ACB for "questioning" [read harassment]. Tirodkar’s allegation – Manivellan is a front for Daya Nayak for money laundering, and was a poor nobody before coming in contact with Nayak. The Truth: Deve Paints, formerly Garware Paints has been in Manivellan’s family since 15 years. P. Manivellan is a well-off interior designer by profession originally from Coimbatore and in Mumbai since 2001. Has been trying to salvage the company Deve Paints that was earlier managed by his brother and pay off its dues to workers and creditors after it declared bankruptcy 6 years ago. Had leased a flat in Hiranandani, Powai in the duration of his stay which was searched and sealed by ACB prior to his being taken into police custody. Nothing was found. He’s just a man caught in the crossfire.

In a time where fiction can be easily made to seem like fact; and facts can be concealed or forgotten, it becomes increasingly important for the media to remain responsible for what they showcase. Our media, both print and electronic have forgotten the importance of establishing the truth despite any excuses for manipulation; which is the basic tenet of journalism.

Even if a certain section of the media has sold itself to malevolent forces that seek to destroy Daya Nayak, and though it is a shame that an old and esteemed newspaper like ToI has dishonored its reputation by stooping to yellow sensationalist journalism; I continue to hope that the rest of the media will turn away from the unethical and irresponsible attitude seen today and will at least, attempt to establish a cleaner version of the truth in an unbiased manner.