Off With Their Heads

There are some things in life that we will perhaps never understand. Like how life came into being. Or the size of the universe. Or the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey and its two follow-ups are bestsellers. Or what possessed Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express to not only sue OPEN magazine for publishing an interview with Vinod Mehta (in which he criticised Indian Express’s story about a potential army coup), but to sue them for some $95 million.

I realise Indian media getting into a cat fight is what is termed “a niche interest”, but for those interested, here’s the notice which was helpfully uploaded on this blog (WordPress! Yay!) about an hour ago. The only reason I’m putting up all 10 pages is because I’d like it to be online and who knows when a blog gets deleted. Though D-Notice looks like it’s been created expressly to circulate the notice, one never knows. So yes, here it is. To Manu Joseph (Head Honcho, OPEN), P Rajmohan (Publisher, OPEN), Hamendra Singh (IT dude, OPEN), Hartosh Singh Bal (Writer and Editor, OPEN) and Vinod Mehta (Head Honcho, Outlook Group), with love from Shekhar Gupta (Editor-in-Chief, Indian Express), Ritu Sarin (Chief of Investigative Bureau, Indian Express), Pranab Dhal Samanta (Chief of the National Bureau, Indian Express) and Ajmer Singh (Assistant Editor, Indian Express). And yes, to me, this notice reads like something the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland would write.

(Click for larger versions)

(Click for larger versions)

The Express story about what-was-not-an-army-coup is here. When the Indian government dismissed the story, the newspaper ran this statement, saying it stood by the story and that its sources were anonymous but highly credible. What’s got the Express‘s knickers in a twist is this interview with Vinod Mehta, in which he says that the Indian Express basically carried a story based on rumours rather than reportage. From this roundup of media responses to the Express story, it’s clear that a lot of people share Mehta’s opinion. As far as I know, no one else has been asked to

a) remove their critical articles

b) put up an apology

c) print an apology retracting all criticism

d) pay up Rs. 100 crores x 4.

Yes, that’s Rs. 400 crores, which is (apparently. I did not do the maths but am trusting a highly credible Twitter-er on this) in the range of $95 million. As if the legal notice in itself wasn’t ridiculous enough, the money that is being claimed as damages is obscene and laughable. While I understand inflation is a killer and journalism doesn’t offer particularly good salaries, this is no way to plan for retirement.

Now to see the fur fly. I just hope someone writes about it because so far the Indian media has been entirely mum.

UPDATE: And of course there is nothing about it in any of the newspapers this morning (i.e. May 16). There are, however, slabs of writing about the charges against Rebekah Brooks in the phone-hacking scandal in every paper. The other constant is Jayalalitha’s face. She’s bought full-page, front-page ad for herself in every newspaper. Brilliant.

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