For close to a week now, intense discussions are going on in the Blogosphere about the Barkha Dutt (NDTV)  Vs C Kunte (A blogger from Netherlands) dispute which has interesting elements of Law, Fairness, Freedom of Speech, the Power of money etc. By any standards, it is dispute which makes juicy news item for any media.

For those who have not followed the dispute, the dispute arose when a blogger Mr Kunte who had posted a note on the news coverage of NDTV during the Mumbai terrorist attack on 26-28th of November 2008. The coverage made by Ms Barkha Dutt, the Managing Editor of NDTV was called “Shoddy” etc. in the report. After this he withdrew his posting and published an apology which appeared to have been drafted by the lawyers of Barkha Dutt.  (Please see the earlier blog for details).

The blogosphere understands that a legal notice must have been served on Mr Kunte which prompted him to file his apology and withdraw the posting.

The issue raised serious questions of “Ethics” where a senior journalist like Barkha Dutt should have chosen to take offence to a ctiticism of her coverage and use her clout to silence the blogger.

It also raised questions on whether the blog post indeed amounted to “Defamation” and there were reasonable grounds for barkha to take offence.

There were also interesting questions on how the blogger in Netherlands could be served a notice by Barkha Dutt. Was there a threat to take action in Netherlands Court? or in Indian Court? Was there any other form of threat such as pressure through the blogger’s employers was used to make him retract his statement etc.

There was also a question of the “Status of a Blogger” vis a vis a “Journalist” and whether the bloggers can be considered as “Journalists” and whether “Press Council of India” can come to the help of the bloggers in such cases.

There was also a questionof whether bloggers (say in India)  can organize themselves into a group and call themselves a “Collaborative publication” and seek registration with Press Council for their “Collaborative Publication” to enjoy the membership benefits of the Press Council.

Each of these issues make an interesting news story and commonsense suggests that media should have taken this up for further discussion.

 However, the traditional media both in Print and TV in India are conspicuous by their silence on either reporting about the dispute or analysing the implications. Are they showing their solidarity with a fellow jouranalist? or Are they  afraid that Barkha Dutt or NDTV would launch a legal attack on them also?

This is a time when the media persons will have to come out in their support to certain principles of Journalism. If they think that “Freedom of Expression” is only for them and not for the others, they will be seen as hypocrites. Hope there are still some genuine Journalsits around who stick to principles who will come out in supprot of the bloggers.


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