January 20, 2007Aside

Why doesn’t Outlook publish the admiral’s letter?

Sixteen issues vilifying a former navy chief. And he still is denied his right to reply

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Outlook magazine and Saikat Datta, its special correspondent, have been on the navy war room leak case for some time now. A former navy chief’s wife’s nephew is a key suspect, as is a businessman with connections to the Congress party and its ruling family. Much of the magazine’s coverage has insinuated or alleged wrongdoing on the part of Admiral (retd) Arun Prakash, the erstwhile navy chief.

Outlook may justify its sensational coverage as tenacious journalism, although media trials almost always violate the innocent until proven guilty” principle. Yet its refusal to publish the admiral’s letter offering his view on the matter is not only unfair, but also flies against the norms of good journalism. Outlook cannot simultaneously claim that its dogged coverage is high-minded journalism when it does not give the target of its accusations, not least a person who was decorated for his achievements in war, a right to response.

Adm Prakash’s letter is available in the public domain. The charitable explanation for Outlooks one-sided, selective coverage of the case, and now its refusal to publish his letter, is that it can’t be bothered to tell its readers that there is possibly another side to the story. The less charitable—and the more likely one—is that it does not want its readers to know that there is one.

…I have had to maintain public silence because I was in uniform, I was the head of an Armed Force of the Union and also because many of the issues you could raise with impunity were sub judice in courts of law and my lips were sealed. In any case, you have deliberately and consistently refused to publish all rebuttals, rejoinders or denials issued by the MoD or myself.

…As far as I am concerned, my conscience is absolutely clear and my actions throughout have remained in strict accordance with the high traditions of the Armed Forces. If indeed there has been wrongdoing, as you allege, I have no part in it or knowledge of it. Yes, I do wish I could have selected better and more upright relatives, but like every other Indian, mine are also inherited (in this particular case, by marriage). [Adm Prakash - Letter to the Vinod Mehta (pdf/text)]

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