A well regarded senior television journalist finds himself in a bit of a fix. Officials in South Block, which houses the ministries of defence and external affairs, have become wary of engaging with the said journalist ever since the journalist with a leading English news television channel travelled with the Prime Minister to Russia and China in the third week of October. Word has spread the journalist pushed the limits of ethical journalism while reporting from China.
The journalist desperately needed a soundbite on the onion crisis that much of India reeled under in October. His editor, it would seem, wanted the said reporter to get a soundbite on the question of steep onion prices from Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The journalist had his opportunity to ask the question when Ahluwalia, India’s Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh together addressed a press conference. But the ground rules of the press conference were laid out clearly. Only questions relating to the Prime Minister’s meetings with the Chinese leadership could be asked.
The journalist, who must have been under tremendous pressure from his editor-in-chief, tried his luck when the press conference ended. The veteran journalist approached Ahluwalia along with his cameraperson as many others huddled around the Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission. The cameraperson was instructed to keep the camera switched on and hanging from an elbow with Ahluwalia in the frame, while pretending it to be switched off, as the journalist asked the question about the high prices of onion.
Unfortunately, another official detected the subterfuge. The official asked the journalist to stop the recording forthwith and launched into a dressing down in front the entire media entourage. Most fellow journalists could only thank their stars that they didn’t work in that particular news channel and some even sympathised with the journalist as his behaviour was quite out of character.