The Power of Twitter: The case of Radia Tapes

A couple of months ago I had read an interview of The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger in The Hindu, where he had emphasized upon the role of technology in publishing of news including use of social media like twitter.

In the recent Niira Radia case as well, his thoughts, that people have now more say through discussion and involvement using these social media tools, are echoed. Last week, I was casually browsing through my twitter time-line when I came across the open magazine link on twitter, that exposed the Radia-Dutt-Sanghvi tapes. And then, as is evident from the famous Barkhagate hash-tag, lengthy discussions and criticism followed. However, I was surprised that till later in the day, nobody from the media or any journalist from any national news channel on twitter had spoken a word about it. The Outlook also came up with the list of the tapes and a brief analysis of the tapes. It was only later that night that Barkha Dutt tweeted a link to a statement by NDTV on the defamatory remarks against her. Also, it was only next day that Rajdeep Sardesai broke his silence on the alleged tapes. Before that everything about the tapes was happening on twitter. Indian Express, however, had come up with an editorial that weekend.

Media’s silence did not go down well with the tweeps. People started asking questions about the way media reacted to the story. People wanted some answers. Even if these were alleged and may be forged, the janta demanded a fair debate to sort out this matter. This was also supported by some journalists. After all, reputations of 2 big names who had set examples for many, were at stake. In fact, more than that it was a question on the credibility of the news that we see and also whether media should also come under public scrutiny. Some newspapers, when asked as to why they did not come up with any story on the tapes quoted the uncertainty over the authenticity of the tapes as a reason.

Finally, Sagarika Ghose agreed to host a debate on FTN next Monday, apparently 4 days after the tapes were made public. After that both print media and the news channels started debating the alleged tapes. Times of India finally published this story in their 25th November edition. The recent discussion on the tapes was on The Last Word (aired yesterday) by Karan Thapar (and was indeed a good one). In the show, the editor of the Open Magazine, Manu Joseph pointed out the time and nature of the conversations between Niira Radia and Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi. He said that Radia, having 2 big corporate giants as her clients (most probably Tata group and RIL owned by Mukesh Ambani, as per the conversations), and discussing the allotment of ministries in the cabinet was a big political story (due to the Ambani brothers’ gas dispute and Tata being a major telecom player). The editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N. Ram strongly criticized both the senior journalists’ actions and also said that had it been BBC or NY Times or Financial Times, this(behaviour) would not have been tolerated and their careers would have been finished. The latest development in the story is the response from Barkha Dutt on the allegations against her.

Whatever the result of this story may eventually be, janta has shown the power that lies in unity. Twitter acted as a medium for the various voices in the country to unite and ask for a fair treatment of the story. Washington Post also gave credit to twitter saying:”Twitter has played an important role in launching what has become an international conversation on the issue, with the Indian diaspora weighing in”. And this is probably just the beginning. With media like twitter and facebook and people discussing and collaborating on a whole new level, this is bound to go further. And the more impact we have on the system, the better it is. For only we, the people know what is best and how we can achieve it. I hope, unlike the ministers who simply resign from their posts and get away, if the people/personalities in question are found guilty, justice will be served. True Democracy.

Related Resources:

For more resources, check out the worth reading section on this blog post on POV.

Update: Wall Street Journal also writes about the influence of Twitter in India.

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