The Fourth Pillar needs to introspect
The Petroleum ministry leakage case gets murkier and curiouser. With top executives of several energy companies like Reliance, Essar and Cairn India now in handcuffs, more skeletons are likely to tumble out of the closet in the coming days. The man in the eye of the storm, jourlist Santanu Saikia now claims that this is a Rs 10 thousand crore scam he was actually investigating, when he was framed. The Delhi police are grilling Saikia and six others in custody. The details of a huge corporate espioge case are slowly emerging. Saikia with his energy portal and Prayas Jain with his consultancy firm, allegedly procured confidential documents from the Petroleum ministry and sold these for hefty amounts to corporate buyers. It appears to have been a well-organised network with ministry employees disconnecting CCTVs and accessing duplicate keys to photocopy documents secretly, before sending these out. Reportedly the Prime Minister’s letter to his Principal Secretary, parts of the Fince Minister’s upcoming budget speech, and correspondences of Coal and Power ministries were also purloined. Documents of secret government deliberations to fix various energy prices as well as presentations by foreign energy firms on planned investments in the country, fetched high prices. In some cases, corporates allegedly suggested the documents they wanted to have procured. All these prelimiry findings indicate a leaking government machinery in which corrupt elements are willing to sell out to the highest bidder.
If this widens into a Watergate-like investigation, many corporate big fish may land in the police net. But the culpability of a corrupt section of the media already lies exposed. Supposedly the fourth pillar of democracy, the media has to dig out information as a watchdog and make the public aware of what is going on in government and society. But information is power, and a section of jourlists seem to be acquiring an unhealthy taste for it. There are frequent allegations of jourlists armed with such information acting as blackmailers, spin-doctors and power brokers for private gain. The Radia tapes in the 2-G spectrum investigations hinted at this rot setting in parts of the media, with mes of some high-profile jourlists coming under a cloud. Whether in Delhi or Dispur, if power corrupts — then proximity to power corrupting some jourlists is also an unfortute corollary. A senior and experienced business jourlist, Santanu Saikia’s energy portals were known to the jourlist fraternity for purveying supposedly accurate information and in-depth alysis. But with serious questions now being raised about how his portals accessed such sensitive information, the Delhi police is reportedly getting ready to slap additiol charges of violation of Official Secrets Act against him. Whether Saikia is culpable or has been framed by a powerful ring of government-corporate elements, there is a lesson here for the media. It needs to tread the line carefully when dealing with sensitive information, lest its integrity be compromised. Jourlists need to introspect to prevent further erosion of their credibility. That Saikia hails from Assam merely brings the lesson closer to home.