Friday, March 9, 2007

Tarun Tejpal

'A journalist's job is to unearth corruption'

New Delhi, August 8, 2002: Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief of Tehelka.com, the web site that exposed corruption in high places in the government, spoke about the harassment his company has faced since, including the arrest of journalist Aniruddha Bahal, who was part of the team that investigated the defence scams.
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Hello, I am here. I am open to any kind of question at all.



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Neeraj : where are you from ?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I grew up all over India in Army Cantonments because my father was in the Indian Army. Among the places I grew up are Mumbai, Assam, Bangalore, Bareilly, Babina and Chandigarh.

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aasdf : hello sir, what is the latest on aniruddha bahal
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Nothing at the moment. We are waiting for the government to launch its next salvo.

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james : mr tejpal, i saw you on TV last night. what do you make of the fact that so many journalists prefer to defend the arrest
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Well, actually all journalists across the board, including editors very close to the BJP government have strongly criticized the government's action in arresting Aniruddh. I think the media has been fairly unanimous in condemning this incident.

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haseeb : do u think tehelka is being targetted?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Yes there can be no doubt at all that Tehelka has been targetted for the last year and a half since the very day we broke our story on corruption in defence procurements.

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thedoggerel : Sir, if you had known the outcome of your investigations, would u have done things differently?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I choose to believe we would have still gone ahead and broken the story because along with all the harrassment and truobles has also come tremendous goodwill and acclaim from all sections of people across the country.

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ameeta : Dear Mr Tejpal, much as I admire your site, there are questions about your funding. Don't you think you guys shd clean up your own act before chucking stones at others? How does your site survive when most others have shut down?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : There is absolutely not a single rupee out of place in our funding or our operations. In fact, thanks to the Government backlash to our story and the continuing government propaganda against us we are today a fraction of what we were when we broke the story. From 120 staffers we are down to 15 adn even these have been paid salaries for last 6 months. We are also in a great deal of debt but are determined to dig in our heels and fight it out simply because we are totally clean. The fact is despite every agency of the government desperately trying to dig dirt on us for the last year and half, they have not been able to come up wiht one single thing. And that is noly because there is nothing for us to hide or to be embarrassed about. You must be careful not to buy government propaganda against us which goes on all the time. Please remember this government today also tells us that no riots took place in Gujarat and the state government did a great job of containing the trouble.

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Tara : How successful, do u think, Mr.Tejpal, was ur endeavour with the Govt of India, wrt INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM??
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Well this is a question for other people, media and readers to answer. For ourselves we can only say that we did our best and risked a great deal in order to expose the truth.

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cobra : Mr Tejpal, Don't you think the media has double standards? While on one hand you want the men in power to extend you subsidised plots et al, on the other hand you raise a hue and cry every time a mediaperson (fairly or unfairly is another issue) is targeted?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Well there is some truth to what you say and it is one of the reasons that the media cannot be as effective as it should be in a democracy. Yes the media should take much greater care to not be seduced by power or money.

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jps : from where do u get all these information.no body else can do this i think so
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : All the credit for the investigation should go to the reporters. In this case Aniruddh Bahal and Samuel Mathew. It is their resourcefulness and courage that makes stories like this possible.

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sammy : We have a situation where a reporter gives a donation to the president of a national party. The president cleary says no recipt is available and to collect the same later. The deputy PM clarifies that the president indeed has made out a recipt and you idiots claim that the party president accepted bribes. If this is not nonsense what is ??? Serves u guys right
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Your facts are not in place. No receipt has been given or received and if you look at the tapes it is very clear why the party president is taking the money and how much is he asking for more.

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phantom : Mr Tarun,First of all, hats off to your operation and the findings, As expected the Govt is NOT solving the problem....If nothing happens with this expose...how do we solve this Corruption issue
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I suppose there are no easy answers. All you can hope to do is to keep battering away at it and hope you end up somewhere. All journalists can do is to continue to expose people who abuse public office and public money.

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CuriousGuy : Sir, whats your professional background - i mean before you associate with tehelka?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I have been a journalist for the last 19 years. I have reported for the Indian Express and the Telegraph. And have been an editor with India Today and Indian Express Groups. My last job was that of Managing Editor of Outlook, a magazine which I helped to start up.

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gurmeet : Focus on Punjab especially anti Sikh atrocities in last decade
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : We would love to do so and hopefully once we have the time adn resources we will do so.

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krishna : mr pal do u feel guilty
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Guilty of what? Uncovering corruption. No, I don't.

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drshetti : do you file income tax returns sincerly including
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I do.

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pravin : what do u think india needs to improve on to rempve corruption
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I think the change has to come right from the top because Indians respond to inspired leadership. We need leaders who can show us the way again. Unfortunately, none seem to be in sight.

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ramu : This tarun is as corrupt as the victims he exposed. He has seen what his father has done in his army career and knew the loophole. He supplied girls to politicians and armymans. Do you thing If he goes to high post he will not do corruption. Is it out of patriotism that he exposed the politicians and bigshots? I apreciate his courage but he earned lot of fame and money from that for which he acted. What else is his contribution to Indian society?? Can you specify your achievements Mr Tarun?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I have to confess that the investigation was done by the two reporters Aniruddh and Samuel. And had nothing to do with my Army background. I can only say that I hope I will not at any point become personally corrupt no matter what post I occupy. As for fame and money it is true we do have a great deal of recognition but I have to tell you that we are very very poor. In fact in deep debt.

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Bhadoo : Mr. Tejpal, to what extent do you think it is right to put majority of the blame on politicians for siphoning off the 'State's money' when we sit back as lame ducks and do nothing about it when time comes, i.e. elections, when we conveniently sit back and enjoy a day's holiday. DOn't you think it is us to blame for institutionalising corruption within our system?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I agree we all need to take our share of teh blame for the sorry state of affairs. Unless, Indian citizens begin to engage in reforming India these problems will continue.

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WasimJaffer : I think the politicians should be hanged..& Tarun Tejpal should be made dictator of India
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I dont think so at all. I think the keystones of the Indian civilizations will always have to be tolerence and nonviolence.

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vikramvasu : Sir, do you believe that the end can justify the means ? Would you use a homicide to prove that a politcian is a murderer ? Where do you draw the line ?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : All stories have to be seen in context and are defined by the context and motive. Also, by what they reveal. I think Operation West End fulfills most criteria of a good story. Yes there is always a line to be drawn in everything and all good journalists know where to draw the line when it comes to investigating stories.

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Truth : Sir, are you happy with the support from other journalists or do you think they should do more?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I am more or less happy with the way the media has handled the story. You have to remember that you cannot underestimate a government's ability to lean on media organizations and to try and influence their stance. In the given circumstances I think the media has performed more or less okay. I would of course like to have had more follow up stories on what we had revealed.

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sachin : Mr tejpal sir, do u think ur exposing of the corruption in defense deals have brought about any change in the system ?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I hope that it does end up bringing some constructive changes. My position from the very beginning has been that this story is not about individuals or political parties. It is about systemic corruption and it needs to be addressed accordingly.

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chakra : Dear Tarun , I think my question got lost in the crowd. I felt last night at Star News you were overly diplomatic , than your usual self of being smart and agrressive. Why , r u under any pressure from within media
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : No, I dont think I was. I said what I felt and I do feel that all governments and all power structures are intrinsicaly malign, in lesser or greater degree. Citizenry and media have to always combat the excesses of power in order to retain balance in public affairs. My fond hope is that even this narrow vindictive government will see the light of day and realize that in a plural secular democracy like India pressurizing the media will always be counter-productive.

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tendulkar1 : Mr. Editor, where does Tehelka go from here? Any new surprises coming up?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Tehelka is at the moment struggling to survive. But let me tell you I am very confident that Tehelka will not only survive but will go on to do a lot more of the kind of good work it has done so far. Of course it is true that we are going through a very very difficult phase. But I am sure it will pass sooner or later.

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makkukikku : has the accusation by the govt that the tapes u submitted were doctored, been cleared??is the question being avoided or u just didnt get it Mr. Tarun?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : The judge of the Commission of Inquiry after listening to all the experts has on two distinct occasions pronounced the tapes bonafide and undoctored. Not only that even the High Court which Jaya Jaitley approached has declared the tapes geniune and undoctored. Since we are the makers of the tapes, I can tell you not one single frame of any tape has been touched or altered. All these noises are just attempts by those found guilty of corruption to somehow delay and derail the process of justice.

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Radhakrishnan : You say tehelka is trying to survive...how much of interference from the govt cn you quote?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Please go to our website where we have posted a roster of harrassment we have suffered in the last year and a half. It should make for interesting reading.

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NUSchamp : TARUN JEE.....YEH AAPKI HIMMAT BOL RAHEE HAI KEE PAISE KEE MAYA HAI
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Abhi tho paisa ki maya ki koyi naam or nishan nahin hai. Bahut log a samachthe hai ki a hamari naadani bol rahi hain.

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drona : Let me ask you a question... are you telling us that all you did was above board and had no ulertior motive? Is first global above board in all this
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Absolutely and 100 per cent. It is a sad statement on our times that no one anywhere can see a straight story any more. We have become people led by so many ulterior motives that we cant recognize clean work even when it is under our noses.

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vandematarm : do u think your experiments with truth has boomeranged to you? if yes then do you also feel that india is not ready for investigative journalism?..please respond
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : Well we have faced a lot of trouble in persuing investigative journalism but I think this is no reason for other journalists not to take it up. I think India needs 100s of investigative stories every year so that people holding public office are forced to clean up their act.

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kriskyyy : We all know about corruption. What did you gain by this
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : A journalist's job is to unearth corruption and keep the leash on power short. Just because the results are not immediately evident or to one's liking is no reason for journalists to stop doing their jobs.

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vallu : media is as corrupt as any institution
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : It is possible that media may be corrupt. But the great stories are always done and broken by young idealistic maverik journalists. And these people are never corrupt or compromized and they are the ones who uphold the best traditions of journalism.

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kmohanp13 : Sir, would just like to know how do you intend to fight a government where they can invent things/ cases to protect themselves. or still better if if i may use the word "Dictatorship" in some sense
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I think we are protected so far by the fact that our conscience is clean and our backyard is clean. We also have been kept going by the staggering goodwill of the general public.

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Garth : Why did you become a journalist being from an army background?
Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I wanted to become a writer and journalism seemed to be the way to get there because I also needed to earn a living and marry the girl I was going around with. As it has turned out I have spent 19 years practising different kinds of journalism with different kinds of magazines and newspapers and writing has all been left on the backburner. But I hope to get to it someday.

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Mr Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka.com : I am sorry I couldnt take all the questions because I have to leave now to confer with more lawyers dealing with the dozens of cases lodged against us. It was a pleasure chatting with you all and I would like to once again reiterate that Tehelka is a pure journalistic organization and has no other ambition but to practice good, clean, agressive journalism. All of you must be careful to watch out for the constant government propaganda that is carried out against us.

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