Actions speak louder than words – We capture who (media) did what during 2012-13 when Agusta scam first broke out
For the past two weeks, everyone is curious to know who the beneficiaries of the AgustaWestland largesse are. Before we get to that, let us recap what we know thus far:
We have documented proof that Agusta Westland entered into an agreement worth 6 million Euros (₹45 crore) with fugitive middleman Christian Michel for 22 months (March 2010 to Dec 2011) to manage Indian media.
We also now know that from 2006 onwards manipulations and rigging happened in the purchasing procedure to favour Agusta. The media management contract was signed a month after the deal was signed in February 2010.
Did the mainstream media look the other way over Agusta violations, while the opponents of Agusta, Sikorsky and Eurocopter were complaining to Defence Ministry and providing their letters to the media?
The fact of the matter is that only two newspapers in India seriously and vehemently pursued the Agusta Chopper Scam. Those are ‘The Indian Express’ and ‘The Pioneer’. Indian Express (IE) reporter Manu Pubby deserves credit for breaking the scam in February 2012 and pursuing it with a series of reports. As an out and out Right Wing paper, ‘The Pioneer’ focused only on linking the scam with Sonia Gandhi, following the ‘Indian Express’ reports.
Times of India, Hindustan Times (Vir Sanghvi was controlling the newsroom), The Hindu, India Today, NDTV, CNN-IBN and Times Now wrote or broadcast nothing about this scam when IE was pursing it with vigour. Worse, CNN-IBN, in those days led by Rajdeep Sardesai, did some questionable reporting to give a clean chit to the deal, when Indian Express attacked it.
One interesting report in Times of India bears special mention. See the date of the report. It was published on July 30, 2009. How did Times of India’s reporter come to know 7 months in advance, that Defence Ministry is finalising the deal with Agusta? The deal was signed in Feb 2010 and Times of India was very sure of this deal in July 2009!
There some other people engaged in Defence reporting who reported on October 6, 2008, that Agusta Westland is selected! Trishul, which specializes in Defence sector, is a very reputed blog in arms dealing and other defence procurements. This Blog knew 16 months ahead of time that Agusta is getting the deal. Were these guys doing the ground work for Agusta by singing its praises?
There is more. Noted Defence journalist-cum-consultant Ajay Shukla interviewed S P Tyagi in Doordarshan in Feb 2013, in which Tyagi was given ample time to play the role of an innocent victim. Hindustan Times and its business publication Mint were totally committed to saving the skin of the UPA government in general and Sonia Gandhi in particular from Agusta Westland scam. During the period 2010 to 2013, most of the P R stories of Agusta Westland manufacturing company Finmeccanica appeared in Hindustan Times and Mint.
When the scam blew out of proportion after arrests were made in Italy in February 2013, Rajdeep Sardesai comes out with an interview with Julie (Sanjeev) Tyagi, a family member of the main suspect S P Tyagi, the former Air Chief Marshal. Those days in CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai was trying to provide clean chits by posing favourable questions to Julie Tyagi. Tyagi recently surfaced again in Rajdeep’s interviews in India Today TV. In October 2014, when the trial court acquitted Italian company officials, S P Tyagi landed in CNN-IBN and India Today to play the victim card. These two channels were going hard at Indian Express for their exposé on Agusta.
Indian express also did something that raised eyebrows. Along with Shekhar Gupta, Manu Pubby also exited IE in mid-2014. Indian Express showed sheer pettiness by not giving the Ramnath Goenka Award to Manu Pubby who was the most eligible candidate for his 2012 and 2013 series on #AgustaWestland scam. When the award for 2012 and 2013 was given in 2015, Manu Pubby was in The Economic Times. It looked as if IE denied him the Goenka Award, just because he was no longer a part of it. This smacks of injustice. After all, Indian Express benefited tremendously from this scam.
Christian Michel suddenly seems to have surfaced, especially to select media persons! His letters filled with hyperbole are appearing with regularity. How is he so accessible now, when his official status is a fugitive? Like the Bollywood movies of the 70s, will the police be the last to reach the crime spot? One hopes not!
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