The Ram-Rajapaksa Tape: Fictional
By Satya Sagar
09 December, 2010
Following the sordid Nira Radia affair, Indian journalism has been exposed at the highest levels- with few honorable exceptions- to be filled with power brokers as morally bankrupt as our politicians. And at a time when there are few senior journalists left in India to comment with any credibility on media ethics, Mr N.Ram, Editor of The Hindu group has bravely come forward to take up the challenge.
In his newspaper editorials, on television talk shows and in lectures to students of journalism Mr Ram has called for introspection within the media and a ruthless ‘weeding out' of all those guilty of violating basic principles of the profession.
The problem with all this is of course that Mr Ram himself has not lived up to the exalted standards he espouses and his stable of publications are busy whitewashing the crimes of murderers masquerading as everything from religious gurus in Tamil Nadu to pious Marxists in Bengal. Equally disturbing is The Hindu's blind parroting of lies put out by Indian intelligence that claim every terrorist attack in India as being the work of Muslim extremists, refusing to investigate the shadowy role of Hindu fundamentalists in the scores of bomb blasts over the last couple of decades.
And being an ‘internationalist' Mr Ram's distortion of facts is not confined to the national boundaries of India either. For example, his abject bias in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the megalomaniac President of Sri Lanka , are obvious from the shameful quality of news his paper publishes on anything to do with this island nation. Massacres, war crimes, racist discrimination, killing of dissidents and even outright dictatorship in Sri Lanka is justified in the pages of The Hindu- the self-styled ‘newspaper of record' – in a manner that would leave Goebbels breathless with envy.
In the interests of public debate on what constitutes good journalism and what media ethics are all about we are releasing below transcripts of a recent fictional telephone talk between Ram and M.Rajapaksa. Unlike The Hindu we don't believe in presenting fiction as news and since we are not authorized to tap other people's phones we confess openly to have invented the content of this entire conversation.
We leave it to the readers to judge whether this piece of fiction below is not more accurate than what passes off as the ‘truth' in our media these days.
(Phone rings. Mahinda Rajapaksa counts 9, his lucky number, before picking it up.)
Ram: Ayubowan Mr President
Rajapaksa: Vanakkam Mr Ram
Ram: I am always ready to come when you call.
Rajapaksa: I said ‘Vanakkam' not ‘Wannacome'. And you are supposed to be Delhi 's darling boy on Sri Lankan Tamil affairs?
Ram: And since when did you start speaking any Tamil Mr President? Is that not a betrayal of your Sinhala tongue?
Rajapaksa: I am no longer the President of the Sinhalese alone my dear. I represent all Sri Lankans including the Tamils- especially since they are either all in prison or in exile.
Ram: And the few fellows left behind are at the mercy of your dictatorship. You are the biggest rascal I have ever met. And you happen to be my best friend too!
Rajapaksa: You say ‘rascal' with such affection Ram! I wouldn't be here without your excellent diplomacy on my behalf with your government. You were always cut out to be much more than a mere journalist. You are our favourite power broker in India . We will put up your name for the Vibhishana Award next year.
Ram: Your awards are my only reward Mr President. I am not into monetary gains like other cheap, money-minded editors in India . I want to make history even if it means etching my name on the tombstones of many innocent people.
Rajapaksa: That's the good Brahmin speaking- abstract history is more important than ‘cheap' material wealth. I am not a pretentious Brahmin like you, so I do both- make history and accumulate wealth too. There is not a single deal in my country where a Rajapaksha does not have his fat finger in the pie.
Ram: The pie is shrinking Mr President. These are times of global recession. And talking of body parts maybe the noose around your neck is tightening also with all the noise being made in international circles of investigating war crimes committed under your leadership. Remember last year when your army took out the LTTE and 20,000 civilians along with them in a week's time? Gory stuff!
Rajapaksa: You are right. I must be careful. By the way what do you think of the Channel 4 video that recently showed our soldiers executing LTTE cadre, including that journalist woman Isaipriya who worked for them?
Ram: Despicable. I mean despicable journalism of course. How can they broadcast any video on Sri Lanka that shows your government in bad light? This is bad journalism. BBC would no do such things only Channel 4 can stoop so low.
Rajapaksa: What, you have some deal going with the BBC these days? No, I think they are all the same. These Anglos think they are still running a colonial empire pointing at fingers at our genocides while ignoring their own in Afghanistan and Iraq . If they can do it we can do it too.
Ram: You are right- this is global imperialism masquerading as humanitarian concern. The brown guys are always wrong and serial violators of human rights while the white ones are champions of morality. I mean what is wrong with brown people killing lots of other brown people?
Rajapaksa: Problem is Ram, that nowadays there are many brown and black people also who are behaving like the whites. This Sarath Fonseka fellow was my army commander and after retirement dared to challenge me politically. He is willing to expose the war crimes ordered by me and my brothers to the entire world! For what? To get a Nobel Peace Prize and retirement benefits in Sweden ?
Ram: Good you put him away in prison. Could have been a nuisance. Was getting embarrassing for us also to ignore his rants.
Rajapaksa: I had to bend a lot of rules of course to do that but it is all for the good of Sri Lanka . There was no Constitution in my country at the time of the Buddha so why should there be one now? We are a Buddhist country after all and have a special role to protect to our religious values.
Ram: Good point. Before you make new history you have to wipe out the old versions thoroughly. And occupying the moral high ground is important because everyone is so confused on this front that the loudest and most assertive voice will easily have the final say.
Rajapaksa: Voice is not enough Ram, you need guns also to silence the other fellows trying to shout you down. I have had to use this extreme form of censorship called assassination several times, including on that silly, stubborn fellow Lasantha of Sunday Leader.
Ram: You should not be saying all this over the phone. What if we are being tapped by someone?
Rajapaksa: I will deny all this as a conversation in a television studio performed by a B-grade Tamil actor. We have video experts now in Colombo who can tamper with any tape to prove it is tampered evidence.
Ram: Ha, ha! Your excuse sounds as authentic as that of Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, two of our leading journalists who got caught recently on tape sucking up to a corporate lobbyist. I blasted them both on a television talk show the other day. Made me look very good. Attack is the best form of defence!
Rajapaksa: I heard about that. I also noticed that you spared Prabhu Chawla, who was the most crooked of them all. Wise thing to do – he is a mean fellow I am told. By the way my press adviser told me that if any of these Indian media celebrities lose their jobs the Sri Lankan government should offer them posts in our journalism teaching institutions immediately. We can do with their skills- propaganda is all we have to save our skins nowadays.
Ram: Why do you need them when I am there at your service Mr President?
Rajapaksa: Now, don't get upset Ram. You have been very loyal to me all these years and helped whitewash all my crimes brilliantly using your ‘credibility' as a ‘respectable' Indian journalist. But the truth is you are getting old. Your voice does not boom across the room as it used to in the past.
Ram: Its true I have had to swallow my words many times and that has affected my vocal cords somewhat but in India- by which I mean New Delhi- everyone still thinks I am the cleanest and purest journalist of them all.
Rajapaksha: I don't know how you manage to get away - passing off all your vested interests as good journalism. But as the Hindu sages have said this is Kali Yuga after all.
Ram: My pompous English does the trick Mr President. All these fools are so much in awe of the complicated sentences I construct when I speak or write that they think all of it is the gospel truth. I think many of them out there feel I am a reincarnation of some former Viceroy or something!
Rajapaksha: I thought you were an avatar of Vishnu? Ha, ha, ha.
Ram: That is not funny Mr President. You know I hate that line. I am card carrying Marxist for God's sake!
Rajapaksha: Don't be shy of being an avatar. I am after all projecting myself as the incarnation of Dutugemunu our warrior King from the past. Even Marxists can become deities; we know that from modern history. And as for your Marxism I really can't make head or tail of it- which part of the spectrum do you occupy- the purple or the yellow end? Certainly not red in any sense of the term I think!
Ram: I must confess, there is a battle inside my soul between my business interests and my intellectual fascination with Marxism Mr President. Something you will never understand as a mere former socialist!
Rajapaksa: I understand perfectly Ram. While your soul struggles between your business and Marxist interests your clever Brahmin self is deriving maximum benefits from both sides of your carefully split personality.
Ram: You are being a casteist Mr President and a good Buddhist should never indulge in such talk. It is very un-socialist and un-Marxist also!
Rajapaksa: Now I really got your goat Ram. You have to get over these complexes. If you look, talk and walk like Chanakya then you are Chanakya! I can foresee your old age now- refusing to relinquish your newspaper empire to younger people, suppressing news inconvenient to your many influential friends while continuing to pontificate on the ethics of journalists.
Ram: I hope to be the editor for as long as you plan to be President of your Buddhist nation. It is a very small ambition I have. All possible, only with your blessings of course.
Rajapaksa: Good night Ram and don't forget to send your updated CV for the award I mentioned.
Ram: Good Night Mr President and may your regular nightmares never come true.
End of Conversation.
Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist, videomaker in New Delhi . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org