Indian Newspaper Flies With MMRCA Ditch Story, Journalist Disowns

"I disown this report and disassociate myself completely from it. It should have been attributed not to me but the person responsible for introducing gross distortions. I've seen nothing like this in my 19 years as a reporter, 15 of which were with the Hindustan Times & CNN-IBN. This is serious breach of journalistic ethics and reflects the crisis in at least a section of the media. I wish to come out clean to protect my professional reputation."

That's Vishal Thapar's statement a moment ago to Livefist. Now, for what happened:

Indian weekend newspaper The Sunday Guardian today led prominently with this story headlined 'Typhoon, Gripen Back In Fray, Rafale Deal Split Wide Open', with my good friend and veteran defence correspondent Vishal Thapar's byline. The report outlines how India's Rafale deal is on shaky ground with the finish-line in sight, and that the Gripen and Typhoon smell blood. It's a story that's been doing the rounds, but this report rounds it up and gives it more prominence than most others, which have only insinuated the possibility of trouble. But here's what happened just 90 minutes after the newspaper tweeted out the story after midnight last night:
I disown this report: "@SundayGuardian Typhoon, Gripen back in fray, Rafale deal split wide open @thaparvishal:"
— Vishal Thapar (@thaparvishal) June 28, 2014

Thapar bolstered this by posting the following on a Facebook group populated and run by Indian defence correspondents:

Before sending my the statement at the top of this post, an angry Vishal said what happened was a 'grave distortion' and 'completely unethical'.

While Vishal has unequivocally disowned the report, the questions now, of course, are as follows: Why has Vishal distanced himself from the report? Who introduced the alleged 'distortions' if any and why? Is the report inaccurate? Are there vested interests at play? Is this just a newsroom tiff or something bigger?

UPDATE: The Sunday Guardian has suffixed the report in question with this word to its readers:


[It] has been brought to our notice that the writer of the above report, Mr Vishal Thapar has "disowned" it on social media, both on Facebook and Twitter, thereby implying that it was edited in an unprofessional manner.

News reporting needs to be based on facts and balanced rather than reflect any particular interest. Such a consideration is particularly relevant in matters of weapons procurement, especially on the scale involved in the MMRCA deal. Arms lobbies have proliferated in the national capital, with attendant inducements and allurements.

A reading of the news report will show that the version published is balanced and factual.

Mr Thapar was invited to set out his specific objections, if any, to the report soon after he had, for reasons that are not clear, impugned it on social media. He has yet to do so.

The Sunday Guardian reiterates its commitment to the highest standards of journalistic ethics and responsibility, even if such an insistence may sometimes bring it into disagreement with any particular journalist.

The report in question, in common with the others published in the newspaper, has been edited such as to present a factual, balanced and comprehensive overview of the MMRCA situation.

We therefore reject in totality Mr Thapar's rant on social media while remaining in the dark about the motives behind it. [Unquote]

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