In response to claims by former Tehelka journalist Rana Ayyub that her 2010-11 sting operation against Narendra Modi and top officials of his government were not carried by the weekly citing “political pressure”, Shoma Chaudhury, then managing editor of Tehelka, has written:
“I will leave Tarun Tejpal to refute the specific allegation Rana makes against him, but as the managing editor of Tehelka at the time, I find her assertions about Tehelka buckling under ‘political pressure’ extremely baffling, to say the least.
The many hard-hitting exposes done by Tehelka on Gujarat hardly seems the track record of a magazine that was afraid to ‘touch’ Mr Modi because it had once been shut down.
There is a simple reason why Rana’s sting on Gujarat was not carried in Tehelka: it did not meet the necessary editorial standards.
While parts of the story were good, there were a lot of loopholes and serious concerns about the procedure that had been followed. Rana is a courageous reporter and out of a respect for her work I would not like to detail those concerns publicly. However, they were discussed with Rana in great detail many times, both via emails and verbal discussions.
Rana seems to have accepted those reasons as legitimate because instead of quitting she continued to work at Tehelka for several years after that. Tehelka also continued to publish other hard-hitting covers on Gujarat and Mr Modi.
When I left Tehelka and started Catch News, Rana also expressed a particular desire to work with me again as an editor she trusted and respected.
In the light of all this, her assertion that she was treated as a ‘guinea pig’ and her story was withheld out of ‘political pressure’ seems a serious departure from the truth.
Reporters are welcome to disagree with editors’ evaluation of their stories but it is highly unfortunate when they ascribe false motives to hard editorial decisions taken in good faith.”