Sue the Messenger
How legal arm-twisting by corporates is shackling reportage and undermining democracy in India

About the Book: Sue the Messenger

Books come with certain advantages for the journalist/researcher wanting to get the big story out to readers. First, there is a propensity among people to take a book more seriously than a news item or a series of reports in dailies, websites or periodicals. Besides, books by their very nature have a shelf life. Moreover, a book on a contentious subject can be far more damaging for its subjects than news reports, which are ephemeral by nature. Public memory is short too. In other words, when a journalist brings out a publication that is critical in nature of a corporate, the book is taken more seriously, and perceived to be a far bigger threat. A damning report in a newspaper or a magazine too would meet with the same kind of threat perception.

Overlay this with the socio-political climate that has been prevailing in India since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was re-elected in 2009. Plagued by a number of scams and hamstrung by unbridled inflation, the UPA’s last days were marked by political turbulence. The anti-graft agitation of the India Against Corruption movement led to the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party, but the political capital of the public discontent against corruption was reaped by the Bharatiya Janata Party which, with its partners, went on to form the government in New Delhi in May 2014. The crackdown on dissent that was practised by the UPA in fits and starts, was institutionalised by the NDA.

Sue the Messenger is a collection of stories about stories—stories that run foul of corporate entities and conglomerates, which result in SLAPPs (strategic litigation against public participation). By their very nature, SLAPPs are meant to undermine democracy. This is the concern that journalists Subir Ghosh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta through 'Sue the Messenger' wish to address.

Lead Author: Subir Ghosh

Subir Ghosh (www.subirghosh.in) is a Bengaluru-based independent journalist and researcher who started out his career in sales before switching over to journalism in 1991. His first job as a journalist was with the eastern metropolitan desk of the Press Trust of India (PTI) in Kolkata. He joined the Telegraph daily in 1994 and was part of the first ‘region desk’ that was set up in the newspaper to bring out dedicated pages and supplements for the states of Bihar, Odisha and the Northeast. It was here that he developed a keen interest in Northeast affairs and started specialising in the region. He wrote and reported prolifically on the Northeast during his tenure in the daily.

He shifted to New Delhi in mid-1998 and joined the publications units of the leading non-governmental organisation on environmental issues, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). During his short stay here, he worked on the fifth edition of CSE’s flagship publication, the State of India’s Environment. He thereafter moved on to the apex body of the hospitality industry, the Federation of Hotels and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), and served as assistant secretary-general in charge of publications. He turned around the staid black-and-white newsletter into a four-colour glossy which broke even within a year. Here, he also brought out a number of research studies on the state of the hospitality industry in India. His next assignment was with leading wildlife organisation, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), where he was in charge of communications: handling publications, the website of the WTI and media relations. He was to have a second stint here again in 2009–2010.

In the interregnum, Subir experimented with the online media and launched two e-zines: The Reviewer (one that reviewed books) and Northeast Vigil (one that aggregated news and information pertaining to the Northeast). In 2005, he started a website called Newswatch which collated news about the media industry, press freedom issues and journalistic ethics. The mainstay of the site were micro research studies about how various incidents and issues would be covered in the Indian media. All these studies were appreciated worldwide for their detailed analyses: each story that was selected for a study was assessed, at times, based on more than 100 parameters. He still specialises in Northeast affairs, and has served in the past as an advisory council member with the Centre for Northeast Studies (C-NES).

Subir is the author of Frontier Travails—Northeast: The Politics of a Mess, published by Macmillan India in 2001, and has won two national awards for children’s fiction (including one titled The Dream Machine, co-authored with Richa Bansal, which was awarded a prize for children’s science fiction by the Children's Book Trust). In 2014, he co-authored Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri. The book is regarded as a seminal work on crony capitalism.

His last stint in the mainstream media was with the Bengaluru edition of DNA newspaper. Subir is passionate in writing about conflict, ethnicities, wildlife, human rights, sustainable fashion, poverty, and cinema. He blogs at www.write2kill.in, tweets at @write2kill, and keeps writing occasionally for a number of newspapers and portals. Besides his writing interests, he works as a political and environmental risk analyst and editorial consultant with both corporates and voluntary organisations.

© Subir Ghosh 2016 | Developed and maintained by Inscriptions.