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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Website under fire for tactics
BJP youth wing demo
Activists from the ruling BJP denounce Tehelka
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

Months after being hailed as heroes for exposing rampant corruption in the defence establishment, journalists at Tehelka.com are themselves in the firing line.


There is no such thing as pimping in the public interest.

The Hindustan Times
There have been growing calls in political circles for their prosecution after details emerged this week about their use of prostitutes to carry out the original undercover operation.

India's journalistic community also seems to be questioning the professional conduct of their colleagues.

Senior political analyst Pran Chopra told the BBC that the latest details that have emerged about the means used by the website violate not only the journalistic, but also the ethical norms of any civilised society.

Reservations

In an editorial, The Asian Age says: "Handing out bribes to capture the politician on camera is one matter, but actually supplying women as an active intermediary is quite another."

Tarun Tejpal
Tehelka chief editor Tarun Tejpal defended his team
The Hindustan Times says most journalists have had reservations about methods adopted by Tehelka.com ever since it first came to public attention by secretly videotaping cricketers and officials during the match-fixing controversy.

The newspaper says journalists swallowed their reservations as it was justified in the public interest.

But it says "there is no such thing as pimping in the public interest".

However, Tehelka.com chief editor Tarun Tejpal defended his journalists' actions, insisting they were in the public interest.

Legal concerns

The legal community is divided over whether the conduct of the web journalists could be described as illegal.

Some experts say that hiring the services of sex workers to lure officials is in itself an offence.

But prominent lawyer and former law minister Ram Jethamalani disputes the point.

He says the supply of women for profit is an offence, but since the website did not seek to make any money out of it, their action is not liable to any legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, the government is believed to be exploring various options to initiate legal action against Tehelka.com, whose investigations in March this year led to the resignation Defence Minister George Fernandes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Satish Jacob in Delhi
"It is not just the revelations in the latest tape that have shocked the public but also the methods"
Tehelka.com's Tarun Tejpal
"This was a decision taken by the field reporter at a certain point in the investigation"
See also:

14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Heads roll in India bribery scandal
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
The Tehelka tapes
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Indian website breaks the mould
09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Hindujas asked for Bofors details
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