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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 12:53 GMT
Should journalists use deceit to get a story?
The Indian Government has been turned upside-down by a secretly filmed tape, shot by journalists posing as arms-dealers.

The tape allegedly shows evidence of corruption at the highest levels, and has led to the resignation of senior members of the government.

It's not the first time secret video footage has caused a scandal. Last year the cricket world was hit by allegations of match fixing as a result of secret filming by the same news web-site.

But are such practices acceptable? Is it responsible journalism or sensationalism? And is such evidence reliable?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Public officials handling matters of public concern are completely fair game

Bulaka Singh, Punjab/ USA
Secretly taping private citizens is wrong. Public officials handling matters of public concern are completely fair game. It's not as if they were secretly taped while talking about their own family matters. The fact that they are susceptible to bribery and corruption is a matter of serious concern, whether they asked for a bribe or not is irrelevant.
Bulaka Singh, Punjab/ USA

While the Tehelka journalists were acting in the best interests of the public by exposing the corruption, the methods employed, if attempted elsewhere, would have been considered entrapment. In addition, the timing of the report, released just after the budget was announced but before it was passed, and ahead of key elections, borders on sensationalism. So, Mr Tarun Tejpal and the Tehelka journalists, while I applaud your intent, I cannot support your actions. In this situation, the end did not justify the means.
Jasbeena, USA

If journalists only told us what governments would like us to know, we might as well shut down all news organisations.
Prem Shukla, USA

I think it is responsible journalism - not sensationalism - to make secret videotapes, especially since the Government and the political parties seem unable to police themselves. How else will the public know what is going on?
Robert Tonner, Boson, Massachusetts, USA

Tehelka essentially carried out a sting operation to reveal what every South Asian has known for aeons.
C. Karan, USA

George Fernandes should not have had to resign

Manisha Desai, USA
I think that the methods used were fine, but that the uproar raised over them is ridiculous:

1) George Fernandes should not have had to resign. The lower down officials who took the money should be taken to task, but why punish George Fernandes, he is the best defence minister we have had in years.

2) From what I understand of the tapes, the money was taken as an addition to party funds. I do not understand what else happened, i.e. what was sabotaged for this money.
Manisha Desai, USA and its team of industrious scribes deserve a pat on the back for exposing the National Democratic Alliance Government's "insatiable and shameful appetite for gratification", even at the cost of national security. True, a secretly taped film revealed it all. And Mr Bangaru Laxman, former BJP President was caught red-handed on camera receiving a wad of notes. Obviously, he took the money in return for certain favours to certain people. The scribes concerned have only done their duty.
Albert Devakaram, India has done a great service to the Indian people in exposing the corrupt practices of politicians and Government officials. This is the best way to get rid of corruption in Indian society and I firmly believe that the techniques used by "" were professional and responsible journalism which is evident from its impact.
G.S. Gill (former Honorary Consul General of India in Liberia), USA

Investigative journalism is a hallmark of a free press in a democracy. But, the 'exposure' borders on sensationalism for several reasons:

1) The journalists were volunteering to bribe before even being asked
2) Only edited versions of an episode were released
3) It targets a particular party, BJP, and releases the tapes just 3 days before the Congress party session.
Prasad Sundararajan, USA

The journalists came forward to do what every patriotic Indian should appreciate

Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA
Who will rid the country of the evil of bribery? If no one comes forward, then journalists should do it. I would say that they have done great job in exposing corrupt officials and politicians and all should appreciate it. The military officials have made millions and millions illegally but since the politicians shared the money there was no one to take them to account. The journalists came forward to do what every patriotic Indian should appreciate.
Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA

Yes, any means used are fair in exposing these corrupt politicians and officials. My hat goes off to these journalists!
Dilip, Canada

Fairgame. After all, the journalists simply used bait. If politicians, generals and civil servants fell for it, tough luck.
Ashesh, USA

It depends on the individual situation. However to uncover the doings of our corrupt politicians, this kind of journalism is justified. Look at the outrage this has caused in Indian society. There is finally a reaction (other than the normal acceptance) to this corruption, but only because it has been documented in detail, and people know exactly what went on, and who was involved.
Yaseen A, Bermuda/ UK

I think journalists should use every method of deceit because that is what Western-style sensationalism has taught. Stories are not made to give people coverage about important events in the world, they are made to get ratings. And hey, as long as journalists are working to get ratings then they are allowed all types of techniques because the prime motive has changed. Think about it, they're no different from salesmen...
Frantz Fanon, Mauritius

What the Tehelka people did is marvellous. Journalism is not just reporting what is happening but also unveiling what could happen.
Dr Ali Ahmed Rind, Pakistan

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
See also:

16 Mar 01 | South Asia
Arms scandal paralyses India
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