Leaked Message Throws Spotlight on Finance Ministry, Conflict of Interest of TOI Editor

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Leaked Message Throws Spotlight on Finance Ministry, Conflict of Interest of TOI Editor

Post by Rashmun on Sun Jun 11, 2017 2:06 am

If editors from the Times of India and other newspapers have the ability to push for personnel changes with government ministers, do these ministers, in turn, have the ability to influence the editorial line in these newspapers?

New Delhi: A leaked WhatsApp message detailing an interaction between two senior Indian journalists and finance minister Arun Jaitley has raised questions about the manner in which high-level bureaucratic appointments are being made in the current government. But the leak also shines a troubling spotlight on the conflict of interest that arises when newspaper editors who are meant to objectively cover the government get involved in seeking favours from senior ministers on behalf of officials.

The WhatsApp message in question – which was made public by a website on Thursday morning and whose authenticity has been confirmed by The Wire – comes from an internal Times of India (ToI) journalist group.

It was sent, according to multiple sources, by Times of India executive editor Diwakar Asthana. The message, which is reproduced below and was sent mistakenly to the ToI’s Delhi bureau WhatsApp group, details how Diwakar, along with former Economic Times and OPEN magazine editor P.R. Ramesh, lobbied on behalf of an unnamed income tax official.

More specifically, the meeting between Asthana, Ramesh and Jaitley deals with the manner in which the government decides postings for the “ITOU” panel. ITOU panel here likely refers to “income tax overseas units” – groups of income tax officers that are posted at Indian embassies abroad and serve as a liaison between Indian and foreign tax authorities.

During the meeting, the journalists ask Jaitley and his private secretary Simanchala Dash (whom the WhatsApp message refers to as “Dash”) that this unnamed income tax official be assigned the ITOU posting in London.

The problem, however, appears to have been that such assignments are decided by India’s Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which in turn had referred it to the external affairs ministry’s foreign service board.



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