Reality Check India

Zee vs Jindal – is it really extortion ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 2, 2012

I just read a news article in DNA about the Zee News executives in judicial custody.

Here is a short post about why this disturbs me.

Quick Facts :

  • Zee News executives allegedly offered to cut back on Coalgate coverage if Jindal would pay 100 Cr in the form of advertising revenue.
  • Jindal representatives pretended to bargain while secretly taping these meetings.
  • They took all the tapes to the police.

There are two aspects to this. First as something that must be addressed by the media fraternity in their own self interest. Second as a legal matter which calls for punishment or cancellation of license. The legal case particularly about the extortion charge  isnt clear to me at all.

It is crucial to distinguish between extortion and blackmail.  There is a vast volume of literature on this topic, but here is a really good article on the matter by US Federal Judge Richard Posner (PDF).

  • Extortion : Demand money – otherwise I commit an illegal action like hit you over the head, criminally intimidate you, defame you,  and so forth.
  • Blackmail : Demand money – otherwise I exercise my right to free speech. In effect, this is an offer to waive my right to free speech in a particular instance in exchange for money.

Everyone seems to agree Zee News were not forcing Jindal in any way. At any time, Jindal could have simply walked away. Their fear that subsequent to the failure of the deal,  Zee News would commence broadcasting lies is unfounded because there is enough protection in existing laws against  criminal defamation.   Prima facie this isnt extortion at all. This is blackmail – an offer by Zee News to cut back on its right to free speech and arguably professional duty.  Extortion also has a dimension of power, a goonda is able to extort from a push cart vendor because when the latter toys with the idea of resistance, he factors in his costs.

The media better sort this one out amongst themselves.


2 Responses

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  1. Drunken Patrakar (Will write for booze) said, on December 2, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    This is an everyday reality in the media. Nothing new at all. Blackmail is the primary occupation of the owner, editor or journalist, not news. Only when the blackmail attempt fails does the news actually happen.

  2. Yuvamani said, on December 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Additionally In Extortion – the victim is usually doing something semi legal (push kart being an example) … In blackmail the victim (blackmailee) is (usually) doing something illegal / against mores ..

    Therefore calling Jindalgate blackmail would mean JIndal is in the guilty area whereas extortion would mean Jindal is the innocent area.

    Guess which one Jindal would prefer 🙂

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