On a day of furious rejoinders, the Washington Post has admitted that several quotes from its critical article about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first appeared in Indian magazine Caravan last year. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office slammed the Post’s correspondent for “unethical and unprofessional conduct” amidst debate about whether his request to interview Dr. Singh had been declined or not.
The original article, by India bureau chief Simon Denyer, on a “silent” and “tragic” Prime Minister has provoked widespread online discussion, with almost 2,000 comments on the Post website alone. Much of the discussion revolved around why Mr. Denyer had failed to credit Caravan’s 2011 article which had originally carried the same or very similar quotes from historian Ramachandra Guha and the PM’s former media advisor Sanjaya Baru.
On his Facebook page, Mr. Baru complained that “Simon Denyer quotes me in Washington Post without talking to me. He has merely rehashed what I told Caravan last year.”
Ultimately, the Post issued a correction, saying: “While both men told the Post that the assertions could accurately be attributed to them, the article should have credited the Caravan when it used or paraphrased the remarks.” The updated article now includes the Caravan references.
However, on Twitter, Mr. Denyer cited his notes from an on-the-record conversation with Mr. Baru — although those were not the quotes used for the article — to substantiate his claim that he had spoken to the former media adviser.
The Press Trust of India reports that another expert quoted in the article — Tushar Poddar, India Economist of Goldman Sachs — has also distanced himself from the comments attributed to him, telling the Post that “these published remarks bear little or no resemblance to my recollection of a conversation I had with your correspondent several months ago."
PMO slams Post
Meanwhile, current communications advisor Pankaj Pachauri sent an official rejoinder to the Post slamming the “totally one-sided” story. “You never got in touch with us for our side of the story though you regularly talk to me about information from the PMO,” he wrote. “You have been telling the media here in India that your request for an interview was declined though the mail below says clearly that the interview was declined ‘till the Monsoon Session’ of the Parliament which gets over in two days.”
In his response, however, Mr. Denyer said he had requested an interview on three occasions and contacted other senior officials in the PMO as well, but his requests were either ignored or declined. “When I made my final request for an interview with the PM in July, I was told on July 30 ‘The PM has declined all interview requests till the Monsoon session is over.’ At that stage the current session of parliament (known as the Monsoon session) had not even begun. There was no mention of the possibility of an interview afterwards,” he wrote.
“PMO must apologise”
Bangalore Special Correspondent writes:
Senior BJP leader and former Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh criticised the United Progressive Alliance government on Thursday for demanding an apology from the Post. The apology should come from the PMO to the people of the country and not from the Post, he told presspersons on the sidelines of a function here. “The PMO should apologise for damaging the economy.”