Writing in the Indian Express, Dr Pratap Bhanu Mehta has correctly discussed the implications of notoriously corrupt government investigating agencies being allowed to tap and leak private conversations at will. “But we should worry about this. Often, well-intentioned attempts to combat corruption enact the very instrumentalism that they seek to decry. First of all, there now seems to be virtually no check on the state in terms of what private conversations it can record, under what pretext. The state becomes even more deeply corrupt when it gives up the principles that should regulate its conduct; when in the name of pursuing investigations it gives itself carte blanche to do virtually anything.” This is true in principle. But, as the Outlook magazine says, “It is not just the 2G spectrum but the entire Republic of India that seems to be up for sale, with the dealers being a group of powerful telemarketers—corporate houses, lobbyists, bureaucrats and journalists.” This cosy nexus needed to be exposed. The media plays a big role in influencing public opinion and ‘influenced’ journalists are effectively used by their political mentors to build or destroy careers and put a lid on gross corruption involved in large government purchase or infrastructure contracts. Putting them up for scrutiny is not mere voyeurism—it is part of a much needed clean-up of society.
For their service and advice to political parties, journalists have been rewarded with Rajya Sabha nominations, important government posts and directorships. They soon launch alternate careers as permanent experts on television talk fests. It would be a travesty of justice to invoke the right to privacy only when this small and powerful group of influence-peddlers is exposed in a rare situation that lays bare the cosy nexus between netas, babus and top opinion-makers in the media. In civil society, the right to privacy and freedom from harassment by petty officials for bribes must be the norm. In fact, this is the time to debate systemic change, protection for whistleblowers and a crusade against the loot of the nation through the nexus between business and politics. It is only when we have a cleaner and less corrupt society, that we must work to tighten the laws of privacy.— Sucheta Dalal