In an attempt to uphold the independence and neutrality of India’s largest and most influential news agency—Press Trust of India (PTI), its board of directors recently took strong objection to political interference regarding the appointment of its new successor who will replace its editor-in-chief and chief executive officer, M.K. Razdan.
According to a detailed report published by The Wire, the news agency’s board of directors have decided to constitute a search committee of its own to select the successor.
The published report has named Ashok Malik, Columnist and TV Commentator who was awarded the Padma Shri in January this year, K.A. Badrinath, formerly of the Financial Chronicle, and Shishir Gupta, Executive Editor of the Hindustan Times among candidates recommended by some well known politicians for the coveted post.
Speaking to The Wire, Hormusji N. Cama, chairman of PTI’s board said, “Some MPs spoke to a couple of board members. Some of them were approached and they mentioned this. I must emphasise that no MP has approached me. But there is no question of looking at candidates that have been recommended by politicians. As you can imagine, there are lots of people interested in the job. We had decided to separate the two functions of editor and CEO. Our view on the board was that there is likely to be talent in-house on the editorial side so we should look for someone from outside who can look after the administrative and HR sides of PTI. Somewhere down the line, a couple of claimants came and presented themselves. But they were looking for the editor’s job. When we said how come you are applying when we are looking only for someone on the administrative side, they said they had been told there was a vacancy and that they should apply.”
The report elaborated that though Cama refused to name the politicians involved, other PTI board members speaking to The Wire on condition of anonymity said one of those who had pushed the case of the three candidates in question was Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance and Information and Broadcasting.
While defending these charges against him, Ashok Malik told The Wire, “I did not apply and was not asked to apply. A PTI board member contacted me and asked me if I would be interested. He clarified he was not offering me the job but making a tentative inquiry for a shortlist. He then asked for my CV. That’s it.”
According to the report, Sanjoy Narayan of Hindustan Times, Viveck Goenka of the Express group and Aveek Sarkar of the ABP group, which publishes The Telegraph, were not present in the meeting. The report further stated that Vineet Jain, Managing Director of Bennet Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL) was part of the decision to reject the candidates whose names were raised but he took to Twitter later to deny he had taken a stand.