At 8.45 a.m. on July 10, Hindustan times, one of India’s leading English newspapers, published an article on the reshuffle of Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. Quoting an article from the Association for Democratic Reforms, he pointed out that 42 percent of Modi’s ministers faced criminal cases and 90 percent were crorepatis.
HT was not the only medium to cover the ADR findings, but it was the only one to remove the story. The link to the story now leads to a file.
Why would a leading newspaper remove a regular report?
Prasad Sanyal, Content Manager at HT, claimed that the disappearance of the story was “probably” a technical problem. He wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with that particular story, but since the link led to an error page, it could be a problem, he reiterated. “Not everything has a sinister motive,” he laughed.
Yet on Saturday morning, history was still missing from the HT website.
The newspaper’s editor, Sukumar Ranganathan, asked us to speak with his general counsel, Dinesh Mittal, when Laundry asked why the report was missing. Mittal replied: “No comment.”
A source at HT, however, given Laundry pretended evidence showing that the report did not disappear due to a “technical problem”, as Sanyal claimed. It was demolished under the direction of a top editor.
The kill order was apparently issued by Hussain Rahmani, newsroom operations editor, on the WhatsApp group “HT Digital News”, of which he is one of seven directors along with Sanyal.
Sanyal made it clear that removal rights in the content management system, or CMS, used by the newspaper’s digital team were limited. And Rahmani is the only person who has the editorial authority to delete a report after it is published.
“The deletion request must be brought to my attention. In case he wants to have something deleted, I should always be marked on all deletion emails, ”Sanyal said, referring to Rahmani. “My approval is not required but I have the right to block it. But there was nothing, zilch.
Except that the CMS shows that the story has indeed been “killed”.
“We use Blank Paper CMS to publish copies on HT website. Note the ‘killed’ label next to the copy’s title and timestamp, ”the source said. “History has been killed. There is no technical issue involved contrary to what Prasad Sanyal has told you.
A former staff member at HT Digital News confirmed this. “When a story is ‘killed’, the IT team removes it,” they explained. “This is an active action and not a technical problem.”
How to kill a report
Curiously for a traditional press house that catches the eye, HT killed a story that had garnered much attention. This was apparently the most important story on the HT July 10 in terms of engagement.
At 5:52 p.m., Rahmani informed the HT Digital News group that the report was being killed off. Later that evening, he organized a “major editing meeting” with a dozen journalists and editors.
Asked specifically about this meeting, Sanyal said: “No meeting has been called. I certainly would have been part of it if there had been. It is procedural that I be a part of every edit meeting. I don’t know what’s wrong with this specific story. But I know for sure that no big meeting has been called. If there was a meeting with publishers in the digital space, I would definitely know. “
Sanyal, however, has been sent an invitation to this “important assembly meeting” to be held at 7pm.
Didn’t he see or receive the invitation? It was not on his schedule, he replied. There was a monthly meeting scheduled for 11 am that day, however, which was moved to the evening because no one showed up. “But I didn’t attend, it’s still not on my calendar,” Sanyal added.
Why then had he insisted that “there had not been a big meeting called” that day? “I said no because the 11am meeting was rescheduled and the title of this meeting is Monthly Meeting with CCO,” he said, adding that Rahmani could have renamed the rescheduled “important assembly meeting” .
“During the meeting, when Hussain was asked why the report was killed, he could not give an answer,” the source said. “He said protocol was not followed. When asked if there were any errors in the copy, he argued that it was protocol that was not followed. No other clear reason was given as to why the story was withdrawn. “
There was no flaw in the, the source said Laundry. “We have all gone through it and consulted with other editors and senior editors,” the source added. “There was no flaw in the copy, the way it was written.”
Modi’s ministry criminal profile is not the first article HT killed lately. Last year, the newspaper censored at least two articles. In December, it is a PTI report on Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant complaining that India had “too much democracy”. A few months earlier, he was to publish Ramachandra Guha’s article criticizing Modi’s Central Vista project, prompting the historian to end his usual column with the newspaper. Guha had alleged that his newspaper editors were willing to publish the article, but they were “overthrown by their bosses and management.”