Taking revenge against an editor!

IN Regional Media | 11/05/2005
The "revenge" by a proprietor against a reputed editor raises questions about the hold of the management over journalists.



Nava Thakuria



What are the ways to take revenge against an editor? Is it through one’s socio-political influence, personal vendetta or money and power?


This issue became a matter of debate among the media persons in Assam, after a chief editor was shown the door by the newspaper’s proprietor recently. Within three months of the launch of a daily, its Assamese chief editor was forced to resign. Now the question is, should it be so easy for the proprietor to sack an editor as and when he wants? And was this the proprietor’s hidden agenda? Did he offer the senior journalist (then working as the editor of another Assamese daily) the post of the chief editor for his newly launched daily only to humiliate him at a later date? 


The beginning of the daily itself created headlines for the other dailies from Guwahati. The news that another Assamese daily was going to be launched in January 2005 under the chief editorship of Homen Borgohain and with the financial backing of a contractor named Bhagya Kalita caused sensation among the media observers as well as the readers. Though Assam is already overloaded with newspapers (with a population of 26 million, it has 20 dailies and over 50 periodicals), the news of this daily created a sensation because of the combination of Mr Borgohain and Mr Kalita.


The readers of the leading Assamese weekly Asom Bani and daily Amar Asom, had not forgotten how Mr Borgohain had demanded stern action against Mr Kalita, whose name was (is?) linked with a murder case in Guwahati. Mr Borgohain, former editor of both the newspapers, had argued that Mr Kalita should be punished for his involvement in the case. So for the readers as well as the media observers, it seemed unbelievable that Mr Borgohain would get involved in a project owned by Mr Kalita, who was still not acquitted from the case.


But surprising all his admirers, Mr Borgohain joined Mr Kalita’s Assamese daily Dainik Batori and at a splendid inaugural function in Guwahati, the 70-year-old writer-journalist announced that it was his last newspaper. In his address, he called the project his "dream project" and declared that had he obtained all the necessary resources needed to make the paper a flourishing one. On a dais, shared by Mr Kalita and his wife, this Sahitya Academy Award winner promised the gathering an ideal Assamese daily through the Dainik Batori.


The Borgohain-Kalita endeavor also made news because of the high salary offered to the scribes. They recruited many promising journalists from other newspapers by providing them high financial packages. Mr Borgohain was also rumoured to receive a handsome package along with other amenities. The development caused anxiety to most of the newspaper owners, who were forced to increase the nominal payment (too low to be called a salary) they offered to their journalists.


Dainik Batori hit the stands in the second half of January in 2005 with a print order of around 40,000. But the response from the readers was lukewarm and the newspapers copies were returned to the office in Guwahati from different parts of the state. This resulted in a tussle between Mr Borgohain and Mr Kalita, leading to the exit of Mr Borgohain.


The reasons for the entry and the exit of Mr Borgohain remain a mystery for the readers of Assam even today. The involvement of a successful journalist like Mr Borgohain in a project owned by Mr Kalita (who was accused of killing of the mother-daughter duo Karabi-Dubari in 1996) was surprising news. Of course, Mr Borgohain was also accused of sexual harassment by one of his former subordinates. She had lodged an FIR with the state police accusing Mr Borgohain of inappropriate behaviour at workplace and the case is still pending.


However, the exit of Mr Borgohain from Dainik Batori was unexpected. Mr Borgohain has not clarified the reasons for his exit but in his resignation letter to the management of Dainik Batori he has cited that it was a "personal" decision. Of course, there is a strong belief among the media observers in Guwahati that Mr Kalita has taken "revenge" against Mr Borgohain.


The media observers argue that the influential businessman invited Mr Borgohain only to sack him as early as possible. A revenge of a different kind with "money power" indeed.

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