Investigative Journalism

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Rajashri Venkatesh, Ameet Kaur, Abhishek Baldota, Avinash Kaur Bedi, Kawaljeet Singh Chandhok, Divya Chitroda, Shilpa Das, Aakash Prabhakar Kashish Kapoor are investigative journalists who employ research and interviews to offer easily comprehensible information on diverse subjects. Investigative journalism is also known as watchdog journalism or accountability reporting and entails conducting thorough investigations into areas like crime, political corruption, and corporate misconduct. This form of journalism is mainly practiced by newspapers, wire services, and freelance journalists. It serves as a primary source of information.

The roots of investigative journalism can be traced back to the 9th century when New York Times journalists exposed a case involving forgery and bribery in New York. These journalists gained worldwide influence during World War 1 and earned a reputation as muckrakers or watchdog journalists. The aim of investigative reports is to present readers with comprehensive and easily understandable information so that they can make informed choices.

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The process begins with an initial lead, tip or hunch. An investigative hypothesis is then formed followed by tracking the investigation trail which involves scrutinizing paper trails, conducting interviews with individuals and analyzing electronic trails.The main focus of our investigative journalism efforts over the past three years has been finding and gathering information about individuals. We organize this information, fill in any gaps with additional data or interviews, and compile a report. This report undergoes thorough verification to ensure there is no libelous content included.

The media in India has made significant advancements in investigative journalism, allowing the public to closely monitor various issues. Their crucial role in exposing government scams and fraud cases, as well as conducting thorough investigations into major events like the 2008 Mumbai attack and triple blasts in Mumbai, has increased awareness among ordinary citizens. As a result, people now rely heavily on the media to stay informed about current facts and stories.

Investigative journalism plays a crucial role in addressing societal issues and driving meaningful change. These stories have the power to spark movements, exemplified by the protest against the government’s Lokpal Bill. Without this form of journalism, corruption and scandals would go unnoticed by the public, as these investigations serve as catalysts for social movements. Trustworthy information is typically provided through covert investigations, prioritizing the interests of ordinary individuals over powerful entities like politicians or systems.

Investigative journalism, which is often thankless, time-consuming, and can lead to impatience from editors and annoyance from powerful individuals, requires a deep passion. It begins with curiosity and asking questions, whether they involve current events or things observed in daily life. However, due to limited resources and tight deadlines in newsrooms, pitching an investigative idea at a news conference may not result in immediate acceptance, especially if the idea is vague and undeveloped.

Developing a solid story plan requires individuals to take initiative and conduct their own preliminary checking. This involves logical thinking, organization, and self-discipline. Investigative reporting is time-consuming and carries legal risks; therefore, it must be meticulously verified down to the smallest detail. Hence, careful planning and thorough checking are necessary to ensure the coherence of the story.

Flexibility plays a crucial role in investigations as they may take unexpected turns. If the initial question leads to a dead-end or uncovers a different but more intriguing inquiry, rethinking and redesigning research becomes essential. Moreover, teamwork and communication skills are vital as collaborative efforts often result in the best investigative stories. These collaborations utilize diverse skills both inside and outside the newsroom.

Furthermore, such stories may require knowledge from various fields like science, health, economics, and sociology. It is impossible for a single journalist to be an expert in all these areas regardless of their general knowledge.

Therefore, effective collaboration is crucial. It is essential to possess strong reporting skills, acquired through training or experience (or both), which include the ability to identify sources, plan research for a story, conduct engaging interviews (and recognize when an answer seems dubious), and write with precision and clarity. Additionally, it is important to recognize one’s limitations and be willing to seek guidance or assistance. Having a wide range of knowledge and strong research abilities enables one to understand the background of an investigation, avoid unfruitful paths, and identify pertinent facts and inquiries.

If you venture into an unknown field during your investigation, it is crucial to swiftly familiarize yourself with the background, conventions, terminology, role-players, and issues of that field. It requires determination and patience as investigative reporting encounters various obstacles such as disappearing sources and non-existent records, or editors who may want to cancel the story due to time or cost constraints. Your own motivation and belief in the story’s worthiness are what will sustain you through the often sluggish process of uncovering the truth.

Courage is necessary for both investigative subjects and sources, as well as reporters themselves. The latter may encounter threats of legal action, violence, imprisonment, or even assassination. These risks can result in self-censorship due to the pressure faced. To overcome these challenges, one must maintain faith in their work and possess the courage to persist. Instances that exemplify such situations include the Bofurs Gun Scandal, The Fodder Scam, The Jain Diary Case (1996), Satyendra Dubey Murder Case, Operation Westend 2002, Gujarat Riots, Jessica Lall Case, Cement Quota scam (1981), Reliance scam (1987 – Indian Express), and Shakti Kapoor casting couch. Furthermore, the Money for Vote sting operation issue is also pertinent in this context.

The text highlights various scandals and controversies that have occurred in India over the years, including the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, Stamp paper scam, Harshad Mehta scandal, Nagarwala scandal, Cement Scam involving A R Antulay, Bofors Scandal, St Kitts forgery, Kuo oil scandal, Palmolein Oil Import Scam in Kerala, Purulia arms drop case, Bihar fodder scam, Sukh Ram telecom equipment scandal, Ketan Parekh securities scam, Barak Missile scandal, Kerala ice cream parlour sex scandal, Cash for Vote Scandal, Satyam scam, Madhu Koda mining scam, Commonwealth Games scam, LIC housing loan scam, Belekeri port scam, Uttar Pradesh food grain scam, Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation controversy, Indian Premier League scandal, and Operation Westend.

Operation Westend specifically aimed to expose corruption in India’s defense contracts. Tehelka conducted an investigative piece in 2001 that targeted members of the ruling coalition and depicted political figures and army officials colluding for bribes in order to approve defense contracts amounting to hundreds of crores.Tehelka made allegations that MoD officials accepted alcohol and the services of prostitutes. However, Tehelka was criticized for procuring prostitutes themselves. In September 2001, Tehelka’s editor-in-chief, Tarun Tejpal, was charged with “immoral trafficking” for offering prostitutes to MoD officials during a sting operation. George Fernandes, the Defence Minister from the Samata Party, resigned after the tapes were released, but he was later reinstated.

The tapes reveal that the treasurer of George Fernandes’ political party discussed the potential acceptance of bribes from Lt-Cmdr Suresh Nanda, son of former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral S. M. Nanda, amounting to 1 crore or more. However, during the UPA government, Fernandes was cleared of these accusations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) due to a lack of substantial evidence. In the beginning, instead of taking action based on Tehelka’s investigation named Operation Westend, the government accused Tehelka of fabricating the claims. Nevertheless, in October 2006, five years later, CBI filed charges against Fernandes and Admiral Sushil Kumar for corruption and criminal conspiracy associated with the Barak missile case. The Nandas were arrested in March 2008 and Fernandes was questioned in May 2008. Apart from their undercover operation subsequent to Manu Sharma’s release in Jessica Lall’s case, Tehelka also uncovered instances where witnesses were coerced and alleged direct payments were made from Venod Sharma’s offices to certain witnesses. A friend of deceased eyewitness Karan mentioned several individuals who directly implicated Venod Sharma.

The Truth: Gujarat 2002 was a comprehensive report published in the 7 November 2007 issue of Rajput. It was based on a six-month investigation and involved sting operations. The report alleged that the 2002 Gujarat violence was a result of collaboration between the state police and Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The sting operation led to criticism and raised ethical questions in journalism. Another notable sting operation, involving individuals Aniruddha Bahal, Suhasini Raj, Rashmi Singh, Tarun Tejpal, and Parivesh Vatsyayan, uncovered the Cash for Vote Scam.

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Investigative Journalism. (2016, Nov 25). Retrieved from

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