The journalist who quit Malayalam channel Mangalam TV that aired Kerala minister AK Saseendran’s sleaze talk has told Outlook that the company had appointed a receptionist as a reporter, further strengthening the allegation that channel had tapped non-journalist to lure the minister.
Journalist Al Neema Ashraf said she had gone through shameful moments as a journalist and woman after the channel aired the tape.
The channel that aired the minister’s sex talk over phone is facing allegations of honey trapping the minister to break into the crowded television business with a sensational story. The scandal forced the minister to resign.
The channel CEO R Ajith kumar first had explained on a TV discussion the minister was talking to a housewife and she had given the audio clip to the channel asking them to air the minster’s talk. The channel explained off monologue by saying it was edited out for privacy reasons.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has ordered a judicial probe into the incident.
As the curious eyes and ears of fellow journalists tried to find out who was at the other end of the phone, listening to the minister's sex monologue, portals started inkling that it was a woman reporter from Kollam.
Speaking to Outlook, Al Neema Ashraf said a Malayalam newspaper and a news portal had carried reports suggesting that a female reporter from Kollam was behind the sting.
“As a female reporter from Kollam working with the same organization, many had started pointing fingers at me,” she said.
“There was no point asking the organisation to explain its part because since beginning it was all fishy there. I was asked by people from within the organization whether I was the woman in the tape.”
Al Neema, who announced her resignation through a post on Facebook, said top level people of the channel have started a smear campaign against her on social media.
Al Neema joined Mangalam TV in May last year. Soon after an investigation team was formed with one male and four female reporters. “I was not in agreement with the way the investigation team worked. So backed out in the beginning itself,” she said.
“Do whatever but get the news was the instruction given to the team.”
She said she came to know about the tape only when it was aired on TV. However, she said she was aware of an interview with the minister done by a female member of the investigation team although she did not know the nature of it.
Asked about the allegations against the channel that it had assigned a receptionist girl to honey trap the minister, Al Neema said she doesn’t know about it, however, confirming that a woman who joined as a receptionist in the organization was later appointed as a staff reporter. The woman later quit the organization, she said.
“I had many questions in my mind,” the reporter said, “who is the complainant woman (in the story)? What complaint she had to convey to the transport minister? Why was her voice edited out (from the clip)?”
The practice of using non-journalist hirelings to tread the unethical path is becoming a trend. Tape of sleazy conversation between Tehelka’s former Managing Editor Mathew Samuel and woman associate, shows attempts were made to honey-trap Kerala’s former chief secretary Jiji Thomson. Though there were attempts to pass off the woman associate as a journalist, it turned out she was a private hospital employee.