Friday, August 4, 2017


With much publicity  and obvious glee, the Murdoch Townsville  Bulletin ran  these  two items informing readers  bumper stickers  , reducing the   highly contentious   proposed  Adani  Carmichael   coalmine  to a  simplistic struggle  between  latte  drinkers  and  would be miners , were  available  from  its  office , out of which it has  now moved .
The two smiling  guys in the pic brandishing  stickers like ticket scalpers  are none other than  Senators  Ian MacDonald and  Matt  Canavan, the latte(r)  forced to resign  as   Minister  for   Resources  and  Northern Australia   because   his  mother  made  him  an   Italian.     
The  wholehearted support  by the  Bulletin for  Adani  shone through  yet again  when  a major  story   about a respected Indian journalist  forced  to resign over allegations  that "crony capitalism "   involving  the Indian government   and  Adani   did  not   see  the light of  day  in  the paper .  
On  the other  hand ,  the   story   broke  during  the launch of   an  Adani  $l.4 million PR  advertising campaign . And  on  one  day , the  Bulletin  ran an  Adani  strap  advert  across  the  front page, a full  page  two  and   the  entire  back  page , the  bill for  which  would put  a lot of  money  in  the  Murdoch  coffers . 

However,   Fairfax Media  reported  that  two  Nobel economics laureates,  Amartya Sen and Sir  Angus Deaton , and 155 scholars from around the world  had expressed  their concern over  the  Adani  incident involving   journalist  Paranjoy  Guha  Thakurta.

Thakurta  was  editor  of the Economic and Political Weekly, a publication that combines scholarly articles with political analysis.  He  wrote two articles that raised  concerns about the connection between the Narendra  Modi Indian Government   and   Adani .

One alleged the government had modified its regulations   for  special economic  zones  to suit the  Adani Group, resulting in a $98million   bonanza . The second  said the Indian Government had  failed  to take action  despite the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence claiming that some  Adani companies dodged taxes trading in  diamonds  and gold .

 As a result he received  a legal notice   from  Adani  demanding removal of the  articles  claiming they were defamatory and harmful to the  reputation  of their  client . Thakurta hired a lawyer to draft  a reply and sent it to the  Adani Group . He did  so without informing  or consulting   members  of the trust   that own and  run the Weekly . On discovering this , the trustees  confronted Thakurta, saying his action breached  rules; he acknowledged  the lapse  and apologised  .

However , the trustees  went further , ordered  him to  take down the articles and stop writing under  his  byline . Thakurta  told the online  newspaper The Citizen that on hearing this demand , he resigned  for two reasons .

 Since then , his resignation has snowballed into a controversy over why the trustees  took such draconian action  over what was essentially a not very serious procedural lapse by Thakurta,while ignoring the   actual merits   of  the allegations .

 "No factual inaccuracy has been pointed out in what was  written and published . The letter from the lawyer representing  Adani  is an attempt to  harass  and threaten. It is akin to a SLAPP-a strategic lawsuit against public participation - except that no case  has been lodged in any court or law,"Thakurta  told Fairfax Media . 

The Wire , a non-profit news website run by the Foundation   for Independent Journalism  also carried  the two articles  and  had  also received  letters  from Adani lawyers  ordering them to remove them .  

The report went on to say  the incident highlighted  the use of India's defamation laws   by rich businessmen   to silence  criticism by  the media . Thakurta , it continued ,  had  co-written a  book, Sue the Messenger : How  Legal  Harassment  by Corporates in India  is Shackling Reportage and  Undermining  Democracy .

While the Townsville Bulletin did not run   this  story ,   Townsville Magpie online  weekly    strongly  criticised  Adani  and  the paper over its coverage  of  Adani . It made the point that the  Bulletin would have made a lot of money  running  the prominent   Adani  advertisements.   Local  commercial  TV  coverage  of   Adani   was  also   lacking , the Magpie  added.  
The  Townsville Bulletin  did  manage to  run a  front page  report  the first day of the ALP state  conference in the city ,   headed  LABOUR'S GREEN ADANI REVOLT ,  revealing what is  already known, that  many people,  across all political parties , in all states  and  territories, are  against   Adani,  which  umpteen  banks, including the Bank of India,  will  not   touch  with  a  barge  pole .
 There was an anti Adani protest outside  the conference which included  some ALP members . A    STOP ADANI  banner , above, was hung on Castle  Hill . Wendy Tubman  of  Stop Adani Townsville   explained the banner  was also  part of  a  campaign against  climate  change . 
There  was no way the federal government could  justify  giving  Adani  a  billion dollar loan , she  said .The   money should instead be spent on projects delivering long term jobs in sustainable industries  like renewable energy , agriculture  and  tourism .  

 The Bulletin   ran the  "Twitter " supplied photograph   with a story headed  COPS CHECK ACTIVISTS' HIGH JINKS , claiming police were investigating  if  those  involved  in  flying  the  banner  ,  near the iconic "  Saint "  graffiti ,  had  broken  the  law  on  the heritage  listed  peak .