The office of India’s prime minister objected to The Washington Post’s front-page article, published Sept. 5, 2012, on Manmohan Singh’s evolution as a leader.
The following is a letter from the Prime Minister’s office:
We do not complain about criticism of the government which is a journalist’s right. But I am writing this letter for pointing out unethical and unprofessional conduct at your part.
I would like to put on record my complaint about your article which was published today on many counts:
— Despite all lines of conversations open, you never got in touch with us for our side of the story though you regularly talk to me about information from the PMO. This story thus becomes totally one sided.
— You have been telling the media here in India that your request for an interview was declined though the mail below says clearly that the interview was declined “till the Monsoon Session” of the Parliament which gets over in two days.
— When I rang you up to point this out, you said sorry twice though you tell the media here that you never apologised.
— Your website where we could have posted a reply is still not working, 11 hours after you said sorry the third time for its inaccessibility.
— The former Media Adviser to the PM Dr Sanjaya Baru has complained that you “rehashed and used” an 8 month old quote from an Indian Magazine.
We expected better from the correspondent of the Washington Post for fair and unbiased reporting.
Without going into your one sided assessment of the Prime Minister’s performance, as comment is free in journalism, I hope you will carry this communication in full in your paper and your website so your readers can judge for themselves what is the truth.
Communications Adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office
New Delhi - India
Below is a response to the letter from Simon Denyer, author of the article and our India bureau chief:
Thanks for your comments. I wanted to respond point-by-point:
— I requested an interview with the PM on three occasions, and also with T.K.A Nair, Advisor to the Prime Minister, and with Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. Those requests were either ignored or declined.
— When I made my final request for an interview with the PM in July, I was told on July 30 “The PM has declined all interview requests till the Monsoon session is over.” At that stage the current session of parliament (known as the Monsoon session) of parliament had not even begun. There was no mention of the possibility of an interview afterwards. In any case my story touches on the fact that parliament has been adjourned every day throughout the current session by opposition calls for the PM to resign, which is a story I felt should be told, interview or not.
Indeed, we remain extremely interested in speaking to the prime minister.
— My apology was for the fact that the website was down and the PM’s office could not post a reply directly. As soon as the problem was fixed, I informed them. I stand by the story.
— I spoke to Dr Baru personally on the telephone during the reporting for the story. He confirmed that these sentiments were accurate.