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Listening Post

The rise and fall of Tehelka

In the shadow of a scandal, the once pioneering Indian newsmagazine now faces a battle to survive.

Last updated: 15 Feb 2014 11:17
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In its heyday, the Indian newsmagazine Tehelka specialised in exposes - reporting corruption, investigating scandals, uncovering cover-ups.

In Hindi, the magazine’s name means ‘sensational, a commotion - an event that shakes things up’.

But in November last year, a news story broke that shook the magazine up. Allegations that founding editor Tarun Tejpal had raped a junior employee led to his arrest and a string of resignations at the magazine.

Three months since the scandal broke, Tehelka - the brand, the magazine and its staff - has been clinging onto a cliff edge - doing its best to stay operational.

With Tejpal in jail awaiting trial and everything at the magazine under scrutiny, Tehelka’s team seems focused for the moment on keeping the publication afloat and keeping questions from the media at bay.

These days its offices in New Delhi are in lockdown and nobody wants to talk about how the magazine is doing. The bad press is unrelenting and Tehelka’s credibility is in tatters.

It seems the once pioneering magazine’s legacy will not be fearless, alternative journalism but a cautionary tale to a booming Indian media market that sometimes seems nearly as compromised as the politicians and corporations they report on.

As Tehelka faces a battle to survive, the Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi looks at the rise and likely fall of this crusading publication, and its reflection on the state of Indian media.

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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