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India News: Tejpal gears to return with new avatar of Tehelka Panaji, Goa (IANS) Tehelka, the web portal that shook the Indian government with its expose of alleged corruption in defence purchases, will be back as a national weekly newspaper on January 31, its editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal said.

Asked if a brand of journalism that was fiercely critical of the establishment was viable, Tejpal said: “Absolutely. I think we often end up underestimating the reader and the citizen.”
He went on to argue that any “decent form of democracy” needs the active participation of the citizen. “For that you need a press which is resolutely non-partisan and aligned to the public interest. For that, there would be a  lot of takers,” he noted.

The 40-year-old journalist was in Goa for a yearend holiday with family, and mingled with tourist crowds, dressed in a sarong-like garb, an untypical ponytail and his much-photographed salt-and-pepper beard.

Tejpal said pre-launch orders for as many as 150,000 copies of the publication could make this “the single-biggest press media launch in our country”.

He claimed supporters of Tehelka’s brand of sting-oriented investigative journalism had come in with over 10,000 subscriptions.

“From the market, we’ve got orders of over 100,000 copies of the paper we are going to launch,” he told IANS.

“We’ve come a long way. It’s been a very long and difficult battle. We’ve finally got an office again. Our team has grown again from four to 32people,” he said, when asked about progress on his planned publication.“More importantly, we’ve been able to hold true to our original vision,which was to focus on public interest journalism. Journalism that is not
affiliated to any political party or business house.”

“The people have stood with us not just because we’ve exposed corruption. But for the past two and a half to three years we’ve held out, we haven’t run away, and we’ve not begged for mercy. We believe that we’ve done the right thing.”

Tehelka’s arms deal expose in March 2001 forced the resignation of Bangaru  Laxman, then president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Defence Minister George Fernandes too quit the government but returned seven months  later.
Tejpal said: “There’s enough room for a hundred Tehelkas. I do believe the public will support it. We may have not got the money, but we got a whole lot of public support and affection. In dark times, it has seen us through.”
He said his paper would focus on two C’s — crusading and constructive journalism.
“I believe Indian journalism will do some great work in the coming years. It will fulfil its mandate. I’m very optimistic about India and Indian journalism. The future is very good. But we have to strive for it, it won’t just happen for us.”
On the fierce government response to his unusual kind of journalism, he argued that this was because India was being ruled by a party that was in power for the first time.

“That is why it has a very thin skin, and a very wrong understanding of whatit means to criticise a party in power. This will change over time,” he  contended.
Indo-Asian News Service

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