N Ram, the chairperson of The Hindu Publishing Group, said on Wednesday that the newspaper is committed to protecting the sources from whom it had obtained documents about the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France. He added that the documents and his articles based on them speak for themselves, PTI reported.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court that review pleas on the court’s verdict in the Rafale case were based on files “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence. An investigation is under way into the stolen documents, the government claimed. The Centre also accused The Hindu of committing an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
In December 2018, the Supreme Court had dismissed the need for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the deal. In February, The Hindu published several revelations about the deal that were unfavourable to the government. The reports were based on government documents accessed by the newspaper.
“You may call it stolen documents...we are not concerned,” N Ram was quoted as saying by PTI. “We got it from confidential sources and we are committed to protecting these sources. Nobody is going to get any information from us on these sources. But the documents speak for themselves and the stories speak for themselves.”
Ram refused to comment on the Supreme Court proceedings, but said the documents were authentic, and were published “in public interest”. “It is the duty of the press – through investigative journalism – to bring out relevant information or issues of great importance for the public interest,” he said.
The journalist added that The Hindu’s move to access and publish the documents was in line with Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, which grants citizens the right to freedom of expression.
The Hindu’s findings
On February 13, the newspaper reported that the deal signed by the Narendra Modi government was not “on better terms” compared to the offer negotiated by the erstwhile Congress-led government. The newspaper quoted from a dissent note written by three senior defence ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian negotiating team.
On February 8, the newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defence had in 2015 objected to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office with France when the two countries were discussing the deal.