New Delhi | President Pranab Mukherjee’s remarks on Bofors issue to a Swedish daily sparked off a controversy today with India protesting publication of slip of tongue comments and the newspaper alleging that the Indian Ambassador had asked it to retract the relevant portions.
Editor-in-Chief of daily ‘Dagens Nyhetter’ Peter Wolodarski also claimed that Indian envoy to Sweden Banashri Bose Harrison warned that the planned state visit by the President was at risk of being cancelled. In a letter to Wolodarski, Harrison wrote to convey disappointment of our authorities in Delhi regarding the manner in which the interview was presented.
It was both unprofessional and unethical on your part to include in the report an off-the-record correction made by the President after the interview had ended, about a slip of the tongue during the interview. I am told at that point you sympathised with him and said it can happen to anyone.
After that, to include the same in your report in a most condescending manner as you have done does not befit the high standards normally expected from a leading newspaper or a professional journalist, she said. She also said that the President was not shown the courtesy and respect that he deserves as a head of state to which the Wolodarski said, We have conducted the interview in the same manner as we do whenever we interview other heads of state and government.
Pointing out that while the question on the Bofors was third, it is shown as the first, she said, I hope you will forgive me for being frank enough to say that this is taking journalistic licence to a point of misleading the viewers. This is all the more inexplicable since you told me that Bofors is not of interest to your readers, she said.
Meanwhile, the newspaper in its e-edition claimed that in a telephone conversation with DN prior to the publication of the article, the Ambassador made a direct request that DN was to retract sections of the interview mentioning Bofors. It is surprising that someone representing the world’s largest democracies is trying to micromanage which questions we should ask a head of state, and which answers should be published, Wolodarski said. I told the Ambassador that we couldn’t accept her demands.
The president… was upset when Bofors was mentioned during a question regarding how we can avoid corruption today. Of course we had to tell our readers about his reaction, said Wolodarski. During the interview, ahead of his visit to Sweden next week, Mukherjee had said the Bofors wasn’t a scandal, but rather a publicity trial.
The scandal of procurement of 155mm howitzer field Bofors guns plagued the Rajiv Gandhi government in the late 1980s and became a big election issue in 1989 in which the former Prime Minister had to face defeat.
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