Dec 20, 2016

The 'P____ of FactorDaily' in a purported conversation between Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and a journalist

BYPankaj Mishra

Dear readers of FactorDaily,
Last evening, National Herald published a transcript of a phone call between Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and an unnamed journalist, which contains references to FactorDaily’s “P_”. There are two writers at FactorDaily with names starting with ‘P’. Since my colleague S. Prabhakaran has not spoken with Sharma, I have reason to believe it is me referred to in the conversation (which, by the way, we at FactorDaily have no way of confirming as real or accurate at this point of time).
I believe it’s important for us to proactively clarify any doubts our readers may have about what transpired. For the record, I know Sharma well and he is an angel investor in FactorDaily.
Around a week ago, we at FactorDaily picked a strong buzz and rumours around Paytm being hacked by the Legion, the group of hackers who had hacked the Twitter and email accounts of Rahul Gandhi, Vijay Mallya, Barkha Dutt, Ravish Kumar, and a BJP functionary. This happened after we published an exclusive interview with the Legion on December 12, which was widely quoted across several publications.
Coming back to the National Herald story, I did have a conversation with Sharma a few days ago. While I do not have the recording or transcript of our conversation, I clearly remember it was a typical call that a reporter would have with the subject of a developing story. I asked Sharma if Paytm was hacked and he denied it. He asked me about our interview with the Legion and whether any references to Paytm being hacked had been made, and I replied in the negative. My colleague Jayadevan PK, who had snagged the exclusive interview with the Legion, had checked with the hacker group again on whether they were claiming to have hacked Paytm. The reply was very vague, to say the least. See video of the chat below.
So, overall, there wasn’t any definitive confirmation about Paytm being hacked and we decided not to run the story. We did share later updates of the Paytm site being down but we didn’t have anything more to report.
Since we launched FactorDaily early this year, we’ve always been religious about our code of conduct and the overall need to follow what our editorial mentor Josey Puliyenthuruthel often refers to as the “patra dharma”. You would also remember the note we end every story with: see disclosure below.
Finally, I would also encourage you to read my personal ethics statement to get a sense of how religious we are about practising ethical journalism.

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Pankaj Mishra is a writer of FactorDaily.