May 19, 2013

Comments on fixing stories

We haven't invited readers' views on the latest spot-fixing scandal because of libel issues
38

Ever since the arrest of three Rajasthan Royals players early on Thursday morning, ESPNcricinfo has covered the story following a few guidelines: Accuracy, fairness, and mindful of libel laws.

This means that when we are reporting on the case itself, we report only what is officially disclosed. We feel we have managed that so far, despite obvious difficulties and disadvantages.

This policy has also been extended to our story comments - we are bound to follow the strict libel laws that exist not just in India but in various other countries including the UK and the US. It is standard practice for us to disable comments on sensitive stories - especially those that deal with corruption - to eliminate the risk of libelous comments being published.

We will enable comments on selected stories going forward but these comments will be subject to the same standards of scrutiny as any story on our site. We will not be publishing comments that make allegations, draw inferences, or impute anything beyond the facts and we will always, in this matter, err on the side of caution. We would ask you to comment on the merits of the story itself, not on the merits of the case or the investigation.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • D-Ascendant on May 22, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    I agree with the other posters here, Sambit. You already have a brigade of over-zealous screeners who take offense at funny, generally malice-free comments and refuse to publish them. And this is why I don't think your point is valid: if anyone were to even slightly stray from what your hypersensitive doorkeepers think is the right content/tone, they'd delete the comment right away.

  • on May 20, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    I noticed two changes from last night. (1) This particular articles is no longer accessible from front page. It is not longer there in any of the IPL fixing stories despite the fact that this was the most read and commented on article (see the links on the right). (2) ciricinfo has finally realized their mistake and have enabled comments on fixing stories. But of course the stories are old now. I hope cricinfo handles reporting of events like this little bit better and applies the same criteria across all such stories.

  • Smithie on May 20, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    Mr Bal, you will note a thread running through the comments which indicate a suspicion from a significant block of your readers that Cricinfo is soft in its handling of the BCCI and Mr Srinivasan. You lay yourself open to the charge of Indian bias and it would assist your credibility to categorically deny such a charge. A tough uncompromising editorial denouncing conflict of interest, IPL strategic time outs, the three times the Captains had to vote for the ICC player rep on the ICC a cricket Committee and the failure of India to accept DRS would greatly enhance the professional reputation of Cricinfo.

  • deathstar01 on May 20, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    A bit frustrated with cricinfo. I personally feel it like blocking the readers thoughts. One of main reasons people read online news and articles just because they can express their opinion on the event, incident and the articles.

  • Mumraiz on May 20, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    Totally agree with Mian Irfan:

    WOW what a greatness :)

    When Pakistani players were involved, every one was allowed to comment. And now its a matter to integrity of the comments.

    Brave cricinfo.com for maintaining double standards.

  • srikanthGM on May 20, 2013, 4:29 GMT

    Sambit, cricinfo has excellent people who serve the cricket fans with distinction. You yourself provide analysis of the highest standard. I sincerely hope cricinfo would continue to maintain those high journalistic standards. I hope you do realize that if someone were to dig through all the articles and comments posted on cricinfo ever, they are bound to find material for libel. So why this sudden concern? As fellow readers asked, was this caution employed when the trio from Pakistan were implicated in England? If not why? If indeed such measures as disabling comments were employed back then, please say so in a follow up article. Much of my faith in cricinfo will depend on that. Hope you do publish my comment. Thanks!

  • on May 20, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    I was sure upset with cricinfo for not allowing comments on match fixing stories. But the reason the editor is giving here actually insults the intelligence of cricinfo readers. How on earth, cricinfo can be held liable for it's readers comments? If a site could be sued for what the users of the site are writing, then yahoo, google, facebook, blog hosting sites etc would be sued every second. I understand cricinfo moderating the comments to make sure that the comments follow decency guidelines but getting sued for user comments? And even if we assume for a minute that it is true, then why disable comments for just the ipl betting scandal related articles? Why can't someone write such comments on other articles and even match reports? Lastly, the cricinfo did not follow any such policies for other controversies including betting scandal involving Pakistani crickters. Isn't the real reason to avoid upsetting BCCI?

  • manohard on May 20, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    For me Cricinfo is always been source of cricket news and one of three websites I check religiously every morning and I respect all contributors and editors.

    I sincerely think we should think twice before we vent our anger on players. Let's wait and see what comes out of the investigation before we call names and raise pitch forks.

    One thing though this whole episode really screwed up my mind and whenever I see something out of ordinary happens on the field I started looking for whether the bowler has his towel tucked into trouser or not. It's silly but things like these really spoil the genuineness of future matches too sad but that is the reality we live in.

  • darsh127 on May 20, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    Cant cricinfo comments be moderated and made like Facebook for example. It would be much easier to like the comments and reply back to it.

  • on May 20, 2013, 3:30 GMT

    this is hogwash ... cnn.com allows comment on every news article and every literate person knows the difference between the news (with cricinfo as the source) and the views of individual viewers (for which the website cannot be held responsible). cricinfo can always delete offending and unsavory remarks.

  • D-Ascendant on May 22, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    I agree with the other posters here, Sambit. You already have a brigade of over-zealous screeners who take offense at funny, generally malice-free comments and refuse to publish them. And this is why I don't think your point is valid: if anyone were to even slightly stray from what your hypersensitive doorkeepers think is the right content/tone, they'd delete the comment right away.

  • on May 20, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    I noticed two changes from last night. (1) This particular articles is no longer accessible from front page. It is not longer there in any of the IPL fixing stories despite the fact that this was the most read and commented on article (see the links on the right). (2) ciricinfo has finally realized their mistake and have enabled comments on fixing stories. But of course the stories are old now. I hope cricinfo handles reporting of events like this little bit better and applies the same criteria across all such stories.

  • Smithie on May 20, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    Mr Bal, you will note a thread running through the comments which indicate a suspicion from a significant block of your readers that Cricinfo is soft in its handling of the BCCI and Mr Srinivasan. You lay yourself open to the charge of Indian bias and it would assist your credibility to categorically deny such a charge. A tough uncompromising editorial denouncing conflict of interest, IPL strategic time outs, the three times the Captains had to vote for the ICC player rep on the ICC a cricket Committee and the failure of India to accept DRS would greatly enhance the professional reputation of Cricinfo.

  • deathstar01 on May 20, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    A bit frustrated with cricinfo. I personally feel it like blocking the readers thoughts. One of main reasons people read online news and articles just because they can express their opinion on the event, incident and the articles.

  • Mumraiz on May 20, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    Totally agree with Mian Irfan:

    WOW what a greatness :)

    When Pakistani players were involved, every one was allowed to comment. And now its a matter to integrity of the comments.

    Brave cricinfo.com for maintaining double standards.

  • srikanthGM on May 20, 2013, 4:29 GMT

    Sambit, cricinfo has excellent people who serve the cricket fans with distinction. You yourself provide analysis of the highest standard. I sincerely hope cricinfo would continue to maintain those high journalistic standards. I hope you do realize that if someone were to dig through all the articles and comments posted on cricinfo ever, they are bound to find material for libel. So why this sudden concern? As fellow readers asked, was this caution employed when the trio from Pakistan were implicated in England? If not why? If indeed such measures as disabling comments were employed back then, please say so in a follow up article. Much of my faith in cricinfo will depend on that. Hope you do publish my comment. Thanks!

  • on May 20, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    I was sure upset with cricinfo for not allowing comments on match fixing stories. But the reason the editor is giving here actually insults the intelligence of cricinfo readers. How on earth, cricinfo can be held liable for it's readers comments? If a site could be sued for what the users of the site are writing, then yahoo, google, facebook, blog hosting sites etc would be sued every second. I understand cricinfo moderating the comments to make sure that the comments follow decency guidelines but getting sued for user comments? And even if we assume for a minute that it is true, then why disable comments for just the ipl betting scandal related articles? Why can't someone write such comments on other articles and even match reports? Lastly, the cricinfo did not follow any such policies for other controversies including betting scandal involving Pakistani crickters. Isn't the real reason to avoid upsetting BCCI?

  • manohard on May 20, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    For me Cricinfo is always been source of cricket news and one of three websites I check religiously every morning and I respect all contributors and editors.

    I sincerely think we should think twice before we vent our anger on players. Let's wait and see what comes out of the investigation before we call names and raise pitch forks.

    One thing though this whole episode really screwed up my mind and whenever I see something out of ordinary happens on the field I started looking for whether the bowler has his towel tucked into trouser or not. It's silly but things like these really spoil the genuineness of future matches too sad but that is the reality we live in.

  • darsh127 on May 20, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    Cant cricinfo comments be moderated and made like Facebook for example. It would be much easier to like the comments and reply back to it.

  • on May 20, 2013, 3:30 GMT

    this is hogwash ... cnn.com allows comment on every news article and every literate person knows the difference between the news (with cricinfo as the source) and the views of individual viewers (for which the website cannot be held responsible). cricinfo can always delete offending and unsavory remarks.

  • Desihungama on May 20, 2013, 3:15 GMT

    Yeah I remember Sambit when Paki trio scandal broke out in summer of 2010 only the first day's news comments were disabled but then it all gloves off and the players deservedly and the country most undeservedly was made punching bag of entire cricket fraternity. Even then the roots of menace pointed to bookies in India and Dubai but nothing was done in that regard. I hope this time matter is taken more seriously.

  • Jaganplus on May 20, 2013, 2:24 GMT

    It's a cop out, and it took so many days to get posture in front of the public. But I don't want to waste my words on that.

    I think for a police department with competing resource needs, the protection of citizenry from from violence and rape (yes women can't leave home alone in delhi in the eve), should be the priority.

    Although this problem is important, find other ways, maybe IPL funds the investigation infrastructure, or maybe legalize betting. There has to be a another solution than diverting police resources which are woefully lacking even to provide basic protection to citizenry. This is a luxury compared to rapes in Delhi and reform of police. I also wonder who pays for providing stadium and player security.

  • Dhanno on May 20, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    @itismenithin. exactly my point. you put it better i guess, my comment got censored :). It is commendable to come up with this explaination from cricinfo's point of view, but sad no one really cares. there are probably longer discussion threads on how surisers are better RCB etc!

  • on May 20, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Absolutely fair. If only TV channels follow this prinicple!

  • sree_rn on May 20, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    Let the players earn their money in a hard way like other people earn. Stop feeding them with easy money. India needs every single Rupee the people earn to be through bank and make the employers account for the tax on the earnings. Then only there will be some conrol. Limit the gifts to the players. make every sponsor responsible for tax when they sponsor. There should be severe penalties for those defaulters. Countries like India cannot afford to be slack on taxing certain people and exempting some other people. I know it is very difficult to take such harsh measures since the politicians and bureaucrats are themselves involved in all these. India is a country only for either rich or poor people and the salried class will always get sandwiched.

  • SurlyCynic on May 19, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    There were no comments allowed on the preview of the Sunrisers v RR game, for example, which was disappointing. Surely you could have just told your censors not to publish comments speculating on the fixing and still allowed us to debate the game? After all, it's not as if all our comments are published automatically.

    I think you went too far in stifling debate and not wanting to upset the BCCI.

  • CaliforniaMysterySpinner on May 19, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    Has there ever been precedent for user generated comments on any website that is published in a comments section ever being found enough for libel against the website in which it is posted? I know of no such cases in the United States atleast. The move by Cricinfo comes as too reactionary.

  • on May 19, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    WOW what a greatness :)

    When Pakistani players were involved, every one was allowed to comment. And now its a matter to integrity of the comments.

    Brave cricinfo.com for maintaining double standards.

  • silentmajority on May 19, 2013, 18:48 GMT

    Whatever happened to freedom of expression Sambit ? If you cant fight for it, should not be calling yourself a journalist ! Sad day, if fear of BCCI backlash holds Cricinfo back ! When was ever ESPN (or any other press) held responsible for its reader's comments ? Stop pointing to imaginary laws !

  • on May 19, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    Good policy! You will not be abused by David Warner! :P

  • vinaykmr on May 19, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    funny thing. so there is no democracy but democrazy. ppl r bound to gv their opinions. its well known that proving many things may b difficult although it might b correct. so giving the due inferences to some facts which cant b proved by anybody is the crux of comments section. which cant b suppressed.

  • Alexk400 on May 19, 2013, 17:18 GMT

    i wondered why lts not there. because it maybring more people to the site.but you made bravecorrect decison on comments.

  • Jagger on May 19, 2013, 16:39 GMT

    The prehistoric libel laws need reviewing. All court personnel should themselves be barred from using any internet device while the case is being heard. Then we can write whatever we like. Problem solved.

  • Venkat_Gowrishankar on May 19, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Yes Sambit, I really welcome this decision. But, I have been trying to convey the same point, when Jarrod Kimber wrote about L Sivaramakrishnan's appointment to the FICA. In that article, I wrote a comment requesting Jarrod to not indulge in "Investigative" Journalism habits.

    Why was tihis policy not applied to such articles?.

    Sadly, the comment was moderated and never got published. Now, It would be very nice of you to let us know the Moderation policy.

  • on May 19, 2013, 16:15 GMT

    Beats me! The responses which readers post are in any case subject to review prior to being published. So if there is any comment which is "mischievous" then the website would not publish it anyway. Mr. Bal, I admire your articles immensely, but you could have been more imaginative on this one!

  • haq33 on May 19, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    Nonsense. You simply have to ensure your website's standard disclaimer is ever-present and it is none of your concern what potentially libellous comments people post. Your responsibility within the law ends as far as barring posts that pose an actual threat or incitement to violence or anything racist and the like. The fact is, people are well within their rights to question the integrity of Indian cricket (it wasn't so long ago that numerous posts were published questioning the same of India's western neighbours but they were not once flagged up as libellous) and anyway, it is their problem if the BCCI wants to sue them for libel, not yours. As long as this censorship continues, people will also question the integrity of Indian journalists.

  • sAm2sAm on May 19, 2013, 14:43 GMT

    Was this the case when Corruption case involving PK players was reported? As far as i remember cric-info allowed the comments. Please correct me if i am wrong.

  • InsideHedge on May 19, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    Comments were also disabled when we had the THREE Pakistanis arrested for spot fixing in England; same with the Mervy Westfield/Danish Kaneira case and a few others that escape my mind. So a consistent policy should be applauded.

    However, I would like to take this opportunity to question how CricInfo publishes comments on other articles/match reports/scorecards. Often, randomly and for no obvious reason, comments are NOT published. If I send in 3 comments, 2 may be published and the 2nd middle comment is NOT. Why?

    But my biggest frustration is when I see comments from KNOWN trolls getting regularly published. You have to question the intelligence of the moderators - sorry moderators, but you asked for it.

  • MartinC on May 19, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    So all news stories on CricInfo only report what's 'officially disclosed"? The suspicion is there is more to the way this is being covered than just libel concerns.

  • yogikanna on May 19, 2013, 13:16 GMT

    Totally understand Samit....you gotto cover your a** for sure, otherwise you never know who will sue who. Appreciate your professionalism in times where people try to benefit by reporting even rumors...hats off.

    BTW those of you who are looking for spicy non censored but completely FAKE news, check out faking news and "my Faking news"...they report a story recently that IPL is getting banned...LOL

  • Ramster60068 on May 19, 2013, 13:08 GMT

    Samit, I sent in a comment yesterday. I was asking if it was legal for the cops to tap private phones in India. If so, they could tap anyone's phone at will. In the US where I live, I believe that it is illegal to do phone taps. To tap a phone, cops will have to get a warrant from a judge, who would grant it only if there is some indication of foul play. Can someone help with this question??

  • on May 19, 2013, 13:02 GMT

    Fixing will only be solved if something is done to catch the big fishes in the pond. We have seen the players come and go and thats exactly what these bookies think of the players. We have seen this happen with South African players( Cronje and co), Inidan (azharuddin and co), Pakistani(butt and co), West Indian, English (county) Player education is important but whats more important is that the opportunity to fix a match is reduced to a minimal.

  • Dhanno on May 19, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    High time such clarification was needed. Given the fact that Jayaditya had an article on cricinfo yesterday about the silence on the issue by IPL official channel. I couldnt understand how suddenly cricinfo has stopped allowing people to comment while asking for IPL officials to quit the silence. Funnier was the fact that "social commentary" tabs were open and no-one referred to elephant in room

    It is hard to adhere the above guidelines given how media itself (other than cricinfo) been dealing with the event, half-baked stories/ experts giving off the hat comments/ accusations against foreign players etc. It is restrictive on a commentator to follow such rules when the people with big voices are not!

    A open discussion is needed and not all discussions can be made just based on published facts (published facts cannot be whole truth). This is a case where enough will not be published because someone is afraid of libel laws and since none is published we cant discuss the issue at hand.

  • on May 19, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    They are censoring comments, not articles which will follow the same route through the editor as other articles.

    Until then, we can treat it as a traditional newspaper. And everyone gets to post their views on their own facebook page with a link to cricinfo article anyway :)

  • nitoy on May 19, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    IPL has gone from merely trite spectacle to sad farce.

  • manobilla on May 19, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Good policy. I wish such policy was in place in the past as well. When it involved players from other countries, lot of hearsay and speculation was reported by CricInfo.

    Also what I don't understand is that all these coverage articles on spot fixing and none allows comments. This is the first I have seen which allows comments.

  • Meety on May 19, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    I aplaud Sambit Bal for putting up this article. That said, I suspect there are oher easons beyond mere libel laws.

  • itismenithin on May 19, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    I believe media has an obligation to bring out issues which are hidden and not just be reactive and publish what is officially disclosed. This should also be the medium which encourages open discussion on all issues. Once you start censoring comments fearing libel laws then you lose credibility. Note: There was an article recently about KP's fitness progress in cricinfo which he denied totally on twitter, question is the article based on official news or inside information ?

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • itismenithin on May 19, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    I believe media has an obligation to bring out issues which are hidden and not just be reactive and publish what is officially disclosed. This should also be the medium which encourages open discussion on all issues. Once you start censoring comments fearing libel laws then you lose credibility. Note: There was an article recently about KP's fitness progress in cricinfo which he denied totally on twitter, question is the article based on official news or inside information ?

  • Meety on May 19, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    I aplaud Sambit Bal for putting up this article. That said, I suspect there are oher easons beyond mere libel laws.

  • manobilla on May 19, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Good policy. I wish such policy was in place in the past as well. When it involved players from other countries, lot of hearsay and speculation was reported by CricInfo.

    Also what I don't understand is that all these coverage articles on spot fixing and none allows comments. This is the first I have seen which allows comments.

  • nitoy on May 19, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    IPL has gone from merely trite spectacle to sad farce.

  • on May 19, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    They are censoring comments, not articles which will follow the same route through the editor as other articles.

    Until then, we can treat it as a traditional newspaper. And everyone gets to post their views on their own facebook page with a link to cricinfo article anyway :)

  • Dhanno on May 19, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    High time such clarification was needed. Given the fact that Jayaditya had an article on cricinfo yesterday about the silence on the issue by IPL official channel. I couldnt understand how suddenly cricinfo has stopped allowing people to comment while asking for IPL officials to quit the silence. Funnier was the fact that "social commentary" tabs were open and no-one referred to elephant in room

    It is hard to adhere the above guidelines given how media itself (other than cricinfo) been dealing with the event, half-baked stories/ experts giving off the hat comments/ accusations against foreign players etc. It is restrictive on a commentator to follow such rules when the people with big voices are not!

    A open discussion is needed and not all discussions can be made just based on published facts (published facts cannot be whole truth). This is a case where enough will not be published because someone is afraid of libel laws and since none is published we cant discuss the issue at hand.

  • on May 19, 2013, 13:02 GMT

    Fixing will only be solved if something is done to catch the big fishes in the pond. We have seen the players come and go and thats exactly what these bookies think of the players. We have seen this happen with South African players( Cronje and co), Inidan (azharuddin and co), Pakistani(butt and co), West Indian, English (county) Player education is important but whats more important is that the opportunity to fix a match is reduced to a minimal.

  • Ramster60068 on May 19, 2013, 13:08 GMT

    Samit, I sent in a comment yesterday. I was asking if it was legal for the cops to tap private phones in India. If so, they could tap anyone's phone at will. In the US where I live, I believe that it is illegal to do phone taps. To tap a phone, cops will have to get a warrant from a judge, who would grant it only if there is some indication of foul play. Can someone help with this question??

  • yogikanna on May 19, 2013, 13:16 GMT

    Totally understand Samit....you gotto cover your a** for sure, otherwise you never know who will sue who. Appreciate your professionalism in times where people try to benefit by reporting even rumors...hats off.

    BTW those of you who are looking for spicy non censored but completely FAKE news, check out faking news and "my Faking news"...they report a story recently that IPL is getting banned...LOL

  • MartinC on May 19, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    So all news stories on CricInfo only report what's 'officially disclosed"? The suspicion is there is more to the way this is being covered than just libel concerns.