The week that just ended saw at least 4 major fake news being busted. These instances of fake news exposed a number of negative traits of the media which can be summarised as follows:
- There seems to be a tendency in sections of the media to build narratives merely to show the Union Government in a bad light.
- This seems to be paired with another tendency that is evident in sections of media and among some mediapersons: To always be ready to defend and help Rahul Gandhi and the Congress to safeguard their images.
- Whenever any incident happens concerning weaker and marginalised sections, minorities and/ or the SC/ST communities, there is an apparent tendency to jump the gun and blame the BJP and organisations not on the left or centre-left before ascertaining the facts. This only contributes to building a false narrative of intolerance and disturbance of communal harmony.
FOUR FAKE NEWS ITEMS BUSTED
- A Dalit youth was killed in Gujarat for riding a horse.
- Smriti Irani is distributing 10,000 cows in Amethi, which is funded by a Gujarat-based company under the CSR programme.
- The Union government had asked its ministers to skip Dalai Lama event in order to appease China.
- NCC cadet who posed questions to Rahul Gandhi and exposed his ignorance of the NCC was a member of ABVP, and thus a political operative.
MURDER OF A DALIT YOUTH
The incident of a 21-year-old Dalit youth being hacked to death on Thursday night in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar was a reprehensible act that deserves the strictest condemnation. But the media needed to apply its mind before presenting it as a Dalit versus upper caste issue. Especially since such stories in recent times, such as Dalit youth stabbed for spotting moustache, had been proved wrong as it turned out that the Attack that triggered moustache protest by Gujarat Dalits was staged: Probe.
Karnataka Chief Minister S. Siddaramaiah, even used this report in an evident attempt to score a political goal:
In the present tragic case also, the primary investigation is revealing that there may be another angle to the killing. We, for our part, would not like to arrive at any conclusion as to whether the youth was killed for being a Dalit or otherwise since the investigation is on. However, the question is about “jumping the gun” on the part of the media.
As reported by the IANS news agency and reported by many media outlets, the police have claimed that the youth was killed for harassing girls.
Of course, the above report suggests that the real motive is yet to be established. But the question remains: Why is a section of the media apparently so enthusiastic to build a Dalit versus upper caste narrative before the truth emerges? For example, The Indian Express report carried an introduction which discusses community strengths in numbers in the area where the crime took place. Again, Business Standard still uses already busted fake news in an apparent effort to sensationalise the murder:
SMRITI IRANI & AMETHI
Beginning March 29, 2018 a few media outlets have published reports claiming that Union Minister Smriti Irani is gifting 10,000 cows to Amethi. These reports also maintained that the funding for this has been arranged from Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertiliser and Chemicals Ltd. Janta Ka Reporter, Asian Age, Jansatta are some of the media houses which published such reports and pushed this narrative:
What followed was a Twitter debate ridiculing Smriti Irani and questioning how a Gujarat-based company can be involved in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It should be remembered here that Amethi is the constituency of Rahul Gandhi. The usual suspects who jumped to the defence of Mr Gandhi on the NCC issue (please refer to our article Media as Rahul Gandhi Spokespersons?) by ridiculing a young female NCC cadet on a false premise were also seen debating fiercely on this. Salil Tripathi is one such example:
But soon, the GNFC tweeted that the news is fake and malicious. Mr Tripathi acknowledged the “clarification” without saying sorry for building a fake narrative referring to a report based on unverified sources.
DALAI LAMA EVENT
Two of the big fake news stories in the week gone by were busted by The Ture Picture. One of these was the false narrative promoted by the media that the government had ‘surrendered’ to China by asking its ministers and officials to stay away from events honouring the Dalai Lama.
But on March 31, 2018, when the ‘Thank You India’ event actually took place, to mark 60 years of the arrival of Dalai Lama in India, it was seen that Union Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma along with Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the BJP, participated.
Some of the stories pushing this false narrative are below:
What ultimately happened gave the lie to all the media reports and commentary, as seen in tweets posted by Union Minister Mahesh Sharma and Mr Ram Madhav:
Not only did they attend the event but they also rather strongly and emotionally stood by the Tibetan community. The media’s commentary in the run-up to the event was, of course, akin to how it kept insisting that India had ‘surrendered’ to China on Doklam, despite the evidence to the contrary.
Another patently fake story that The True Picture busted last week involved journalist Saikat Datta, Congress Social Media Cell Head Divya Spandana, and several other members of the commentariat like Salil Tripathi, Sushant Singh, Rifat Jawaid, et al.
When Rahul Gandhi was recently asked by a girl in Karnataka about NCC, he had replied that he did not know the “details of NCC training and that type of stuff”. The video went viral and people criticised Mr Gandhi for not knowing about the NCC. Naturally, some NCC cadets were not amused by Mr Gandhi’s “type of stuff” comment.
One such cadet, Sanjana Singh, spoke to ANI UP and conveyed her views frankly over this issue:
Things took an ugly turn when Saikat Datta, “South Asia Editor of Asia Times Online”, in a bid to paint the NCC cadet as a political operative, tweeted the screenshot of a certain “Sanjana Singh” who seemed to be with the NCC as well as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, complete with details of her college. He said: “NCC Cadet S Singh, who spoke about Rahul Gandhi’s lack of knowledge about the NCC on camera, is “Unit President” of the ABVP.”
Mr Datta seemed to have deliberately left out the profile picture of the Sanjana Singh whose profile he had linked, because, if one saw the picture of the cadet ANI UP took a byte from and compared it with the picture from the Facebook profile, it is clear that these two are different people:
We had considered then not posting the profile picture, but the bigger issue of Mr Datta, perhaps deliberately and even maliciously trying to spin an issue to make it look political, could not be settled without a picture comparison.
The Facebook profile that Saikat Datta posted a screenshot of seemed to have originated from a handle retweeted by Congress Social Media Cell Head Divya Spandana. Was Mr Datta aiding the Congress in spreading fake news to divert attention from the NCC issue and protect Rahul Gandhi?
It seemed that this was an open and shut case of spreading fake news and endangering the safety of a young woman, which we had busted.
For details about how the media appears to be acting as spokespersons of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, please read our article Media as Rahul Gandhi Spokespersons?, published the same day (March 26) as the above story.