Do we need a Press to Hold the Current Socially Dangerous “Press” Accountable?

Do we need a Press to Hold the Current Socially Dangerous “Press” Accountable?

Earlier, in March this year, a news site started by an ex-NDTV “journalist” announced “Dalit man killed in Gujarat for keeping, riding horse”.  Jha also happens to be the State Coordinator of Social media for the Congress party in Jharkhand.  This post was tweeted by the official handle of the Congress party.

The truth, however, was that this guy used to harass girls and enter into fights with people, which was probably the reason for someone taking the extreme step.  There is no reason why he should have been killed over that and someone should have taken law into his own hands, but that is the nature of crimes between individuals.  Yes, murder was a crime, but not for the reason that it was made out to be.  The narrative that this ex-NDTV journalist’s website and the official handle of Congress sought to peddle was that “Dalits are not safe in India, specially Gujarat”.  Something that did NOT bear from the facts of the case.

There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.

–Mark Twain, “LIcense of the press” March 31, 1873

This tango between Congress and those opposed to BJP and the Indian press – to the extent that the press can peddle unverified, mischievously spun narratives as new is a pandemic now in India.

In another example, which was used by trolls to ding a Union Minister, Uma Bharati – she was attributed something so obviously different from what she had said.

Journalists playing Political Games

In a recent example, a journalist who is known for managing the image of his favorite politicians, like how he conspired to promoted Arving Kejriwal in this “interview”, where in the end he promises great results for the politician – got kicked out for peddling relentless fake news.

Here he is in a story which was… yes tweeted by the Congress President, Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi tweeting Punya Prasun Joshi’s Fake News

Now, what he showed was a motivated story which used parts of the whole story picking and choosing the elements he wanted.  The real story, which was shared by the woman with PM Modi.

The whole story was full of innuendos and mix and match of narrative without the confirmation from the woman in question.

The correspondent asks her if her income has doubled from the farming of rice (dhaan). Kaushik says, ‘no’. The voiceover says that Chandramani has ‘revealed’ that a team from Delhi had gone there to ‘instruct’ her to answer in a particular manner with the PM and say yes if the question of doubling of income comes up. However, we do not get to hear these claims.  Chandramani, on camera on ABP News only says that she was ‘asked’ if she would be able to speak in front of the PM.

One Parshuram Bhoyar, Sarpanch of the village, then came on camera to claim that a team had come and instructed them what to speak. That Chandramani spoke what was told to her and that her claims of doubled income are not ‘visible’. The voiceover then asks whether the government has started telling lies?

And, then MyNation ran a story where a journalist actually talked to the woman in question.  What came out was completely different from what was alleged by Punya Prasun Joshi.

The real story from the woman’s own mouth!

In the wake of falling credibility with the audience, it seems that this man, who masqueraded as a Journalist but in reality was just a glorified fixer, was kicked out of his job.  That has been used by many motivated colleagues of his to say that the Government was responsible for his sacking because they were not happy with the news.  The fact is he was never in the business of news in the real sense.  Given his video earlier with Kejriwal and now his “hit job” without facts, he was merely a political fixer.

Political Fixers masquerading as Journalists

And journalists playing political fixers has long been the tradition in how Congress party worked with the press and media.  Everyone remembers how tapes had come out of conversations between a known corporate lobbyist, Nira Radia and Barkha Dutt, another controversial journalist.

One can see in this tape how she is discussing with Radia on working with Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress general secretary, to talk to Karunanidhi – the DMK chief to fix portfolios.  Basically, she was trying to have A. Raja – who was later convicted for the 2G scam to get the Telecom Ministry.  Central Bureau of Investigation had said at that time that they had 5851 conversations by Radia taped.  There was more evidence on how Barkha was playing political fixer.  But, unfortunately for Truth and the press integrity, the government of the day run by Congress Party buried the whole story.

What is worse is that the foreign magazines and newspapers, specially in the US and UK provide ready platform for these journalists and their cohorts to peddle lies in their own way.  These few Radia tapes were not the complete story.  There were other tapes.  But these surely pointed to a relationship and collusion between Barkha Dutt, a journalist and Nira Radia, who was a political lobbyist in order to fix the government portfolios.  It wasn’t the fire.  But a smoking gun.  Something that should have been investigated by the Intelligence Agencies.  Or by the journalists with some integrity, if the intelligence agencies were being handled in partisan manner.  However, the fellow journalists used a publication like Wall Street Journal to post an article with a clear aim to obfuscate the matter even further.  It was a tactic right out of Trump’s media handling book – a la “there is no collusion” strategy!

What we saw in last night’s TV roundtable were other, less startling claims against Ms. Dutt. Open Magazine editor Manu Joseph said the real problem is that Ms. Dutt failed to report the story that a corporate lobbyist was trying to influence the formation of the Indian cabinet after the 2009 national elections, something he called an “error of judgment of enormous proportions.”

“This is a corporate person who is trying to mediate between two political parties,” Mr. Joseph said. “I believe that is the biggest story of the decade.”

So now Ms. Dutt is being accused of being a poor journalist, not a corrupt one? And this now has nothing to do with the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam that involved Mr. Raja?

How Indian Media Assists Terror Attacks

If the work of media was only restricted to falsehoods that would have been chalked up to lack of integrity and basic honesty, but there is a concerted effort by the India media to jeopardize, and indeed compromise, the security by conveying to the terrorists the strategy, actions and plans of the Army during a terror-fighting operation.  This has put many lives at stake.  More importantly, however, it is a basic betrayal of public responsibility and downright treason as they play the role of “eyes and communicators” for the terrorists and their handlers.

For this NDTV was pulled up on its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack, where the channel went over and above the Army briefing, which was to keep the information leaked out in check to what was necessary in such a sensitive and dangerous situation.  But the channel gave out the details of “revealed details of an arms cache, the ammunition stockpiled at the airbase, of MIGs and fighter-planes, and fuel-tanks that the terrorists could attack”

This wasn’t an act of treason and playing terror backups in isolation.  In fact, the coverage of the Mumbai attacks by Pakistani terrorists on 26/11 was even more sinister.  In 2002, the Supreme Court pulled up the TV channels – primary amongst them being NDTV – for how they covered the attack to the benefit of the terrorists.

Fear mongering using false pictures

NDTV was caught using a fake picture to incite fear and spread misinformation against a certain group that its “political allies” are against.  And, it took a remarkable agile and aware Information & Broadcasting Minister of India to call their fake news out, which they corrected without an apology or admitting the mistake.

Beef Killing that Never Was!

In June 2017, a young man was killed in a fight over a seat in the train.  The incident was a criminal act and that is how it should have been treated.  But the Indian – and international press – went about communalising the whole episode by calling it a death of a Muslim due to beef.  From FirtPost to TOI to BBC – everyone had a blast with faking news without any credibility in reporting.

But when the court passed the judgment on the case, the reality was very different from what the court found.  The issue was not about beef or food at all.  It was about the seats in train, where the arguments got heated up.  It was not about religion at all.  It was about one-up-manship and rights of who had paid for what.

Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment dated 28th March 2018

Based on this a whole movement of protests was started in India, where Hindus were painted in bad light because of “lynchings” on the issue of beef.  Something that had not even happened!

An entire hysteria was created based on mere media misinformation and utter falsehoods!  In fact, Opindia reports that it had received an email about how this story was created in the backroom of a newspaper office in Delhi when the reporter had not even mentioned it in his reporting!

It is instructive to know that none of these news media offices ever published any apology after the Court judgment on their completely false coverage.  A coverage that demonized an entire group and religious way of being.

How do we make press accountable?

India’s press now is clearly into fear-mongering, assisting terrorists (and proudly so), initiating social movements on falsehoods, fixing political alignments besides of course reporting absolutely fake news.

The evidence is clear and so is the history.

And, worse is that the international media channels and supposedly respectable news outlets like Wall Street Journal and BBC have been co-opted into reporting falsehoods as well.

When the press itself is working against people – not just against the journalistic norms (that point was left behind long back on this treasonous road) – and aligning itself with the anarchists and with the terrorists – what laws should be there?

As Mark Twain suggested – what laws should the society have to save people from press?  Because it is not just a one off incident.  It is a pandemic!  Especially in India.

A Press To Make “Press” Accountable

The regular press has lost its use, its credibility and its relevance to social justice, security or good.  It is time to call its bluff and the danger it outrightly poses to the society at large.  It is doing so not just by acts of omissions but active acts of commission.   It is an active participant and many times – like in “Not in my Name” agitations – an instigator of movements via false and utterly fake reporting and narratives.

The time has come in India to create a serious press to keep the socially dangerous press accountable.

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