India Today's JNU 'Sting' Claims just don't add up in the face of facts!

Last updated on Jan 12, 2020

Posted on Jan 11, 2020

Deceptive ways have their own charm.  Sometimes when someone deceives another and gets a reaction as well as record it for posterity, one can get a high.  At least in his own heart, if not in another’s eyes.

Table Of Contents

India Today conducted what they called a “Sting Operation” on whom they call “ABVP supporters”.  There are many holes in the report and the “sting” but the group and their journalists cannot stop congratulating themselves over it.

Some PM Modi’s haters like Tavleen Singh, due to her son’s illegal OCI being canceled, even went to the extent of suggesting that India Today had done a better job than the Delhi Police!  Read about the first results of the Delhi Police investigation.

Is India Today’s JNU ‘Sting’ operation, Investigative Journalism?

On Jan 10th, when the Delhi Police came out with its investigation report, India Today group came up with a “sting video” that it called as “Investigative journalism”.

As A.S. Panneerselvan,  the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu and advisory panel member of the Knight International Journalism Fellowship program administered by ICFJ and Ethical Journalism Network, once in an article in “The Hindu” said categorically that “Sting journalism is not investigative journalism“.  He further warned of the central issue with the Stings.

Lord Leveson’s voluminous report refers to sting journalism as “journalistic dark arts”. Sting journalism may create a buzz, but its logic is never to examine anything in depth but to just skim the surface till it finds a new villain of the day.AS Panneerselvan

And, that perfectly describes the work that India Today has done.

It skims the surface, and tries to find a “Villain”.  Not comment on the issue indepth!

There was no painstaking investigation involved to see what had happened – from the Leftist and the ABVP side for last so many months.  It simply picked its targets – whom they could lure and deceive and have weaved a complete story around that.

The many questions

The whole “Sting” has some intrinsic problems and then the whole explanations being given around it are even more bizarre.  Let us start.

Date of the video?

First and foremost, the ‘Sting’ video that was shown had a date of October 22, 2019.

Check this tweet:

Well, to this, India Today had this to say:

So let us play the “Clarifications” back and see what India Today is suggesting:

  1. The Sting is a great journalism and required great planning, execution and risk (suggested otherwise in tweets of their many journalists)
  2. During this carefully planned and executed “Sting”, the camera settings were not “updated”.  Which means that the VERY basis of India Today’s “investigation” – the date and time of the Sting – was OVERLOOKED!
  3. That, nothing had happened on October 19, so this video is obviously not done on October 22.  Okkay, so when was it done? Any evidence of that?  Maybe it was BEFORE the whole episode.  Maybe it was just a day before your report.  Who knows?  You certainly do not have any proof of the exact date or time of the “Sting”, something that is the VERY DIAL-TONE of any investigative reporting. There is no investigation without the record of WHERE and WHEN!

You see, the self-congratulatory chest-beating by India Today on their “amazing Sting” was so carefully planned that they forgot to even set up their camera before it!  And, though they are giving rhetorical arguments on why it couldn’t have been October 22nd, they have no answer for WHEN it really was!  We simply have to believe them.  Their most sound evidence is “because I say so”.

Central protagonist of the video?

The central character in the video is a guy named Akshat Awasthi.  The video and “Sting” movie credits introduce him as a “ABVP supporter”.  In a brilliant  piece by Nupur Sharma, Opindia questions this theory saying that news reports clearly show that Awasthi was in a JNUSU/Congress/Left rally and not in the ABVP rally!

Sensing the counter from Awasthi and the questions raised, Rahul Kanwal comes out with a tweet to back his company’s Sting claim.  Except that he mis-characterizes the organizers and the very mission of the rally!  Something that Nupur Sharma brings out clearly in her report.

Further, Ankur Singh’s tweets mentioned (and reproduced below) in the detailed and in-depth article above are clearly devastating for the credibility of the IndiaToday Sting movie credits.

Again, there are many questions around the protagonist.

  1. Who called that rally and why? What were the people protesting? And, was it really ABVP sponsored and backed rally? The answers to all these questions is clear – it was an anti-BJP rally called by the combine of Congress and Leftist groups. So, if someone was so enthusiastically participating in it, what was his motivating ideology? Creative Masochism – “how to protest against yourself and self-destroy” If India Today movie credits and Rahul Kanwal are to be believed)?!
  2. But let us just believe Rahul Kanwal and say it was an ABVP rally within an Anti-ABVP/BJP rally. Kinda like ABVP haters generously rented out some space to ABVP folks to protest against them within their rally! So, what does that say about Awasthi?
  3. And, even if he was really an ABVP supporting rallyist (let us just humor Rahul Kanwal for the guy almost seems like begging us to take him seriously) – does that mean then:
    • He is an ABVP decision-maker on planning violence within JNU?
    • He represents ALL ABVP representatives in JNU?
    • He officially represents ABVP?

You see there are some basic and foundational questions about the main protagonist of the “Sting” movie!

Too many holes – can’t call it a bucket anymore!

So, this such a “brilliantly planned and carefully executed Sting”

  1. forgot to have proper camera settings
  2. has no evidence of when it was executed (except “I say so” claim)
  3. protagonist, whose ‘confession’  is being called a Sting against ABVP, is an enthusiastic participant in an anti-BJP/ABVP rally

And this one-sided – no Sting or videos of the Leftists are shown – is being passed off as Investigative Reporting!

Investigative Reporting is a serious art.  Pain-staking, detailed, carefully planned, where responses, credibility, dates, times, claims are checked and rechecked and counter checked by various sources (never ONE claim taken as correct or final).  Work that people like Seymour Hersh do (remember Abu Gharaib scandal?).  It takes months and many sources to come to any one conclusion.

To call this lazily cobbled together movie on, perhaps a rented camera, as “Investigative Reporting” is to mock journalism itself!

As for this India Today’s JNU ‘Sting’ being of any value to the investigation on the facts of the events – let us just say that there are SO MANY holes in this bucket, that it will be criminal to even call it a bucket anymore!

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear “lie-zer” (Liza)


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