Press Council of India
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I am in the middle of writing a book on World History where I show strands where the reality is vastly different to the narrative we have been fed through newspapers and academia. My compass is big, covers all continents, and this endeavour would take up my four years by a modest estimate.
One of the problems I am confronted with is references. Most books I pick have references which appear untrue. For instance, Pyarelal Nayyar, the personal secretary of Mahatma Gandhi mentions an incident from Second Boer War (1899-1902), quoting Natal Mercury where the date is before the event happened. It’s not typo, there are several such instances.
We are not talking of biases here. That is given in most cases. You pick facts and incidents to your liking. My issue is with “creating” those facts and incidents. People in social media, newspapers, TV channels are doing it all the time. These “fakes” are repeated, read or seen by millions and shape people’s opinions—and actions.
This is the background in which I want the present issue of journalists in India being hauled up be seen. Two prominent names, Sudhir Chaudhary and Arnab Goswami, are such. The are perceived to speak the Centre’s line and it has put them in crosshairs of opposition states. In Himachal Pradesh, 14 FIRs have been filed against five reporters. This is likewise in UP, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and in many other states. Indian Express is moving heavens on one of their reporters facing action for what Delhi Police believes to be “fake news” on Tablighi Jamaat’s head, Maulana Saad. Is media’s freedom a thing of the past?
There are no clear-cut answers and there would never be. None of us can expound an opinion and say: Yes, that’s it. How can journalism survive if State is the Big Brother watching them all the time? How would State function if media is like an ass in a pottery shop, to borrow a metaphor from Aesop’s fables.
None of us would deny that State is prejudiced; and media is biased. Or that we don’t live in the world of corporate media. Power and money, the two essential evils, are working all the time to grow bigger today than they were yesterday. It could only be at the cost of citizenry, the sheep to be sheared, Where are the arbiters in this toxic, noxious air?
There could be many arbiters but let’s begin with judiciary which has the final word. What do they go by with? Our Constitution doesn’t provide freedom to press as an enshrined Article. Most of it is presumed under Article 19 (1-a). This is the Right to Freedom of speech and expression to individuals. This is Liberty, the root of democracy. Ideally, media shouldn’t be interpreted from this prism. Unlike individuals, media is a “watchdog” for public interest which gives them privileged access to men and matters.
Yes, there is Press Council Act of 1978. It’s to ensure freedom of press as well as pull up media if untruthful. In essence Press Council is just a talk shop. Most members are hand-picked. Editors’ Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are no better. Their credibility is zilch. In essence, it’s a Big Boys Club who keep public interest out of their rounds of drinks.
Ombudsman, a neutral voice of credibility, was once deemed an important self-regulatory organ, to keep the content truthful. It has been a joke on us for last two decades if not more.
Then there are unseen arbiters, we the readers, the citizens, the suckers. Both the State and media would prefer us to be blindfolded, to be goaded into alleys of their own mischiefs. We don’t get the truth from either; yet we tilt one way or the other. An irony: Those who can’t do without us, have little of our interest on their minds.
The time has come to draw a line in the sand. Ambiguity must give way to well-defined laws. Journalists must follow the time-tested dictums: Present both sides of story; name your source who wish to be quoted or don’t use it at all. I agree it’s not possible in political reporting but don’t let a good story come in the way of a patient’s good who is on a ventilator.
I also know it’s easier said than done: your editors are mostly handpicked by your employers to serve their business or political agenda. That “little journo” on the desk, the sub-editor, also is prone to rejig your story in a manner which could induce a saucy headline and cause you embarrassment next morning. I doubt if there is any reporter who hasn’t muttered a swear to an editor/sub-editor on the final output.
State, on their part, must not allow mischief by press. But it also shouldn’t use the long arm of law to settle personal scores or come down on an investigative story. Mostly, States should limit itself to denying a news or offering a clarification. Or be a mouthful like Trump is to despicable US media. But state action or imprisonment isn’t on. Individuals could evoke defamation suit: Like Sonia Gandhi should have done against Arnab Goswami. It was shameful to involve a state machinery for her personal score.
Press is the breath of democracy: All you need is a strong filter. Putting a lid would suffocate it to death.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Yes. That’s the charge. A charge its’ readers like me are levelling: Why Indian Express doesn’t want to stay on the Tablighi story?
Express has opted for a banner headline (see the image) today which can’t get bigger even if World War 3 breaks out.
Only, this is not about Corona: It’s about four states “knocking” on Centre for extra funds.
(a) Who are the states in question? Anti-Modi governments of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab of course.
(b) Have they already asked for funds? Not yet.
(c) What’s the source of Indian Express story? An unknown official.
(d) And why states could be asking for funds? Now hold your breath: For returning migrants. Not for Corona victims but for migrants.
(e) And who are the states who should be in the forefront of seeking help even on migrants? Of course Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Indian Express conveniently doesn’t seek these two states out.
So, no funds have been asked, no written or spoken request made, questionable states, questionable source, and that too for migrants and not Corona!!! And yet Indian Express gives a kind of banner headline which most editors don’t give in their entire careers.
This when Tablighi Jamaat fiasco threatens to drown the country in the misery of Corona Virus.
The cases have doubled and crossed 2000 figures overnight.
One single person testing positive could potentially infect 10,000 people.
Many Tablighi Jamaat attendees have gone in hiding.
Official request is making no difference to them.
Could they be bio bombers?
But none of these thoughts prick the conscience of our “newspaper of courage.”
It doesn’t ponder if it could be “infiltrators” and perhaps justify CAA-NPR-NRC
It wants its readers to concentrate on funds a few anti-Modi states “could” ask. This when the Centre is constantly in touch with states to seek out remedial measures. Modi is holding meeting with states regularly.
This is not the sole reason for a reader like me to believe Indian Express is doing its best to bury the Tablighi Jamaat complicity in spreading the Corona Virus. When this news hit the Indians like scalding oil on Tuesday, Express chose to almost bury the story.
That sensational story was not even front page lead in Indian Express that day. Worse, it chose to put a “Delhi area” in the headline (see image), instead of squarely blaming Tablighi Jamaat for the distress it has plunged the nation into. And this I am talking about the Delhi edition of Indian Express.
Don’t you think readers of the city needed a more frontal, and not ambiguous, coverage from its newspaper about its own city? About a story which could put their lives in danger? And what about the residents of the area? They wouldn’t even have an inkling of human bio bombs exploding in their neighbourhood and their chosen newspaper trying to keep them in dark.
I may sound angry. But I am angry. It’s a gross betrayal of readers, if not country, from a national newspaper. It puts doubt in my mind for what could be behind such Indian Express’ coverage. If it’s only about their journalistic competence, it needs to shut its shop. If there is more to it, if there is an interest in spiking this sensational story, then not just Press Council of India but even law agencies need to move in. Tablighi Jamaat has not only cost 10 lives thus far, It has put thousands on the line as well. It could submerge India in political and economic tsunami.
Indian Express would be under my lens for the remaining days of this Corona misery. Forget about Express exploring the Al Qaeda angle of Tablighi Jamaat about which I wrote yesterday; I would look carefully if Express is even reporting the mishap truthfully. As should be their thousands of readers. And authorities.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Let me say this at the outset that the headline of this piece doesn’t quite convey the disgust I feel for the kind of journalism Indian Express indulges in with a straight face and yet call itself a “journalism of courage.”
This “journalism of courage” publishes family interviews of terrorists (like they have of Shakir Bashir of Pulwama attack today) but would never have time for tears of near and dear ones of a Ankit Sharma or Kamlesh Tewari.
In other stories on front page today, it has one on how Indonesia has called in Indian envoy on CAA as a headline. But Express won’t headline the fact that Jakarta has expressed “complete confidence in Indian government.”
It has one headline on front page which says “10 stabbed in Shillong, toll 2 in anti-CAA unrest in state.” The very first line in the text says the “violence believed to be related to Citizenship Act..” So the readers must treat it as a CAA-related violence even as the text only “believes” it to be so.
These examples I have quoted are of just one day, today. All on front page. Indian Express does it everyday. So bad is their track record that once I had offered Rs 50,000 in 2016 to anyone who could show me a favourable story on Hindus on their front pages. Needless to say, the offer remains unclaimed to this day.
This toxic newspaper does more or less the same thing every day: Twisting headlines, hiding texts which don’t suit their agenda, any positive story or comment by a BJP leader is inevitably deflated with the help of bytes of a Anand Sharma or Sitaram Yechury; Ghulam Nabi Azad or D. Raja; Shashi Tharoor or Mallikarajun Khadge, the usual rent-a-byte suspects. It’s editorial pages “breed” academicians and experts who peddle the Left-Liberal narrative, twisting history; Human Rights activists who can’t see Hindus being butchered, say, in Bengal and Kerala; former judges, election commissioners, police chiefs who were beholden to the toxic Congress rule in this country.
I would still have given Indian Express the benefit of doubt if once in a while they tried to present the other side of the narrative. How come farmers’ plight under the BJP regime is sung from the rooftop but the Madhya Pradesh government, which hasn’t honoured the farmers’ waiver promise of its manifesto, isn’t pulled up? They would use microscopic lens to highlight “lynching” of a particular community while the one of the other community is altogether ignored. How come a Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan doesn’t have one single story come out in its criticism. Are the readers being told that Arvind Kejriwal hasn’t done a single thing worthy of criticism in his three terms as chief minister of Delhi? A GST is criticized even though it came about with the consensus of all states and stakeholders.
To me eyes, Indian Express is bereft of any credibility today. It’s allowed to go scot-free because the inner mechanism which upholds truth and integrity of Indian media, the Press Council of India and Editors’ Guild, are so hopelessly out of shape. Dead men walking. Information and Broadcasting Ministry is wary of belling the cat for fear of its own kind. The judiciary is all sanguine for fixing the “hate-speech” makers and “sedition” cases. But it won’t take a call on media which polarizes the communities with fake news.
As for readers, they remind me of a famous saying: “A crook appeals to the straight; guilty to the innocent.”
So readers be vigilant. Watchful. Know your responsibility. If nothing then to see where your buying rupee is going. All responsible mechanisms in this country have given such newspapers a free run. They are looking the other way. You alone can bell the cat. If your newspaper doesn’t mend, stop buying those rags.
Indian Express is letting itself down so badly on the ethics of journalism that it’s a cause for concern for its loyal readers, more so since the Press Council of India (PCI) and Editors’ Guild appears an acquiescing party due to its silence.
Indian Express has a bottom-spread on its Monday’s Delhi edition where excerpts of film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj’s comments at Express Adda are quoted. The headline states: “TV News comedy circus…maybe Cinema must tell truth” (attributed to Bhardwaj).
However, Bharadwaj’s quote in the text-copy of the story states: “…present-day journalism…feels like a comedy show, it’s like a comedy circus.” Nowhere, Bhardwaj mentions TV news. He mentions present-day journalism. The readers have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj didn’t have Indian Express itself in mind, for all you know.
I suggest readers to read the full story. Real quotes are added and subtracted to expand or reduce the newspaper’s own agenda/interpretation. For example, see this para below:
That was one of Bollywood’s most political filmmakers, Vishal Bhardwaj, opening up at the Express Adda Friday on why the industry hesitates to speak up when political controversies impact mainstream films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil, which faced calls for bans due to the casting of a Pakistani actor, and Padmavat, which withstood protests for its portrayal of Rajput queen Padmavati.
I have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj did take the name of films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil or Padmavat to make his point (for the full interview would only appear later this week) or whether the newspaper is adding this name to buttress its point/agenda. The above para of the newspaper insinuates he did though I seriously doubt so.
Same is the case in another front page story Indian Express has on Monday, headlined: Godhra line in book: FIR against four for “misleading students on beloved PM.” This is on an academic book in circulation in Assam.
Just looking at this headline, it would appear the state is trying to muzzle the freedom of speech, neutrality of academic-text books, all because PM Narendra Modi has been portrayed in poor light.
Indian Express, in its report, doesn’t touch the concerned “line in book” till they are in the second-half of the story. The first half is all about a “well-known…90-year-old renowned publisher” and a description of three authors who have been “heads of political science department” of established colleges in Assam. (Shades of a certain retired son of a headmaster in the Valley by the name of Burhan Wani).
So here comes the relevant para on Godhra in the book which offended a couple of citizens enough to file an FIR against the authors and publishers:
“In this incident (burning of coach) 57 persons died including women and children. On the suspicion that Muslims were behind the incident, next day Muslims were mercilessly attacked in different parts of Gujarat. This violence continued for over a month and over a thousand people were killed. Most of those killed were Muslims. Significantly at the time of the violence, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was a silent spectator. Morever, there were allegations that the state administration helped the Hindus.”
Now let’s look at the FIR which states: “It’s well-known to you that Special Investigation Team (Sit) under the supervision of Supreme Court gave clean-sheet on PM Narendra Modi (sic) dated September 12, 2011, on the issue.”
Aren’t the complainants appear rightful on all counts to go ahead and file the FIR? By terming Modi government as silent spectator, aren’t authors suggesting complicity even as the Supreme Court gave a verdict to the contrary, giving clean chit to Modi, no less than seven years back? Doesn’t such mis-representation would only potentially lead to Hindu-Muslims tensions, may be communal clash and certainly a polarization between the two largest religious groups in the country? And what about the innocent children who are thus poisoned by half-truths? In a state, as sensitive to Hindu-Muslim polarization as Assam is?
Not a day passes by when I don’t read such reports in Indian Express which makes me squirm in my chair. As a practicing journalist, I see one guiding hand behind the reporters, sub-editors, headline-givers and positioning of stories on front-pages making them work in sync in antipathy to BJP/RSS. Whosoever this hand is: An activist editor, his employer and his leanings, or the forces keeping the newspaper in an ideological bind or otherwise, the fact is, it is anything but journalism. And that’s a betrayal most heinous to its readers by any newspaper in circulation.
On the HRD’s move on “fake news”, now jettisoned, the strategy of Mainstream Media (MSM) has been two-pronged: One, it’s an assault on freedom of press (yawn); two, government must define what’s “news’.
The second defence is a stonewalling lawyer’s argument and it fittingly it has come from Manish Tewari who is from the Congress stable of Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Sanghvi (the names say it all).
So what’s “news”? News is information. If it is not truthfully reported, it’s “fake news”. One wonders why Tewari, once an Information minister, never came to ask the media houses: “Sirs and Madams, that you are in the business of news, what does news really amount to?” Wish somebody had asked him while he was in the minister’s chair: “Sir, what do you think is news”. Mr Minister himself would’ve escorted the journo out of the door. (As an aside, imagine worrying about the freedom of press when not being able to define news as per se!).
So the idea is, if you can’t define what’s news, how would you define what’s “fake news”? This jugglery was meant to stonewall and embarrass Smriti Irani. Tiwari and presstitutes of course would take no note of a number of fake news which appear on MSM daily and which OpIndia so brilliantly clubbed together recently.
Don’t expect presstitutes to come clean when caught with pants down. It runs to Press Council of India (PCI) for every speck of dust in the eye. But when the PCI chairman sees value in government’s move, the rogues of the stable—that’s mainstream media—don’t publish it.
These rogues are not obliged to any regulatory measure.
These shameless feel no accountability towards their readers.
They wouldn’t care to inform you that accredited journalists do not amount to entire community.
These thugs won’t tell you that the charm of being “accredited journalists” are the perks and benefits which comes with the tag.
Only if the Editor’s Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association were under the RTI, we would’ve known how many, IF ANY, transgressions of mainstream media in all these years these two august bodies have censored. Or whether the only time they clear their throat is when they cry “Assault on Freedom of Press.”
Where all this jockeying leaves the readers? No better than vegetables in the eyes of the presstitutes. Freedom of press? My foot. Freedom to loot and subvert; and scavenge on dead is more like it.
And India can go to hell.
Indian Express ran a front page story on Tuesday with the screaming headline: “Maya to Party: Back SP again in coming bypolls…” Times of India, the same day, ran the headline “Maya won’t support SP in bypolls.” One of them for sure is lying.
It doesn’t take long to detect who’s lying. The Times of India story is based on a press statement by the BSP. It’s exact words are: “BSP will not activiate its cadres in any bypolls in future, the way it did it in Gorakhpur and Phulpur.” The backdrop of these developments is the upcoming bypolls in Kairana and Noorpur assembly seats in UP.
Yet Indian Express has completely ignored the press statement. It’s telling its readers—in line with it’s primary function of propaganda abroad—of a communion between the two “warring kingdoms” even though a schism has occurred. (Meanwhile, it’s gleefully jumping up and down in concocting a schism between Reserve Bank of India and the government as its second front page lead).
So create schism where none exist and bury a schism where it does exist!!! Who bells the cat? Surely not your sanctimonious Editors’ Guild or Press Council of India!
Mayawati may change her mind and support SP in UP bypolls in coming days. But that’s a different matter altogether. The issue for the moment is that Indian Express willfully spikes a story which shows not all is well between “babua and bua.” It also ignores Mayawati chiding an “immature Akhilesh Yadav” for SP’s devious role in the recent Rajya Sabha poll.
Meanwhile Indian Express, which catches even a sneeze of the “piddi”, completely ignores the words of Ranjan Chowdhury. The West Bengal Congress chief has plainly said that “Mamata Benerjee is an opportunist leader.” Chowdhary has claimed that Mamata can’t be trusted as anti-BJP voice. He has cited the instance of Mamata siding with Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) which in turn supports BJP inside the Parliament. He has accused Ms Banerjee of inviting BJP in West Bengal in the first place, “who espoused the policy that BJP was not untouchable;” and during her regime “hundreds of RSS shakahas were opened.” Chowdhury further says: “In future, if she thinks she will gain more benefit by allying with BJP, she will do it.”
Tellingly, Chowdhury says: “Mamata is aspirational and wants to become the PM. She does not express her desire in words but her actions make her ambition amply clear.”
So there you are: BSP doesn’t trust SP; Congress doesn’t trust Mamata; one part of the left says join Congress, the other says don’t. And we have Congress declaring in plain words—in the words of Chowdhury—that all “the regional parties want is to ensure that they are able to extract their pounds of flesh whoever comes to power. Or, if they are lucky somebody can become a Chandrashekhar or Deve Gowda (as PM).” Chowdhury’s words betray the Congress anxiety in case Rahul Gandhi misses out on Prime Ministership.
So this is the bunch of opportunist opposition who don’t care a hoot about what happens to you or me or to this country. All they want is to extract their “pounds of flesh,” as Chowdhury says. Yet our English mainstream media is swooning over the Grand Alliance in offing.
I mean how shameless could they really get!
(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP, Ravindra Kishore Sinha, has sought Privileges Proceedings against top brass of Indian Express, namely, (a) Vivek Goenka, chairman; (b) Rajkamal Jha, chief editor; (c) Ritu Sarin and (d) Shyamlal Yadav on its “motivated attempt to tarnish his reputation” via expose on “Paradise Papers” on November 6, 2017.
In a letter written to Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman, Rajya Sabha, published as an advertisement in newspapers on Wednesday, Sinha has accused Indian Express of “unethical journalism…in the name of freedom of the press.”
Indian Express had alleged that Sinha was “illegally associated with (a) an offshore company, viz SIS Asia Pacific Holding Limited (SAPHL), incorporated in Malta; (b) that his nomination papers of Rajya Sabha election in 2014 didn’t declare his interest in offshore entities.
In his detailed letter/advertisement, Sinha has pointed out
- Malta has an approved jurisdiction of full Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India and doesn’t amount to “tax evasion, money laundering or any malafide intent”;
- His holding company recently underwent “in-depth scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)…covering all regulations, including the Companies Act, Income Tax Act, SCRA, Stamp Act, FIPB, FEMA etc…no deficiency was found in terms of compliance.”
- Rajya Sabha nomination form requires only “provisions of details of Assets and Liabilities of which I am the owner or direct beneficiary” which is not true in Sinha’s case (see the full advertisement in pic).
Sinha’s anguish stems from a clearly “vested interest” of Indian Express in publishing the report—and a sneering a mocking version of it online—which he termed as “misleading and devoid of facts,” despite Sinha having shared the details with Indian Express !
Over to Sinha:
“These facts were transparently shared with the Indian Express team prior to publication of the news report. Despite that, they have carried the misleading report devoid of facts and indulged in reputation assassination for vested interests.”
“If the Indian Express claims to be the beacon of independent journalism, why are they not targeting other reputed public figures such as Sachin Pilot, P. Chidambaram, Pinarayi Vijayan etc who have all been named in the ICU Paradise Papers?”
“The Indian Express report is unethical journalism in the name of freedom of the press/freedom of speech and is motivated attempt to tarnish my reputation built over decades. It is extremely sad to see the high standards of neutral and independent journalism set by Ramnath Goenka being destroyed under the current editorial leadership.”
In one word: Damning!!!
One doesn’t know if Sinha tried to put this advertisement in Indian Express for it’s not in its today’s edition. Or, if he did and failed in his attempt. Still, the matter is now in public domain and Express would’ve to come up with an explanation.
At least the Privilege Proceedings against Indian Express is being sought for. Whether Editors’ Guild of India reacts to it is a guess as good as yours as mine. Press Council of India, a Central Statutory Authority, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting—Mrs Smriti Irani being at the helm—surely should step in as Fake News in Mainstream Media—Lutyens’ Media—is more rampant than ever.
Not a day passes when Indian Express doesn’t peddle in Fake News. The latest to catch my attention was on Sunday, the slug of which read: “Accused working with NTPC as contract employee.” (see pic). This is with reference to a juvenile accused in the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in a Dadri village two years ago.
Now who is the accused juvenile? Express doesn’t name him. Now how do they know it? There is another accused juvenile who said so to the newspaper. And what’s the name of this source-accused-juvenile? Express doesn’t name him either.
Maybe the newspaper is following the decent practice of not naming a juvenile till the charges against him is proved. (Never mind though the newspaper went to town in naming five “suspects”—or Sanatan Sanstha–for killing Gauri Lankesh which even the Special Investigating Team (SIT) know nothing about!).
NTPC promptly came up with an official rejoinder within a few hours of the Indian Express story. Pankaj Saxena, spokesperson for NTPC, Dadri, said as for juvenile accused being offered job “…none of them have been employed.”
This Express “rocket” had been launched on a carefully prepared communal ground. Express links the story to the BJP MLA of the constituency, Tejpal Nagar, for recommending a job. Recommending the job to the accused? No, but to the ‘bhabhi” of the accused! And is the “bhabhi” employed by the NTPC? No. Then who the hell is this accused juvenile who is working with the NTPC as contract employee about whom the newspaper has gone to the town? And about whom the BJP MLA is somehow projected as favouring in the background?
After naming BJP MLA Tejpal Nagar as favouring the family of this ghost-of-a-juvenile-accused, the Indian Express states that the NTPC hires locals “through a contractor, in this case an MLA.” A non-suspecting, gullible reader would immediately presume that Tejpal Nagar and this MLA are the same person. But “an MLA” is not “the MLA” and thus the Indian Express cleverly has covered its tracks, without dousing the insinuation.
In a rush to pull the wool over its’ readers eyes, Express doesn’t follow some basic journalistic principles. It makes no effort to explain what is an NTPC in this four-column story. NTPC is an acronym of National Thermal Power Corporation.
Predictably, Indian Express doesn’t carry the official rejoinder of NTPC in its today’s edition. May be it would in days to come or spin a new fantasy. The Fake Train of Indian Express keeps hurtling down its rubbery track at a breakneck speed every day without a care in the world for journalistic ethics or its paying readers or worrying about the censure from the Press Council of India. It remains un-derailed for the laws of this land have its hands full with the stains of a firecracker. Who has the time to be a vigilante on Holy Cows of Lutyens’ Media?
(Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Indian Express on Thursday’s edition has been found out in peddling a Fake News).