2014 saw some of the biggest lies being spread by our Mainstream media. Reporting standards crashed to all time lows, not that they were very high anytime. But now, since Social media had become so active, there was nothing to hide behind. We bring you the top 10 Hitjobs/Brainfades/Goof-Ups/Supari-Journalism of our Mainstream Media in 2014:
1. All Media Houses: BJP will bring back black money within 100 days.
I don’t need to post any link to the story here, everybody knows this oft-repeated tale. Apparently, Rajnath Singh, at some rally, promised to bring back Black money in 100 days. Well it took a Twitter user @KartikeyaTanna to bring out the truth here.
He pulled out the video of the rally, in which Rajnath Singh clearly said “100 din ke andar karyavahee prarambh kar denge” i.e. an enquiry will be started into the Black Money case within 100 days of coming to power. Not sure what sort of Journalistic degree is required to twist “will start and enquiry” to “will bring back money”.
2. Navbharat Times: 3 lakh bogus voters found in Modi’s Varanasi
Navbharat times reported in November, 6 months after the Lok Sabha elections, that the Election Commission had detected 3,11,057 bogus voters and it was estimated that the total bogus voters number could reach 6,47,085. I donot know how they arrived at this exact estimate though. Even Paragon of Truth Arvind Kejriwal tweeted this report out:
The “Truth” was out when RK Pandey, additional Chief Electoral Officer of State Election Commission of Uttar Pradesh gave out a clarification that “they are just repeated names, not repeated voters”. Was this just a case of poor comprehension skills of a reporter?
3. The Business Standard: Modi mantra: Lean Cabinet, not so lean PMO
This news article tried to make a point that although PM Modi talks about “lean cabinet” etc, his PMO employs more staff than even his predecessor. This report was based on an RTI reply from the Government apparently. But it “wrongly interpreted” the figures in the RTI reply and put out an erroneous report.
The fact was, the current PMO’s staff strength had actually come down to 385, from 411 employed by the earlier PMO. The PMO itself came out with a clarification stating this, seeing the misreporting and resultant outrage. One wonders whether the Business Standard could have just bothered to ask the PMO whether their “interpretation” was correct, before posting this piece.
4. Times of India/Doordarshan: ‘Narendra Modi said Priyanka was like his daughter, DD censored it’
This is the earliest report of this I can find. Times of India claimed that in his interview to Doordarshan, Modi had said “Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was like his daughter” and that DD later on edited this part out. This report was probably based on the rather oddly edited interview, which was telecast by Doordarshan. This led to a war of words between Priyanka and Modi.
Once again, Modi had to step in and clear this by releasing the full video of the interview. As it turns out, no such statement was ever made. A case of making up statements from half-cooked info, where Doordarshan for once, maybe more at fault than Times of India.
5. Times of India: Govt wants schools to observe ‘good governance day’ on Christmas
This is a fairly recent controversy and should be fresh in everybody’s mind. You can read about it here. In this case too, due to a false report, the HRD ministry had to come out with a clarification, and there too it mentioned that “No Clarification was sought by the reporter for the Secretary, School Education before going to press”. Is it so hard to ask the subject before posting any news about it?
6. Times of India: IIT Delhi director quits over demand for Sachin’s academy, Swamy’s dues
IIT-D’s Director resigned 2 years prior to his term getting over. Times of India, from its sources determined that this was because of 2 reasons: 1. Pressure from the government to allocate land for Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket academy 2. Subramanian Swamy’s salary dues. While the 2nd reason is still under debate, Sachin came out strongly against the first point:
This forced Times of India to retract, since such a harsh censuring from India’s greatest sportsperson was clearly something they couldn’t handle. Once again, its clear from Sachin’s post, that Times of India did not bother to confirm the facts with Sachin, before sullying his name. This seems like an epidemic now.
7. Reuters India: India slashes health budget, already one of the world’s lowest
In this story, Reuters India claimed, and I quote, “The government has ordered a cut of nearly 20 percent in its 2014/15 healthcare budget due to fiscal strains, putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world”. The truth again, would be apparent with anyone even mildly familiar with how Budgets work
Every December, Governments have to “Revise Budgetary Estimates” in line with the money they were able to spend till date. In the current scenario, since the Government realised that the they would not be able to spend all the allocated money, it cut its estimates by 20%. The estimate before this adjustment, was in fact 5% more than what the previous Government had allocated in FY 2013-14. This makes its clear that it is not the intent that is lacking, but rather the Government is not in a position to spend this money, due to multiple reasons. But Reuters chose to spin this as if the Government isn’t bothered about Healthcare
8. The Hindu: Ramdev claims cure for Ebola
This piece claimed Baba Ramdev has found a cure for Ebola. It said “Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has put out an advertisement offering a health pack for preventing Ebola virus“. Till then (now for that matter) Baba Ramdev had never claimed to have any such product. Then why was Hindu doing such free publicity for him?
It was based on the ads placed on a site called http://www.ramdevmedicine.com/, which by its own admission has nothing to do with Baba Ramdev. In fact this disclaimer on the front page makes it clear. Wonder if the concerned journalist did not read this or just wanted a story.
9. The Indian Express: Ghar wapsi: Damage control? Amitabh Bachchan ‘secular’ ad
Right at the end of the year, to be precise, on 31st December 2014, The Indian Express told us this: Amitabh Bachchan has been roped in by BJP to feature in a “Secular Ad” which is the “Brainchild of Modi”, to act as a damage control against misadventures like Ghar Waapsi. The Ad, the story claims, to be released before Republic Day, would feature “Bachchan flying a kite and talking about India’s diversity and culture ”
We wonder who are the sources of The Indian Express, who were privy to such intricate details as to what Amitabh Bachchan would have been doing in the Ad, while Big B himself claims he hasnt been approached!
10. Times of India: RBI to blame for slowdown in manufacturing: Arun Jaitley
You just cant keep Times of India out of the picture. To end the year on a “high”, Times of India claimed that Arun Jaitley said that “RBI’s insistence on keeping high interest rates as the singular factor responsible for the slowdown in the manufacturing sector“. But, if Times of India publishes something, then there almost always has to be a rebuttal
By 12.30pm next day, Arun Jaitley took to Facebook to set the record straight. He clarified that there was not a single sentence reference (not even a word) in his entire speech on either the Reserve Bank or its Governor. He also shared the video of his speech to let readers decide. Another instance of Imaginative Journalism. Sigh!
Editors Note: Some of our readers brought it to our notice that the erstwhile Sr no. 9 in the above post, ( Modi in Rambo Act, saves 15000) actually refers to a news report from the year 2013. Since we are chronicling reports by MSM during the calendar year 2014, this post was out of place. We have now replaced this with a new entry. The inadvertent error is regretted, however the earlier entry was also a “lie”. This earlier entry is reproduced below:
9. Times of India: Modi in Rambo Act, saves 15000
figment of imaginationstory, would put even the most hardcore bhakt to shame. Times of India claimed Modi “managed to bring home some 15,000 stranded Gujarati pilgrims” from Uttarakhand. Of course, anybody with the slightest common sense would realise this is an impossible feat, considering all the logistics, the terrain and the floods in Uttarakhand.
Obviously there was outrage and ridicule on Social Media, which forced Times of India to apologise. As it emerged, what could have actually happened is that Modi Government’s efforts could have helped an estimated 15000 people, in the form of “food, shelter, medicines and transport to reach their homes”. So much for “rescuing 15000 people”.