We had earlier seen how a case of theft in a Delhi school was used by the media to drive mass hysteria about communal attack. Now a similar case has come to light where facts have been sacrificed in favor of sensationalism and propaganda.
A couple of days back, some Twitter users complained that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) website was asking for ‘password’ when accessing the page containing information on assets of union ministers.
One of the first ones to raise this issue was J Gopikrishnan, a journalist with The Pioneer, who tweeted this on 24th February:
— J Gopikrishnan (@jgopikrishnan70) February 24, 2015
Within 10 minutes, a Twitter user explained to him that it was a technical glitch, and the ‘password’ thing could be bypassed by a simple modification in the URL:
— Biswajeet Dash (@biswajeetdash) February 24, 2015
So on the 24th February itself, for a person with some common IT knowledge and who can read tweets, it was clear that the PMO website had some technical glitch causing the web page to become inaccessible for a common user.
Obviously, this ‘glitch’ can’t be ignored, and there was a genuine case of asking the PMO if, as far as information technology is concerned, the government of India was lagging behind on some fronts.
Seriousness of this cannot be over-emphasized, as government collects some private and confidential data of citizens, and thus security of the IT infrastructure deployed by the government should be a concern.
So at this point of time, on 24th February, the media had a valid reason to ask the PMO why this technical glitch was there in the first place.
However, the Times of India, a tabloid renowned for printing cleavages of Bollywood actresses, decided to ignore facts and publish a report, two days after people on Twitter knew that it was a technical glitch, titled “PMO blocks access to information on ministers’ assets”
The report was filed by a little known reporter Himanshi Dhawan, whose official twitter handle, as reported on TOI website, is suspended for some unknown reason. It is clear that Himanshi either doesn’t know how to use Twitter or how to use a phone to call up the PMO and ask about the issue.
But the reporter surely knows how to write an alarming and paranoid news report. Soon the report was lapped up by usual “OMG, Modi is so fascist” choir group. Indiscriminate accusations of conspiracy started flowing thick and fast:
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) February 26, 2015
— by a journalist of who had tried to paint a burglary at his house, where he was not living, as an attack on his press freedom.
PMO blocks access to information on ministers’ assets. Massive blow to transparency! Who’s advising the govt? http://t.co/3QHjOljkkg
— Rifat Jawaid (@RifatJawaid) February 26, 2015
— by a journalist who is for all practical purposes an AAP propagandist.
He mr kunder has deleted it. So here it is pic.twitter.com/SSZedu8335
— Sharanya (@Sharanyashettyy) February 27, 2015
— and by a talent-less filmmaker who is trying to reinvent himself and earn respect in the “liberal” world by abusing Modi every second day.
With accusations hurled from every corner, the PMO finally responded:
@timesofindia Page is accessible. NIC is transferring PMO site to new servers due to that few pages temporarily appear as password protected
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) February 27, 2015
But even after this clarification, Times Now, a TV channel renowned for noise and lack of logic, decided to peddle the same propaganda:
Times Now waking up AFTER the story is over RT @TimesNow: PMO blocks public access to the wealth declarations made by ministers
— Sandeep Kadian (@GappistanRadio) February 27, 2015
While the PMO cared to respond and clarify, what is interesting is that the Times of India journalist doesn’t care to clarify if any attempt was made to contact the PMO to get their side of the story (an accepted and required journalistic principle):
@dhawan_himanshi Hi, reg. report published about PMO blocking access, was there any attempt to contact concerned authorities ? Thanks
— Halaku Khan #MDL (@doubtinggaurav) February 27, 2015
At time of publishing of this story, a response from the reporter was still pending.
This shocking lacunae, coupled with overall conspiratorial /paranoid tone of the article, as well as this rather inappropriate tweet from the reporter (see the image below) raises serious questions about state of Indian journalism:
At the least, it tells us that when hidden agenda and paranoia drive journalism, truth and impartiality are the first casualties.
(report contributed by @doubtinggaurav)