Indian Mainstream Media has been regularly reporting half-truths and whole lies. Till the end of August 2015, we could track a total of 134 lies printed in Indian Media. That is more than 1 lie every alternate day. And media is not stopping at that. Now they have devised new means to report half-truths: sensationalizing news items.
We have observed a trend, where various news, specially actions by Governments, are being reported in a sensationalist manner. The attempt being to project the news as something which is happening for the first time.
Clarification: We are not trying to say “Oh UPA did this so NDA can do it too”. We are only saying shit had happened earlier too, just the way it is being spun is different. Here are some examples:
1. Govt orders all officers to turn up for Modi’s I-day address. “Tone and Tenor of circular surprises many”
The Hindu published this news article a few days back. Apparently a Central Government circular mandated that all officials be present at the PM’s Independence Day speech. Not very alarming right? Well The Hindu made it sure that it would alarm you by adding a theme to this news that suggested this circular had “surprised many by its tone and tenor”, thus trying to propagate the myth of “Fascist Modi” regime etc. Eventually, under “Letters to the Editor”, The Hindu carried a communication from the PIB which clarified that the circular was no different from those published earlier and that “The sub-headline that said, “Tone and tenor of Cabinet Secretary’s circular come as a surprise to many”, borders on sensationalism and an exaggeration of facts.”
A bit of background first: In 2009 a minor girl was raped in a Madh Island hotel in Mumbai. Locals then requested cops to conduct surprise raids on hotels to check crimes. As the years went by, a regime changed happened, and suddenly a raid in 2015 became “a war on sex”. Soon internet commentators began presenting the 2015 raid in isolation, questioning if we are “now becoming” a nanny state? Is the new Government indulging in Moral Policing etc. Again, a fact, taken out of context, spun and sensationalized, to target a Government. While random raids maybe justified, the haphazard handling of the suspects by the cops should have be questioned. But it soon turned into a slugfest accusing the new Maharashtra Government of moral policing. It is also important to note that the locals welcomed these raids.
The Government invoked Section 1(d), Section 1(g) and Section 1(e) of Rule 6 of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 and asked TV channels why they should not face action by airing certain content which “showed disrespect to the judiciary and the President of India”. Whatever be the merits of this case, the usual suspects began raising the bogey of “Modi Government throttling media” etc. Mihir Sharma even went on to challenge people:
And those who constantly claim equivalence b/w UPA & NDA, do remind me of the time UPA used I&B Ministry to shut down TV reportage/opinion.
— Mihir Sharma (@mihirssharma) August 8, 2015
And reminded he was. Rightly or wrongly, the current Government was just following cues from the past regimes. In 2012 an advisory was issued based on the same rule 6 (1) e. In 2013 an advisory from the Government “threatened TV news channels with cancellation of their licences for comparing the prime minister with leaders of other political parties“. So is this a a new problem? Or is it something all Governments in India have been doing?
In an inept response to a PIL in the Supreme Court, the Indian Government went on to ban Porn sites in India. Stupid? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes. First time? NO. In 2013 too, the Government went for “a blanket ban on several websites” hosting Porn. Difference in reactions to both the bans is stunning. While media commentators linked the 2015 ban to a “cultural agenda” of BJP, did you hear such voices in 2013? Or did they echo in chorus that the 2013 UPA Government just doesn’t understand the internet? Two wrongs do not make a right, but wrongs done by different people need to be dealt similarly?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is enforcing a ban on sale of meat in Mumbai on 4 days which are the days of Jain ritual of Paryushan. The action, seems retrograde considering why should an entire city suffer for the festival of a community. No sooner did this news come, we had MSM and other commentators again linking this to BJP’s “agenda”. But again is this something new? Apparently not. In 2004, during the highly secular rule of Congress-NCP, the State Government itself had passed a similar resolution, where the BMC was asked to shut down slaughter houses during the Jain fasting season. In 2011 too, another Municipal corporation had enforced similar bans for 3 days which Jains consider holy. This report suggests that such bans were in place from at least 2008. In 2012, even the High Court forbade the sale of meat during Paryushan.
These are just 5 recent examples, which were news from the past one month. If we want to go back further, we can talk about Maharashtra Beef Ban response, even when Beef was banned in many Indian states for decades. And these are only a few incidents. We’re sure we’d have missed a few. And we’re equally sure that many more will come.
The takeaways from this trend can be:
A. Ruling parties may change, but at least in some aspects “Governance” has remained the same.
Despite being traditionally the ‘conservative’ party, BJP of late has attracted support of constituencies that are libertarians, so the party should change its mindset if it respects its voters. Also, if the party speaks against ‘appeasement’ of Muslims, it can’t be seen doing the same to another group (as in the case of meat ban for Jain festival), even though this was done by past regimes. It is simple, if you claim to be different from the rest, you truly have to be different.
B. Media will try to link each and every happening to its narrative of a “Fascist Government” even without acknowledging that some or many of these actions may have been endorsed by “secular” Governments in the past.
Here again, one cannot muzzle the media, but BJP spokespersons have to be sharper. Many of them appeared clueless on some of the above issues and it was upto social media to dig up the archives.
Once again, we are not justifying actions of the current Government by showing the past. Each of the above action is debatable, some even grossly wrong. But it shows how MSM is ready to cherry pick data and create a new narrative or stick it to a narrative which has already been created. In this case the chosen narrative is “India is becoming a fascist country under Modi”. The last narrative was “Christians under attack” when robberies were called “communal vandalisms”.