Update: Media reports now suggest that the Spokesperson of Home Ministry has now clarified that the Minister’s statement was based on inputs from security agencies:
#BREAKING Home Min's statement (on Hafiz Saeed- Lashkar-JNU link) is based on consolidated input from security agencies: MHA Spokesperson
— IndiaTodayFLASH (@IndiaTodayFLASH) February 14, 2016
Today, speaking on the issue of the anti-national slogans at JNU, Rajnath Singh said that he has instructed the police to take action on the guilty and ensure than no innocent students are harassed. He further added that the entire event had the backing of Hafiz Saeed.
This last statement of his got plenty of flak from social media. Reason? The statement of Hafiz Saeed backing the JNU protests was from a fake Twitter handle (the handle has now been suspended/deactivated). (Edit: He may well have intelligence information on this, but as of now no such facts have been placed on record by him and the Delhi Police which comes under HMO has also quoted this fake tweet) Journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai jumped at this statement from the Home Minister:
A fake Twitter handle of Hafiz Saeed being cited and then used by home minister? Banana republic or what?? Some rationality please.
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) February 14, 2016
So where did Rajnath Singh get this information from? He might have actually read that tweet, but considering that the account had only 2000 odd followers, its reach is highly suspect. He might have got this information from the media though, because CNN IBN itself had reported this “news” a few days back. The report is now deleted, but we have the screenshots:
Yes, a premier news organization like CNN IBN had reported this tweet from a fake handle as a news item. There were also a few journalists who had raised an alarm based on this tweet. Indian Media, which is supposed to verify and check facts before reporting, itself failed at this basic check. And it is entirely possible that this report, which had become viral, might have been trusted by Rajnath Singh too.
And this is not the first time Indian media has taken quotes from fake accounts/satirical pieces and shown it as news. If you have been reading OpIndia.com regularly, you would know we have been repeatedly pointing out all the occasions when Indian media has spread blatant lies, which innumerable politicians have fallen for.
Rajnath Singh too has been on the receiving end of blatant lies by Indian media. In November 2015, Outlook in its article, made a passing comment that Rajnath Singh has said “Modi is first Hindu ruler after 800 years “. This was from an article dated November 16 2015. A good two weeks later this came into focus as CPM leader Mohd Salim used this alleged quote of Rajnath Singh to stir up the Intolerance debate and cause a huge furore. He placed reliance on and even quoted the above mentioned Outlook piece. Rajnath Singh denied it and rightly so, because he had never made such a statement. It was in fact said by VHP leader Ashok Singhal almost a year back. This was widely reported at that time yet Outlook chose to lie on this issue.
Other cases where Indian media reported “news” based on satire/parody sources:
In 2011, Shekhar Gupta wrote and Indian Express published a piece where Gupta (of Military Coup fame) quoted from the Twitter feed of “Fake Jhunjhunwala”, assuming it to be from the real one, the stock broker Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. They later had to apologise for this idiocy.
In March last year, Rajdeep Sardesai’s own media house India Today had reported that Sadhvi Prachi had said “Valdimir Putin’s original name is Vaarahmihir Putr Singh”. The truth? This news report was based on a satirical post by an India Today publication itself. How thick can you be if you can’t recognise satire from your own media house? Or was it deliberate?
In May 2015, ABP News reported that Arvind Kejriwal had called Akshay Kumar’s Gabbar is Back “Nonsensical”. Again, this was based on a satirical piece in Times of India’s “Mocktail” section.
In August 2015, CNN IBN again, reported that Pakistani commentator Syed Tarikh Pirzada had said Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal must break Hindus on caste line to break India. This too was based on a tweet by a parody account.
In September 2015, Rediff.com reported that former Finance Minister Arun Shourie had attacked Narendra Modi. Rediff believed that an unverified twitter handle called “@ArunSFan” with barely 2286 followers, was the real handle of former Finance Minister Arun Shourie. This inspite of the fact that the handle clearly mentions in its bio that it is run by “Fans of Arun Shourie” and is a “Parody account”
These are of course beyond the over 200 lies told to us by Indian media over the last year. Rajdeep Sardesai himself has been involved in many such half-truths and whole lies and we have exposed him repeatedly on twitter:
— OpIndia.com (@OpIndia_com) September 28, 2015
— OpIndia.com (@OpIndia_com) September 28, 2015
— OpIndia.com (@OpIndia_com) August 19, 2015
Ultimately, it is a good thing that at least by virtue of Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s gaffe, Indian media has woken up to parody handles and fake news. Let us hope we get a better level of journalism henceforth and till then we request all readers of MSM, including the Home Minister, to verify news independently.