Home Fact-Check Top lies spread by the mainstream media in the year 2016

Top lies spread by the mainstream media in the year 2016

Year 2016 has been like every other year for Indian media. Imaginary reports, blatant lies, gross malicious misreporting have been the hallmark of the year, yet again. We bring to you, the Top 10 media lies of 2016:

1. Deaths due to Demonetisation

A major lie which was propagated by the media regarding demonetisation was the “deaths due to demonetisation” narrative. Last year we had the “Churches under attack” narrative and this year this.

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In this piece, economist and columnist Rupa Subramanya took apart this propaganda, by sifting through the evidence. Subramanya showed us that, in most of the cases, someone died, shortly after demonetisation but there was no credible causal link between the two events. Also many of these stories had only a single source suggesting perhaps the version of the stories presented didn’t seem entirely credible even to other news organisations. In some cases even the family members of the deceased refused to blame demonetisation. Propaganda at its very best.

2. The JNU videos: Kanhaiya shouted seditious slogans and Pakistan Zindabad slogans were chanted at JNU

Arguably one of the biggest controversies of the year, was seen on the campus of JNU. First, we had News X and India News airing a doctored video of Kanhaiya Kumar, claiming it to be seditious. What Kanhaiya actually said was “Azadi” from social evils such as casteism etc. But the above 2 media houses showed this video by cutting the social evils part and showing Kanhaiya shouting only Azadi. Times Now too, in a way, did telecast the video, when Arnab egged Sambit Patra to show the video from his tablet, during a newshour debate.

The second lie was that some students at JNU were shouting slogans of Pakistan Zindabad at JNU. This video was later used by the likes of Kejriwal to claim ABVP was behind such slogans. What was actually a group of students, presumably from ABVP, shouting “Bhartiya Court Zindabad”, was shown by Zee News as if they were saying “Pakistan Zindabad”.

The police report abut JNU did not mention “Pakistan Zindabad” as a slogan but had many other slogans such as “Bharat ki barbaadi”, “Bharat tere Tukde honge” etc. The Delhi District Magistrate, in his report, also stated that the slogan can neither be “clearly heard” in the video, “nor in the transcripts of the JNU videos shot by the security staff”. This he says, showed that even the cops had doubts about this slogan. Even the ABVP students we spoke to confirmed that the slogans were “Bharatiya Court Zindabad” i.e. long live Indian Courts as a counter to the claims of “judicial killing” of Afzal Guru.

Some media houses then went on to suggest that ABVP shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans, which was as big a lie as saying other JNU students shouted that slogan. Arvind Kejriwal was among the persons who spread this lie later picked up by media.

3. Murthal gang-rapes during Jat agitation

In February this year, Haryana saw violent protests by the Jat community, who were demanding reservations. Apart from arson and loot , there were claims that the protesters had raped some women who were travelling in private vehicles at Murthal in Haryana on the Delhi-Ambala national highway on the night of 22nd February.

A media report published in The Tribune, quoted the owner of a dhaba saying that a victim had come to his dhaba in naked condition. However, when ABP News asked him about the same, he denied being a witness to any such incident. Another eyewitness, a truck driver, also claimed that he had seen nothing and was in fact asked by the media persons to claim otherwise.

A more explosive report, filed by a reporter named Tarique Anwar, was published by Firstpost.com, which claimed to have an account of a rape victim. It quoted the victim, her husband, her mother, and even police officers. It was only in December, that it was proved that this entire report was fabricated. Firstpost had taken down the post with an apology and the reporter had been fired. The Punjab and Haryana High Court was suggested by its Amicus Curiae to prosecute the journalist and reports claimed he had admitted to his crime of fabricating evidence in the court.

4. BJP MLA breaks Uttarakhand horse’s leg

In March this year, all of India media was united in saying BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi was “caught on camera”,  “mercilessly” beating a horse and breaking the horse’s leg in a “beastly attack. The video based on which all media reports were framed showed the BJP MLA swinging a lathi in front of the horse. The sound suggested that the lathi was hitting the ground, and not the horse, which could have been done to scare away the horse. The stick was being wielded in-front of the horse while the horse’s hind leg was injured. How?

From the video footage one could clearly see that one of the protesters pulled something off a policeman riding the horse and in the commotion, the horse which was back-tracking tripped over what seems to be a step, fell, and hit a protruding metal rod. The horse’s leg was never hit by anyone but it got hurt when it hit the metal rod. Much after the initial outrage, some media houses began slyly admitting that the horse’s legs buckled and got stuck in a railing, which caused the injury, and not the BJP MLA’s stick.

5. Gau Rakshaks target Mumbai man Barun Kashyap for carrying leather bag

Barun Kashyap, made headlines this year when he claimed that he was abused and threatened by some gau-rakshaks (cow protectors) after they mistook his bag as made of cow leather. He wrote about his experience in a Facebook post, which was made popular on social media by self-declared liberal activists and some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders who vouched for the 24-year-old executive being the “gentlest, most soft spoken kid”. His version of the story was reported by the mainstream media as gospel truth, and there was the usual commentary about how there was “rising intolerance” in India and how “right wing” elements were making India a “Hindu Taliban”.

However, on social media, people challenged Barun’s narrative and asked him to provide details and pictures to prove his claims. But instead of providing those details, Barun deleted the Facebook post itself. Almost 2 months later, after police investigated the case, it turned out that the culprits were not some gau-rakshaks but Barun Kashyap himself, who allegedly made up this entire story to create some news and gain some popularity. Police informed that the CCTV footage of the area and Barun’s mobile locations didn’t match the story claimed by the “creative” director. Even the vehicle registration number provided by Barun and the sketch of the auto-driver didn’t match any real auto or person after talking to about 180 auto drivers in that region. It was also noticed that Kashyap’s statements had significantly changed from his original claims.

6. Defence Minister Parrikar said “our” teams were working on the Boycott Snapdeal movement

This lie never dies, as we showed just last week how NDTV’s anchor Nidhi Razdan repeated this lie on her show. The entire issue is based on translating Manohar Parrikar’s speech, made in Marathi, at a defence event. Some in the media reported the translation as Parrikar saying that “our” team was working on the Boycott Snapdeal movement, after Aamir Khan’s controversial remark.

This one innocuous word “our” was then taken to construe that the BJP and the Government had its own team to boycott Snapdeal. We had analysed the video and put out a full translation, which revealed that at no stage did Parrikar use the word “our” for the team. He only claimed that he was aware of such a team working on it. The change in one word helped many liars to turn the narrative around.

7. Dalit boys thrashed by upper caste in Bassi, Chittorgarh

It all started with this Times of India story, titled: “3 Dalit teens stripped, beaten for stealing bike in Chittor”. According to the report, the boys stole a bike of an Upper caste man, and later a mob thrashed them. Nowhere did it cast any aspersions as to the constituents of the mob, but, a Times of India journalist, tweeted that the boys were “stripped & thrashed by upper caste”. This tweet was the used by many, including Barkha Dutt, who had earlier been caught spreading hysteria during the Christians under attack routine. Zee News also made a report on this, followed by AAP leaning blog, Janata Ka Reporter.

But even as this narrative was being peddled, other reporters and media houses reported that the arrested suspects belong to Meena (ST) and Dhakad (OBC) communities. The police also said that the robbers belonged to the nomadic tribe Kanjar & that they had been involved in criminal activities in the past and were charge-sheeted in two cases of theft. The police also said it was not a “caste crime”, since most of the 13 accused belong to either SC or ST categories.

8. New 2000 rupees note has a nano chip

Demonetisation saw a record number of rumours fly in media and social media, claiming all sorts of things. One of the biggest rumour was in fact spread by the media itself, including channels like Zee News and Aaj Tak. Both these channels claimed that the new Rs 2000 notes were fitted with some sort of nano GPS chips which made it easy for satellites to locate them. Of course, there is no chip.

9. Leonardo Di Caprio to attend RSS event to support beef ban

This has to be the most imaginative media lie of the year. Abusive “journalist” Swati Chaturvedi penned this masterpiece of fiction this year when she claimed that she had “exclusive” information that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was to host a grand event in London, with guests such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Sir David Attenborough and Richard Branson, while trying to push the message of a beef ban. She further went on to claim that she was told that “DiCaprio and Branson’s messages have already been received and are on song”.

Of course RSS denied this report from the very beginning categorically stating that “No Bollywood or Hollywood stars have been invited for the Mahashibir”. The event went on as scheduled and many media houses covered it. But not a single reported the presence of any of the above celebrities. There was no mention even of the messages received in advance, as claimed by Chaturvedi. Neither did the Chaturvedi blow her own trumpet claiming that her “exclusive” was eventually found to be true. Either the stars were wearing invisibility cloaks, or the original “exclusive” was completely baseless. Quite clearly, the report sprung from a fertile imagination.

10. Despite Gadkari’s Tall Claims, Road Construction Is Way Behind Target

This is a classic case of how to twists facts to suit a narrative. Bloomberg Quint, which claims to be a business magazine, made elementary “mistakes” in this piece. In this post, the journalists sourced their “data” from the NHAI page and included ONLY NHAI built roads in their article. The reality is that the Ministry headed by Mr Gadkari has 3 core divisions under it:

  • The NHAI
  • The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL)
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH).

All three combined fund and build highways in India. But the article took data from only one source and thus “proved” that the actual road construction speed was merely 15-16% of the target, when in fact, the performance on this aspect could very well be the best we have seen since independence. A detailed report explained this here.


Another major lie parroted this year was that the new Rafale deal was a big loss for India. These arguments was based on some half-cooked data, and weird analogies. We took them apart here.

For a complete list, visit this link.

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