Indian media’s role while covering the elections in Uttar Pradesh is already under the scanner. Questions are being raised as to the neutrality of media houses who have benefited from the UP Government’s largess’. Questions are being asked of soft-ball interviews and of biased media reporting. But now media has gone beyond bias, and into lies.
As PM Modi went into overdrive while campaigning in his constituency of Varanasi, lies too went into overdrive. In this “post-truth” world, we saw controversial journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s moral compass pointing out a gross impropriety:
As can be seen from the above tweets, Rajdeep Sardesai had spotted BHU Vice Chancellor Mr Tripathi, at a roadshow of PM Modi. Rajdeep used this to raise political questions over the autonomy of BHU. Far left leader Kavita Krishnan quickly picked up where Rajdeep left:
BHU VC joined Modi road show, makes women students sign affidavit they won’t do politics, cites ‘service rules’ to ban politics for faculty
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) March 4, 2017
Soon, leftist media outlets followed. TheWire tweeted this:
— The Wire (@thewire_in) March 5, 2017
If the Left is here, AAP can’t be left behind. AAP mouthpiece JanataKaReporter too reported this news, and was promptly pimped by Leftist AAP leader Atishi Marlena
Associate Editor at Catch News Aditya Menon, who was earlier caught circulating pictures from Syria to stoke tension in Kashmir, wrote an article titled: Why BHU VC’s participation in PM Modi’s Varanasi campaign violates rules. Rest assured then, since so many “responsible” media houses, politicians and journalists had vetted this, the BHU VC had indeed gone to Modi’s rally.
But, with Indian media, one has to be extra-careful. Rahul Kanwal tweeted yesterday that the same BHU vice chancellor GC Tripathi, who was seen at the Modi rally by Rajdeep Sardesai, had revealed that in fact he had not participated in the rally at all!
VC of BHU Girish Tripathi strongly denies charge that he participated in the @PMOIndia road show. Says will sue. Demands proof or apology.
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) March 5, 2017
Today, a report also quoted the VC as saying he had seen the entire event from the comfort of his office! He said:
I was watching the whole proceedings on television from my office that day. Claims about I being present at the rally were malicious attempts to defame me and the university. I am ready for any punishment if these allegations are proven true. One malicious journalist started the whole thing by spreading lies on Twitter.
And less than an hour before the above report was published, Sardesai admitted on twitter that he had goofed up, leading Indian media on a wild-goose chase:
The pics of BHU VC at Modi roadshow have turned out to be case of ‘mistaken identity’. Apologising to him and withdrawing tweet.
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) March 6, 2017
In the intervening period, TheWire.in and CatchNews also deleted their stories which were based on Rajdeep’s lies. In this “post-truth” world where Twitter and Facebook are being asked to control fake-news, will they stand up to verified liars like Sardesai? Or will Sardesai now claim that his twitter account was hacked, like the time he claimed when he had sent abusive direct messages to social media users?