Hindustan Times recently published a correction on a news report they had published earlier which spread fake news about budgetary allocation to infrastructure development. The fake news report claimed that there had been a 23% dip in infra funds when in reality, there had been an 8.2% increase.
The clarification read, “A February 4 story, headlined ‘23% dip in infra funds despite emphasis in Goyal’s speech,’ erroneously reported that the budgetary allocation for infrastructure declined from Rs.5.97 lakh crore in the financial year 2018-19 to Rs.4.56 lakh crore in 2019-20. The story should have said the budgetary allocation for infrastructure rose from Rs.5.97 lakh crore in 2018-19 to Rs.6.46 lakh crore in 2019-20, including ₹4.63 lakh crore of extra-budgetary support. The headline should have mentioned an 8.2% rise. The errors are regretted.”
Of course, HT ‘regrets’ the error but the damage was already done. The official handle of the Congress party tweeted the fake news story to attack acting Finance Minister Piyush Goyal and the BJP.
Pointing out the blatant media bias towards Congress and the lack of concern in retracting and apologising for erroneous reporting of facts, Twitter user Ankur Singh drew attention to the fact that the media outlet took several days to admit the error and correct their article. He also pointed it out that while the fake reports were actively promoted by Twitter, the corrected version was not.
HT wrote fake article, Twitter promoted it, Congress used it to target BJP @PiyushGoyal.
You think it’s all coincidence?
This is all planned and paid fake news.
Why do you think, it took them 1 week to check simple facts and clarify? pic.twitter.com/JO1DST8bMH
— अंकुर सिंह (@iAnkurSingh) February 9, 2019
The correction was offered by HT 5 days after the initial fake news report was published. That’s enough time for opposition parties to gain political mileage out of it. In a critical part of election season, 5 days is a lot of time. Such fake news reporting can have far-reaching consequences.
Piyush Goyal was also targeted by Indiaspend’s dubious ‘Factchecker’ after his budget speech. The ‘factchecker’ had claimed that Piyush Goyal’s claim of 268 mobile and parts manufacturing units was false. However, it was found that the ‘fact-check’ was fake news and Goyal’s claim was accurate.
Interestingly, such ‘errors’ always appear to benefit only one political party and harm their rivals. Only yesterday, The Hindu deliberately distorted a MoD document to spread misinformation about the Rafale deal. That gave Rahul Gandhi another opportunity to attack Prime Minister Modi only to have his lies busted once the full document surfaced.