The Cyberabad police had recently faced widespread criticism for initiating action against a Hindu shopkeeper who had displayed the saffron flag on his cart, based on a tweet by a Muslim person who had claimed that the saffron flag by ‘Sanghis’ is promoting religious discrimination. Popular Twitter handle @theskindoctor who often posts photoshopped images for satirical purposes has shared another joke on social media mocking the incident. The post by him was clearly marked ‘satire’, with his handle name mentioned. However, the Cyberabad police, that seems to be missing any sense of humour or the realisation that citizens of India do still enjoy the freedom of expression, filed an FIR against the retired major for “spreading fake news”.
It is notable here that despite the image declaring that it is a satire, and obvious satirical lines in it, like “Deccan Cbronicle” for the name of the newspaper, a report by “Arfa Photoshopwani” and a line at the bottom that said, “Cyberabad police has been declared the most secular police in the world by UNESCO” the Cyberabad police have treated the image as ‘fake news’ and have filed a case against @skindoctor for it.
While one would expect the media establishment, that purports to believe in unbridled freedom of expression even for elements that scream ‘Bharat Tere Tukde Honge, Inshallah Inshallah”, to come out all guns blazing against the Cyberabad police for booking a retired major for a post that was clearly marked satire.
However, media houses like India Today had completely different plans.
The anchor can be heard saying multiple times that the retired major spread ‘fake news’ and spread a ‘morphed image’. The anchor also calls the news that Cyberabad police banning the sale of oranges was “bizarre news” and says that he was booked for “attempting to create communal divide”. She even calls the “fake news” “shameful”.
Interesting, throughout the broadcast, not once did the India Today anchor or the “journalist” who had “more information” on the case mention that the picture by Major Neelum Singh (rtd) had specifically mentioned that it was satire and thus, it could not amount to ‘fake news’.
It is interesting that India Today, whose journalist Rahul Kanwal touts their famed “Data Intelligence Unit’ could not even figure out that the picture was not “fake news” since it was marked satire and thus, the Cyberabad police should be called out for gross overreach.
The India Today coverage invited the ire of several Netizens as well.
Crap reporting. Clearly mentioned it was satire. pic.twitter.com/sQ7PIOAhKJ— Gooner P! (@Gunnerforeva_31) April 28, 2020
Clearly, simply because branding satire as “fake news” suits their agenda since it helps them peddle the narrative further that Hindus are now being “hateful” towards Muslims. However, the truth is far from it.
India Today as a brand and its anchor must answer if they as journalists endorse coercive police action against individuals publishing Satire. It is also worthy to note that time and again, the media establishment espouses the virtue of Freedom Of Expression, however, in this case, they have ended up endorsing an FIR for a satirical comment. What is worse is that India Today refused to even acknowledge that the post that Major Neelum Singh (rtd) has been booked for was clearly marked Satire.