With the advent of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, one journalist has suddenly shot to fame from relative obscurity. The name of the journalist is Vidya Krishnan and her reporters feature on numerous publications including The Caravan and The Atlantic. Although she claims to be a ‘health journalist’, she appears to be more interested in politics than the nitty-gritty of healthcare. In recent times, she has received attention in equal measure for her political biases as much for her ‘health journalism’, which has not been up to the mark.
In a The Caravan report titled “Modi administration did not consult ICMR-appointed COVID task force before key decisions”, Vidya Krishnan falsely claimed that many members of the COVID-19 Task Force are unaware of the decisions taken by the Indian Government under Prime Minister Modi. It was contended that experts were not aware of the government’s decision to extend the lockdown until the 3rd of May. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) refuted her claims through social media. The ICMR clarified that in the past one month, the Task Force had met 14 times and that all decisions taken involve the members of the Task Force.
It was not the first time that Vidya Krishnan has spread lies about the Indian Government’s response to the pandemic, however. In an earlier report, she falsely claimed that “at two separate press briefing held on Friday, both the health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research—also a government body—rejected the possibility of local transmission”. But that is a completely false claim, because the Indian Council of Medical Research has already stated that by March 14, 2020, India was already at stage 2 of transmission, which means local transmission.
As it turns out, at least for The Caravan, Vidya Krishnan has not written one single positive report about the Indian healthcare industry. The Indian healthcare system may not be very good and requires vast vast improvements, however, it is perplexing that there isn’t a single positive story to report about the industry in six long years.
Al Jazeera has carried only two reports by Vidya Krishnan and they tell a similar story.
Additionally, in a report penned by Vidya Krishnan and published by The Atlantic, a distorted image of the Indian Flag was used. In the report, India’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus was again denigrated and the hallowed Ashoka Chakra was replaced with an artistic representation of the Wuhan Coronavirus.
The reports that Vidya Krishnan has penned for The Atlantic, too, are of a similar nature. They are unidirectional in their approach and sorely critical of the Indian response to the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Vidya Krishnan been mocking Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to raise awareness by wearing homemade masks during his interactions. She claimed that the Prime Minister wearing a mask during a video conference somehow suggested ‘tokenism’ and a lack of ‘common sense’ in India’s response to the Chinese virus. Meanwhile, India has been lauded by the likes of the World Health Organisation for its efforts in containing the pandemic. And anyone with half a brain and devoid of any motivated agenda would be aware that the Narendra Modi was only trying to lead by example at a time when masks have proven to be effective in combating the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, the ‘health journalist’ also appears to be working overtime to run cover for the Tablighi Jamaat and its horrendous conduct that has severely jeopardized India’s efforts to contain the pandemic. She compared the contribution of the Tablighi Jamaat to the Coronavirus cases in India to that of the ISKCON in the United Kingdom, even though the two are not even in the same plane. Tablighi Jamaat occupies a lion’s share of the total number of COVID-19 cases in India while in the UK, ISKCON makes up only a minuscule proportion of it.
Vidya Krishnan has also been deeply invested in slandering journalists who have reported on the manner in which significant sections of the Muslim community have flouted guidelines issued by the government to combat the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. According to her, the journalists should follow ‘WHO guidelines’ instead of reporting facts on the matter. The same WHO whose credibility lies in tatters after it was found running propaganda for the Chinese government.
Vidya Krishnan has also been going around claiming that the Indian Government is obstructing journalist from reporting facts on the issue of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. In an interview she gave to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), she claimed, “One of the things that I’m genuinely concerned about is the threats in my inbox. I don’t have a correct threat perception for it, because an email is just an email, but then I know from experience and from having common friends with Gauri Lankesh, that she used to get a lot of hate like that, up until someone showed up at her home one day and shot her. I constantly tell myself that’s not going to happen, but that is in my head.
Vidya Krishnan also claimed that she feared the kind of ‘judicial harassment’ that The Wire is facing. In reality, Siddharth Varadarajan and The Wire are in the dock for spreading blatant fake news about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath by attributing fake quotes to him. She makes several other dubious allegations which is consistent with the kind of reporting she has been engaging in.
The Board of Directors of the CPJ include journalists and persons from the New York Times, NBC, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera and The New Yorker among others. Such outlets have regularly flouted all journalistic norms and ethics and if such abuses were committed by any organization in any other sector, there would have been serious repercussions. But when one is engaged in the business of shaping public opinion, there is a lot that organizations can get away with.
Quite clearly, Vidya Krishnan may be a ‘health journalist’ but her motivations are purely political. Nothing else explains her resolute defense of Tablighi Jamaat or spreading mala fide lies about the government and its response to the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. To be clear, there are various issues regarding which greater transparency from the government would be appreciated. For instance, the religious demography of those infected and the deceased as well as it would help toward formulating better public policies.
Similarly, there are issues where the Government of India could be criticized legitimately. For instance, its failure to provide greater transparency into the social groups most affected by the virus or its decision to go forward with Home Quarantine which was often flouted by people instead of quarantining the in secure places. These decision are indeed worthy of criticism and ought to be criticized but somehow, the government has hardly received any criticism on such matters but has been criticized widely on issues that it has been remarkably proactive in. Such criticism reeks of mala fide intentions. And this is something Vidya Krishnan is acutely guilty of.