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How The Hindu justified not publishing anything other than the Left agenda and chided a reader in the process

There is no problem if the newspaper chooses to be biased. The problem occurs when the newspaper lectures about free speech and objective journalism and practices the exact opposite of what it preaches. A well-meaning suggestion to include two sides of a story is also shot down citing frivolous reasons without any proofs.

Earlier, The Hindu’s Readers’ editor (RE) chided a reader for correcting the newspaper that Ladakh and J&K are two different entities. The Readers’ editor alluded that this is equivalent to government propaganda and insisted that Ladakh is still part of J&K! 

Now, another reader gets chided for asking him to ensure that The Hindu publishes the opinions from all sides and not restrict itself to “left-leaning commentators”. In doing so, the reader gave two examples – 1) Learn from the New York Times (!) which recently published a controversial article. 2) Look at the coverage of anti-CAA in The Hindu and think why pro-CAA didn’t get enough coverage. 

The RE recounts the whole NYT saga on how they ended up withdrawing the article they had published and used that as a proof to show why opinions from all sides should not be published. He very conveniently skips the anti-CAA coverage in the newspaper. We had shown in an article here, how for the first 25 days after the CAA was passed, The Hindu had published 33 Op-Ed that was anti-CAA and only 1 Op-Ed that was pro-CAA. In addition to Op-Ed pieces, there were myriad articles and pictures trying to downplay the violence and the illogical rants of “intellectuals”. Or even during the coverage of “tukde tukde” gang, it was recorded in detail here how The Hindu always showed only one side of the story. 

And what does the RE respond when a reader points out the blatant biased coverage of the paper? He gives the following gyan:

No article should be published simply because it espouses an opposite viewpoint. Every article, irrespective of its political or ideological affinity, should pass some crucial editorial tests.”

Please note here that the suggestion by the reader was to not publish anything and everything. There is no dearth of good writers across the aisle. If The Hindu doesn’t want to find the writers who can write much better than their current lot of Op-Ed writers, why should the reader be chided for that? Let’s now take a look at the “editorial tests” that the RE thinks an article should pass? We are told that there are 4 questions that need to be answered.

‘Does the article normalise hate?’

What does “normalise hate” mean? Does publishing fake news on riot accused amount to normalize hate? How should we classify The Hindu’s editorial judgment that the massive verdict that Narendra Modi received in 2019 was merely an “electoral endorsement of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism”? Does classifying violence as “protest” equal normalizing hate?

Many such examples can be pulled out, but I think the point has been made. If The Hindu can so blatantly “normalize hate” then why does the RE think a pro-CAA article will “normalize hate”? 

‘Does it demonise the other?’

I think he means the article should not demonise the other side. An Op-ed analyzing the 2019 verdict tells us that “The Muslims have been told, once more, to remain stranded in their own islands of resentments and grievances.” Does this amount to “demonise the other”? 

You said that “The Delhi police did nothing when a gunman opened fire at anti-CAA protesters on January 30.”. This is in direct contrast to your own report that explained how the Delhi police nabbed the gunman almost immediately! So, in this case, are you demonizing the Delhi police? Do you remember this recent article where you demonized the Kashmir Pandits? Again, I can go on and on with many examples but I believe the point has been made. How is it that the RE cannot see the regular demonization of The Hindu of “the other”? 

‘Does it weaken the institutional mechanism of checks and balances?’

I am wondering how could the RE ask such a question about a newspaper that bungled up the whole Rafale story beyond belief! The same RE who carried out a sham “forensic investigation” to justify the cropping of a document by N.Ram to further his agenda, is now asking us this question?! What institutional checks and balances failed when you published an article in 2017 suggesting “bold economic steps” to be taken, conveniently forgetting that those exact steps were already taken by PM Modi? 

Many such examples can be cited but I think the point is made. Mysteriously, the loaded propaganda pieces day in and day out in The Hindu pass “the institutional mechanism of checks and balances” but The Hindu cannot even find a few articles that espouse the argument of the “other side”? Readers are tired of reading editorials on free speech but the same is not practised in the Op-Ed columns. How can this contradiction elude the Readers’ Editor? How can he not see the irony of publishing lies and half-truths yet claim that all these “pass the mechanism of checks and balances?”

‘Is it based on facts?’

Where so we start countering this question? It also strikes to me that the questions are mostly repetitive in nature. I mean, if it is not based on facts that it should automatically weaken the institutional mechanism of checks and balances. So, I don’t understand this urge to ask the same question by using different words. 

There is no problem if the newspaper chooses to be biased. The problem occurs when the newspaper lectures about free speech and objective journalism and practices the exact opposite of what it preaches. A well-meaning suggestion to include two sides of a story is also shot down citing frivolous reasons without any proofs.

The current RE, A.S. Panneerselvan is the third person to hold this post. The Hindu calls the RE as the Ombudsman. The first RE often discussed readers concerns. The second RE occasionally discussed readers concerns.  The third and the current RE, rarely discusses readers concerns and often ends up taking the side of the newspaper. It is time to ask the question – is the RE an Ombudsman or a Pamphleteer of the newspaper? 

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S. Sudhir Kumar
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