Thursday, February 15, 2018

Indian Media's Hall of Shame: TV channels airing fake news to spread propaganda, fan communal hatred, divide society

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi 

It is not easy to describe what is happening in India [and Indian media] right now.

Top media houses that were once considered trustworthy and had set standards of journalism, have fallen into disgrace.

They not only promote fake news, shamelessly, but reward journalists who fan hatred through fake stories based on rumours, morphed photos or tweets of parody accounts.

TV anchors seem to be hell-bent on destroying communal harmony and tearing apart the social fabric of the country. The focus is not on news but on propagating falsehoods and spreading hate.

Ethics have been thrown off the window. Any false claim can be made and any incident can be twisted to suit the agenda. This is happening in the world's biggest democracy, round the clock.

Each and every day, several anchors on half-a-dozen Hindi-English TV channels are trying to outdo each other in how much fake news they can spread and how much they could do to divide Indian society on religious lines.

This is just unbelievable. Till a few years ago, one couldn't even imagine that Indian media would fall to such levels. Journalists who refuse to toe the line are being shown the door. However, those who spread venom day in and day out, are getting rewarded.

These channels have been demonizing Muslims. And the result is that there have been murders all over the country. Right-wing fanatics like Shambhu Bhawani burnt a man dead and shot his video.

Even after dozens of hate crimes and killings like that of Akhlaq, Pahlu Khan and Junaid, these channels continue to spread hate. This is an organised propaganda war that is being run from TV studios.

It all started with Times Now, the news channel of Times of India group. During the UPA tenure, it was known for anti-establishment line. But once BJP government came to power, it stopped questioning the government.

The focus was now on Army, patriotism, Hindu-Muslim issues. Soon, it was playing up non-issues, spreading hatred and focusing on divisive issues.

After Arnab Goswamy's exit, another such channel was born--Republic.

Aroon Purie's India Today already had anchors who were trying to outdo Arnab.

Soon, they were also given a free hand. Initially, they tried to maintain some balance with one or two anchors trying to be moderate but the mask fell, quickly.

Of course, Zee News was doing for long. In fact, it was the first channel that openly started airing motivated and fictional reports.

Zee News was instrumental in stoking communal passions with its reporting on Kairana.

It falsely claimed that there was a Hindu exodus. This style was later picked up by other 'respected channels' too.

A petition urging Information and Broadcasting Ministry to ban Zee News, was also launched.

Thousands signed the petition, then. In those days, Zee News was the lone channel that was blatantly doing it. LINK 1 and LINK 2

It didn't take much longer. Other channels too followed it, within the next couple of years.

Thanks to AltNews that exposes propaganda and fake reports, we have a compilation, umpteen examples on a regular basis, how hate and propaganda are being peddled in the form of news.

India Today: Gold plated journalism: India Today and fake news
Times Now: A compilation of Times Now’s experiments with untruth
Aaj Tak: One tale, two narratives, reportage on Kasganj violence

Its Hindi version, Aaj Tak, has no dearth of such anchors whose sole job seems to fan hatred between communities, chiefly Hindus and Muslims. Rather than questioning government on its failures, the channels try their best to 'divert attention by setting agenda'.

Subhash Chandra, an icon! In a way, he was an icon. He was the person who set up the first TV channel after the state owned Doordarshan. Zee was a pioneering venture and though Chandra's proximity with BJP was known, the channel has

Their favourite topics are same--Kashmir, Muslims, Love Jihad, Triple Talaq, Patriotism, Army, JNU, Fatwas (even if there is none issued) just to name a few. Those called for debates are also people who can shout the loudest and suit their agenda.

When people may be dying of encephalitis in UP or farmers committing suicide in Central India due to crop loss, they shift focus by setting agenda on the basis of 'fake video clips or tweets' and turn studios on fire.

These TV channels can go to any extent to further their agenda. The aim is take forward the narrative of the right-wing extremists. During the recent communal riot in Kasganj, news agencies and TV channels (their editors) were acting like propagandists.

A person who was not on the spot was claimed to be dead to whip up communal frenzy. Within a few years, Indian media has seen this transformation. Initially, it appeared that certain anchors were doing it, on their own. But soon it was clear that the owners are responsible.

Owners are complicit and this has been proved time and again. An anchor who was arrested on extortion charges and sent to jail, has been promoted and given a free run (to spread propaganda and hatred) for years at Zee News.

When an India Today group journalist tweeted that anchors were allowed to whip up communal frenzy without even naming any person or group, India Today group sacked her.

It is clearly visible that the owners are complicit in this organised campaign. There is no attempt to stop this propaganda. However, in process, they have fallen from grace, lost all respect and ensured the death of credibility of the 'mainstream media' in India.

Media honchos seem to have sold their souls. Media has been reduced to completely take focus off pressing issues and divert attention towards non-existent issues by fanning communal hatred. Perhaps, it suits government. This is all too evil and sinister to say the least.

But one positive thing has come out of it. All masks have fallen. Sab mukhaute utar gaye. Aur sab ki credibility ka kriya-karm ho gaya.

READWorld must Wake Up: Indian TV channels, media houses, anchors involved in Nazi-style propaganda against Muslims