Hope Express has not let Vishal Bhardwaj down

Indian Express is letting itself down so badly on the ethics of journalism that it’s a cause for concern for its loyal readers, more so since the Press Council of India (PCI) and Editors’ Guild appears an acquiescing party due to its silence.

Indian Express has a bottom-spread on its Monday’s Delhi edition where excerpts of film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj’s comments at Express Adda are quoted. The headline states: “TV News comedy circus…maybe Cinema must tell truth” (attributed to Bhardwaj).

However, Bharadwaj’s quote in the text-copy of the story states: “…present-day journalism…feels like a comedy show, it’s like a comedy circus.” Nowhere, Bhardwaj mentions TV news. He mentions present-day journalism. The readers have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj didn’t have Indian Express itself in mind, for all you know.

I suggest readers to read the full story.  Real quotes are added and subtracted to expand or reduce the newspaper’s own agenda/interpretation. For example, see this para below:

That was one of Bollywood’s most political filmmakers, Vishal Bhardwaj, opening up at the Express Adda Friday on why the industry hesitates to speak up when political controversies impact mainstream films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil, which faced calls for bans due to the casting of a Pakistani actor, and Padmavat, which withstood protests for its portrayal of Rajput queen Padmavati.

I have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj did take the name of films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil or Padmavat to make his point (for the full interview would only appear later this week) or whether the newspaper is adding this name to buttress its point/agenda. The above para of the newspaper insinuates he did though I seriously doubt so.

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Same is the case in another front page story Indian Express has on Monday, headlined: Godhra line in book: FIR against four for “misleading students on beloved PM.” This is on an academic book in circulation in Assam.

Just looking at this headline, it would appear the state is trying to muzzle the freedom of speech, neutrality of academic-text books, all because PM Narendra Modi has been portrayed in poor light.

Indian Express, in its report, doesn’t touch the concerned “line in book” till they are in the second-half of the story. The first half is all about a “well-known…90-year-old renowned publisher” and a description of three authors who have been “heads of political science department” of established colleges in Assam. (Shades of a certain retired son of a headmaster in the Valley by the name of Burhan Wani).

So here comes the relevant para on Godhra in the book which offended a couple of citizens enough to file an FIR against the authors and publishers:

“In this incident (burning of coach) 57 persons died including women and children. On the suspicion that Muslims were behind the incident, next day Muslims were mercilessly attacked in different parts of Gujarat. This violence continued for over a month and over a thousand people were killed. Most of those killed were Muslims. Significantly at the time of the violence, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was a silent spectator. Morever, there were allegations that the state administration helped the Hindus.”

Now let’s look at the FIR which states: “It’s well-known to you that Special Investigation Team (Sit) under the supervision of Supreme Court gave clean-sheet on PM Narendra Modi (sic) dated September 12, 2011, on the issue.”

Aren’t the complainants appear rightful on all counts to go ahead and file the FIR? By terming Modi government as silent spectator, aren’t authors suggesting complicity even as the Supreme Court gave a verdict to the contrary, giving clean chit to Modi, no less than seven years back? Doesn’t such mis-representation would only potentially lead to Hindu-Muslims tensions, may be communal clash and certainly a polarization between the two largest religious groups in the country? And what about the innocent children who are thus poisoned by half-truths? In a state, as sensitive to Hindu-Muslim polarization as Assam is?

Not a day passes by when I don’t read such reports in Indian Express which makes me squirm in my chair. As a practicing journalist, I see one guiding hand behind the reporters, sub-editors, headline-givers and positioning of stories on front-pages making them work in sync in antipathy to BJP/RSS. Whosoever this hand is: An activist editor, his employer and his leanings, or the forces keeping the newspaper in an ideological bind or otherwise, the fact is, it is anything but journalism. And that’s a betrayal most heinous to its readers by any newspaper in circulation.

 

Posted on: September 24, 2018, by : Ashish Shukla

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