The Delhi Union of Journalists and its Gender Council condemn the arbitrary sacking of editor Angshukanta Chakraborty by the India Today group for a personal tweet opposing hate news and fake news and demanding action against its purveyors. Her Feb. 4 tweet said: “Promoters turning a blind eye to hate-mongering, fake news spreading anchors, editors, reporters and writers, or hiring them in the first place, must be tried in court as hate speech enablers-profiteers. Must be boycotted socially by secular politicians & industrialists”.
DUJ endorses this bold woman journalist’s views. She has made a clear call for action against hate speech and fake news. The India Today group should have commended her for taking a strong stand against the dilution of professional standards by circulation of fake news. It should also have commended her for forthrightly condemning hate speech that is spreading like a canker in the country. Did the group choose to victimize her instead because the criticism came too close to home?
The DUJ has observed the increasing tendency among several journalists of the India Today group to spread fake news, particularly through its news channel Aaj Tak. Most recently, Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap in her Feb. 14 show spread the fake news that Maulana Atif Qadri had issued a fatwa against a young actor Priya Warrier for hurting Muslim sentiments. The tweet attributed to the Maulana said: “whenever we or our fellow Muslim brothers closed our eyes to offer Namaz, instead of Allah, her face would appear….” This obviously absurd tweet came from a parody account labeled ‘Times How’ but the anchor used it to spread anti-Muslim propaganda. It was also an excuse to display a young woman actor’s ‘sensational’ wink at her boyfriend – top news, according to this channel.
Several instances of the spread of communally charged fake news by its journalists has gone unreprimanded by the India Today group. Rohit Sardana, another AajTak anchor, did some highly objectionable reporting and tweeting on the Kasganj riots, alleging in tweets that the riots had been triggered because Muslims did not let Hindus unfurl the Indian flag. Another staffer, Abhijit Majumder, editor of Mail Today, falsely tweeted that one Rahul Upadhyaya had been killed in the riots. Upadhyay later walked into a police station to state that he was alive and well. India Today Anchor Gaurav Sawant conducted an entire prime time debate on the murder of a young man in communally volatile Uttar Kannada, alleging that Paresh Mesta had been tortured, castrated, his head cut open and boiling oil poured on his face. Later the Forensics Department and the Karnataka police categorically denied these allegations. The Alt News has documented many instances of such dangerous, inflammatory fake news put out by the group’s senior journalists; so have others like The Wire and The Scroll.
The India Today group has claimed that it is the “gold standard” in Indian journalism today but these and many similar instances of hate mongering and spreading of fake news during communally charged times by its senior journalists seems to reflect the group’s own pro-Hindutva, pro-BJP bias. The group has much to answer for. Scapegoating a young journalist for having the courage to speak out, however indirectly, only brings its own dubious record under the scanner
(S K Pande) — President
Sujata Madhok — General Secretary
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