Truthiness Labs: This is how easily TV news got you to hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in a JNU video

Truthiness Labs: This is how easily TV news got you to hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in a JNU video

How did we all fall for this?

By Manisha Pande

Published on :

Before the now infamous Delhi High Court order came the curious first information report. On February 11, Delhi Police filed an FIR in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj North police station based on reports aired on Zee News.

Despite the fact that its constables — Rambir, Karambir and Dharmbir (true story) — were present at the Jawaharlal Nehru University on the evening of February 9 and witnessed the sloganeering that took place, the report largely relies on Zee News’ video footage of the event to make its case.

The FIR notes that students could be heard shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” in Zee News’ footage. This assertion (as well as some other videos) has been pivotal to the JNU row and now comes under a cloud. The forensic report commissioned by the Delhi government says three of the seven videos depicting “anti-national” events at JNU were doctored. The report is part of the District Magistrate’s fact-finding report, which says, “these [seven] videos were selected to understand the correctness of the different point of views being propagated by differing groups”.

The forensic examination was carried out by Hyderabad-based Truth Labs. Newslaundry examined the report to know more about the doctored videos. 

But first, the deception.

Can you hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’?

On February 24, Zee News’ Editor Sudhir Chaudhary launched a blistering attack on the “Afzal premi gang” for stating that Zee News had aired doctored footage.

He quoted Mark Twain to elaborate how lies spread faster than truth.

Towards the end of the show, he played Zee News’ footage from February 9 and asked his viewers if they could hear the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad”. After playing the clip, he signed off with: “Agar aapke kaan bilkul sahi hai aur aap ke ander theek thaak sun ne ki shamta abhi hai, toh aapko ismain ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ ke naare zaroor sunai denge.” (“If your ears are fine and if you have the capacity to listen, you will definitely hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.”)

Chaudhary is partly right. According to the forensic report, the February-9 clip he shows is “authentic” and “representing actual events”. (It is part of a YouTube video examined by Truth Labs.) However, Chaudhary is on shaky ground if you examine how Zee News used this “authentic” video.

The clip was first aired by Zee News on February 10, with a blurb inserted right before the sloganeering becomes audible. It reads: “Pakistan Zindabad.” And indeed what you hear next sounds similar.

Truthiness Labs: This is how easily TV news got you to hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in a JNU video

A few days later, reports stated that ABVP members had allegedly shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” to frame students from Left-wing groups.

Interestingly, Zee News came to the defence of ABVP. On February 14, it aired the same clip it had aired on February 10. Only this time, the clip came with the blurb “Bharatiya Court Zindabad”, to make the point that ABVP was sloganeering in favour of the Indian courts.

Truthiness Labs: This is how easily TV news got you to hear ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in a JNU video

Notably, Zee News did not feel it was important to insert the bubble “Bharatiya Court Zindabad” on February 10. Neither did it feel it was important to state that there could have been two slogans: Pakistan Zindabad and Bharatiya Court Zindabad. Instead, it uses both slogans separately to suit the channel’s agenda of the day.

Various media reports based on “sources” and “investigations” have now come out stating that none of the JNU videos contained the “Pakistan Zindabad” slogan. We suggest you put on your earphones and listen carefully to make up your mind.

We slowed it down to make it easy for you.

Let’s play doctor doctored

The forensic report goes on to assert three videos were doctored. One of them was played by news channels.

We didn’t really need a forensic expert to clue us in on this one. Within days of it being broadcast on India News, a clearer (and funkier) version of the video had begun circulating on social media networks, making it clear that Kanhaiya Kumar was demanding freedom from oppressive ideologies, rather than freedom for Kashmir.

Apart from India News, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra showed this video on Times Now’s Newshour on Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s insistence.

Goswami urged Patra to “show the video” about seven times in a span of 20 seconds. After making a point on the need to verify the video, he goes on to say: “…if he did say these words, hum leke rahenge azaadi [we will claim our freedom], are you now going to say, we must now establish whether it was in the context of Kashmir or whether it was in a broad context when you know he is standing next to Umar Khalid…and if you make that argument will someone accuse you of also being blind to the facts that are coming there in your face?”

Goswami then asks a panellist, “What does he mean when he says hum leke rahenge azaadi?” He later smiles after the suggestion that Kumar’s slogans were in reference to women and Dalits before conceding that the video should be verified.

India News, though, took the theory of guilt-by-random-association to the next level. In a show broadcast with the express aim of showcasing the channel’s responsible journalism, the anchor stated that since Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar were seen together on February 9 and February 11 at JNU, one could conclude the “azaadi” slogans Kumar raised pertained to Kashmir.

Then, the anchor presents the videos by saying one can clearly hear “Kashmir ki azaadi” slogans being chanted by Khalid and Kumar. We couldn’t. Tell us if you can.

We reached out to Deepak Chaurasia of India News for his version and he told us “we have not run any doctored footage”. We emailed a set of questions to Goswami and asked if Times Now would consider apologising for the oversight or putting a disclaimer on the Newshour video that is still sitting on the website. We also reached out to Sudhir Chaudhary for his comments on Zee News’ footage. We have yet to receive a response from Goswami and Chaudhary. The story will be updated as and when they respond.

The forensic report states that the second doctored video is “associated with the user account ‘Shilpi Tewari’”. It was reported that Tewari is a close aide of Union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani.

The Extras

In comparison to these two, the remaining videos are almost boring in their deviousness. More pertinently, Newslaundry could not find the third doctored video in any of the mainstream news channels. If you spot it anywhere, let us know. On YouTube, it’s labelled “Very Shocking & Disturbing Video From JNU #Shame”.

The forensic report states that the word “bandook” [gun] could have been inserted into the recording, at around 5 minutes, 8 seconds, 327 milliseconds. You can hear the slogan “Bandook Ke Dum Par Azaadi” at around the same time in the video.

The other five videos that passed Truth Labs’ test contained pro-azaadi slogans you’d routinely hear in Kashmir.

With additional reporting by: Sourodipto Sanyal.