The Wire‘s story on the “dramatic increase” in some of Jay Shah’s businesses pretty much broke the Internet, or at least Twitter, yesterday.
#AmitShahKiLoot and #LiesAgainstShah trended through the day, the former in support of the story and the latter to discredit it. Amid all of this, questions were also raised if the story was being blacked out by Big Media. But how true were these assertions?
Among the Delhi editions of the four leading English dailies, The Times of India, The Indian Express and the Hindustan Times put the story on the front page, while The Hindu published two reports on page 1o.
The lead story on October 9 Delhi edition of The Times of India was titled: “Amit Shah’s son slaps Rs 100 crore defamation suit on a website“, with two other inside stories on Politics & Policy page (Page 10). The report gave coverage to press conferences of both Congress leader Kapil Sibal and Union Minister of Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal, but in good old legacy media way decided not to name The Wire.
The Indian Express, on the other hand, ran a two-column front-page story titled: “Report on Shah’s son: Cong wants a probe, he says will sue for defamation”, which was continued on page 2. The Express report included both Goyal and Sibal’s statements.
The Hindustan Times put the story “Amit Shah’s son to sue news website for Rs 100 crore” at the bottom of the front page and continued it on page 9 with the headline “Web report on Shah’s son triggers political slugfest”. While HT included Goyal’s defence of Shah as well as Sibal’s allegations, the story gave prominence (space and priority) to Goyal’s statements as compared to what Sibal had to say.
Among the three leading English Business dailies, Business Standard covered the “political storm over report on junior Shah’s business growth” on page 22. Mint ditched the story completely. Economic Times, however, reported it at the bottom of page 2. Again the headline emphasised on the BJP discrediting the story rather than elaborating on The Wire’s assertions.
Major Hindi dailies also focussed on BJP defending Shah, rather than the questions raised by The Wire’s story. Dainik Jagran‘s front-page headline focussed on Rs 100 crore defamation suit.
Meanwhile, on TV news, India’s leading English channels decided that The Wire story was not worth any play at all. Times Now’s primetime was dedicated to such issues as #ShakahariGurugram, #LoveJihadTwist and #FatwaRazesEyebrow. The channel, however, did air Goyal’s press conference defending Shah, even as it blacked out Sibal’s attack on the government. Ditto for Republic TV — The Wire’s story didn’t make news on Arnab Goswami’s ‘independent’ media venture, except for Goyal’s presser. This was also true for state-controlled broadcaster Doordarshan News.
NDTV ran the story as one of its top 9 o’clock headlines with the disclaimer that it could not independently verify the report. It gave prominence to both Sibal and Goyal’s presser and elaborated on the details of the report and the operations of Shah’s businesses.
Among the TV channels, ABP News was an exception in that it dwelled on the details of The Wire’s piece and its implication instead of focussing merely on the political battle that ensued after the story broke. Zee News carried an interview with Sadhguru at 9:55 pm and its 9 pm story was on Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visiting China border. The 8:30 pm show focussed on PM Modi’s spiritual powers.
Newslaundry could not find any coverage of The Wire’s story on CNN-News18. Its website, however, carried a piece focusing on Goyal’s press conference: Amit Shah’s Son to File Rs 100-Crore Defamation Suit Against Website.
Aaj Tak presented a medley of Sibal vs Goyal with Honey Preet continuing to make it to prime time. India TV had a 30-minute segment on Karva Chauth but again did not deem The Wire’s report to be important enough for prime-time discussion. The channel also gave coverage to Goyal’s presser, ignoring Sibal’s. So, while there may not have been an out-an-out blackout, the story did receive muted coverage on TV news and was presented in a way that gave more weight to the BJP’s response to the story rather than the story itself.
Update: The piece had erroneously stated that The Hindu did not carry a report on The Wire story in its Delhi edition. The paper’s Delhi edition did, in fact, carry two reports on the issue. We regret the error. This piece has also been updated to reflect that New18‘s website carried a report on Goyal’s press conference.