Imagine you’re a stringer for a major news organisation in Delhi. You’re based in Assam, which has seen over 190 flood-related deaths this year. You receive a phone call from your bosses instructing you to investigate a new, sinister claim – that of “flood jihad”.
This is what several reporters and stringers in the state faced on July 6, soon after #FloodJihad began trending on Twitter. The theory was that four Muslim men had, in an act of “jihad”, purposely breached a river dyke that led to the flooding of Silchar city in Cachar district.
It’s not unusual for a catchy phrase to trend in India, especially with the word “jihad” tacked onto it. On Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhary on different types of jihad – film and song jihad, love jihad, land jihad, victim jihad, economic jihad – even though he plagiarised his “jihad chart” from a dodgy Facebook page.
This time, however, while some news channels wondered about the #FloodJihad theory (and we’ll get to them soon), others were thwarted, thanks to the efforts of reporters on the ground and the state government.
On the afternoon of July 6, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was asked by reporters about this “flood jihad” theory spinning out on social media.
Independent journalism is not possible until you pitch in. We have seen what happens in ad-funded models: Journalism takes a backseat and gets sacrificed at the altar of clicks and TRPs.
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