BBC’s ‘confession’ and wrestler protests: Three news items, three sources – and all three were wrong?

We do love our source-based journalism.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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It’s been an unprecedented week on the news front.

There were three major news stories that dominated headlines and front pages. All three cited “anonymous sources”, for the most part, for the claims they made.

Yes, this isn’t unusual. Indian media loves its source-based news items, the easiest way to leak news to papers and channels. 

But what was remarkable was all three stories backfired, with other sources – named and unnamed – popping up and saying they were wrong.

Story #1 was that several wrestlers – such as Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia – had withdrawn from the ongoing protest and returned to work. Multiple media houses and journalists reported it on June 5 (see here, here, here, here, here and here).

Malik and Punia later tweeted that this was “fake news” and news organisations tripped over themselves to hastily amend their stories. 

Story #2 was also on the wrestlers’ protest, this time on the minor complainant allegedly withdrawing their complaint against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh. The reports, which included one by the Indian Express, cited “sources” (see here, here, here, here). This is important because a POCSO case had been filed against Singh in April based on this complaint.

But the minor’s father said these reports were “completely fake” and that he hadn’t withdrawn the complaint filed on his child’s behalf. Bajrang Punia lashed out at “sources” quoted in these reports, telling NDTV: “Should the country trust the girl's father, who said they have not withdrawn any complaint or statement, or the so-called sources?”

Curiously, on June 8, the minor’s father told Hindustan Times that he and his daughter had made “false allegations” against Singh. The report said the father “made it clear that they had not withdrawn the earlier complaint but recorded fresh statements”.

Finally, story #3. As Newslaundry reported earlier today, Hindustan Times alleged that BBC India had “confessed” to underreporting Rs 40 crore of income. It cited two unnamed officials from the Central Board of Direct Taxes as saying the British broadcaster had sent an email to this effect. 

In a delicious twist of irony, the HT report was countered by another unnamed source – a “top government official” who told New Indian Express that this did not seem accurate. 

So there you have it: three stories, three sets of sources, and absolute chaos when it comes to facts. It’s just another week in Indian journalism.

Update at 12 pm, June 9: This report has been updated with details from the HT interview with the minor’s father.

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