It is almost the end of 2017, but it doesn’t look like the fake news epidemic is anywhere close to its end. And it becomes more problematic when TV news channels swallow the fake news pill. An example of which was provided by India Today not just once but twice in recent days.
On December 7, during his show India First, India Today’s prime-time anchor Gaurav Sawant spoke of “a very disturbing story.” His opening lines were: “Desperate attempts are being made to revive terrorism in Punjab.” Referring to the arrests of Jagtar Singh Johal, a UK-born Sikh man and another UK citizen, Sawant said, “This is a suspected Khalistani terrorist. He is a suspect.” All this while images of the arrest and mugshots flash on the screen.
However, neither of the two men in the picture are those suspected by police. According to the website, barficulture.tv, the pictures are of Pakistani historian Ihsan H Nadiem and Sikh academics.
Furthermore, the anchor also shows the video of Johal’s apparent confession. Interestingly, Johal, at no point in the video, speaks about a transfer of funds to buy pistols or his aim to kill Hindus. So, was it really a “confession?” While editors should have been cautious against misleading audiences, what’s more, troubling is the news show’s broadcasting of the alleged “confession” even before a court had the opportunity to determine its veracity.
The second instance was India Today’s 5ive Live with Shiv Aroor, where the anchor is reporting about “brutal murder of 21-year-old Paresh Mesta.”
The report goes on to state that Mesta was murdered gruesomely — boiling oil poured, “castrated without mercy”, “head cut open with a sword” and “flung into a lake.” None of these turned out to be true once police released a detailed questionnaire answered by the doctor in charge of conducting the post-mortem — which India Today conveniently used in its story later to debunk its earlier claims.