Sunday, July 26, 2015

Facts take a backseat, always!

These two tweets on the same day – June 28 – Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose set the stage for starting of the Vyapam coverage.
Barkha Dutt: 23 witnesses and an accused dead in the Vyapam scam. Who is behind it, why isnt it getting more media attention?
Sagarika: 51 dead, almost 1800 in jail across India, the #VyapamScam is surely a fit case for much more media coverage than it has so far got?

One anchor tells us 23 people are dead. Another tells us 51 are dead. This aptly sums up the crass disregard the English TV media has for facts.
Anyways, the stage has now been set to start covering the Vyapam Scam – that’s been making news so far in Madhya Pradesh only.
On July 4th, very unfortunately, one India Today journalist died, while covering one of these deaths. We were told that he started investigation into the scam about 4 days before, and suddenly died. Some reports said he just collapsed, some even went to the extent of saying he was “frothing at the mouth” – without of course no proof whatsoever.
Tragic and unfortunate as the death is, it also set off a spree of tweets from the English TV talking heads. And that’s when I knew that this whole Vyapam scam will tread a path that will reek of confusion and hype that is the trademark of the Delhi media.
The post-mortem report of the scribe told us that there are no external or internal injuries in the body, and the death does not like a murder. It looks like the family was pressurised for one more post-mortem and they politely refused.
Then, one of the consulting editors of the India Today group stated their only demand. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister agreed to this demand almost immediately. Guess what – Rajdeep did not have the courtesy to tweet that this demand has been met. They moved on to pushing other conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, Barkha Dutt was congratulated by many, including the Chief Minister of Delhi for this. I started following NDTV website for news on this now. As expected, there was zero clarity on the number of dead. I sought a clarification, post which one exact number was posted.
Please read the link here, and tell me if you can add up everything to get 35 deaths!
So basically, any search on any of the English TV channels website on July 6th did not return a single page which had the correct details of people who died and are associated with the scam! Niti Central has written earlier in detail on how the English media is throwing out numbers according to their whim!
Somewhere on facebook, one user pasted this snapshot which gave us details.
The list has names of 31 people. 10 of these deaths are because of road accidents. The causes for the other 25 vary, as elucidated in the image above and the article here. The mind simply boggles that this basic list was not ready with the talking heads, before they started their campaign!
While this melee was on, it was reported that a lady constable was found dead. Digvijaya Singh was immediately on his heels, telling us that this was also related to Vyapam.
This was enough to throw the TV channels into a frenzy. Till attentive social media users told us that all recruitment in MP government happens through Vyapam, so we can’t link any death to Vyapam scam merely because of this. Other sources also revealed that the cause of this death was personal. This also revealed how crass Digvijaya Singh has been in linking this death to the scam.
The very next day, we see this:
Please read the story here – the only link to Vyapam scam is that the Congress party has alleged so. There is no other link. Yet, we have our news anchors telling us that all of this is becoming “surreal”. Is this how media channels are supposed to cover sensitive news? In today’s information age, can anyone imagine so much of mis-information being spread?
Barkha Dutt was interviewing the family members of one of the accused, who passed away. The daughter of the deceased is clearly telling us that her dad was having high BP and was also under a lot of tension (understandable, given that he went to jail and came back). Unfazed, Barkha Dutt asks the other family members if they think that the “big fish” have not been caught, and only small people are being caught.
Amidst this, we see a clamour for CBI enquiry. As channels went on a shouting spree, most of them left out an important piece of information.  Digvijay Singh and the Congress party have approached both the High Court and Supreme Court, asking for a CBI investigation into this. Both the courts summarily declined this request. Below is the flash news on this, by India Today, way back in 2014.
Yet, the Congress party continues to demand that a CBI inquiry be held and the media continues to parrot it. Prominent editor Shekhar Gupta, with a blatant disregard to the above fact, shares this thought:
The chorus continued despite the BJP, the state government, and the central government – all clarifying that the court has already said no and therefore it is only the court that has to say yes. And they have repeatedly clarified that if the court says so, they have no hesitation.
Entire media is up in arms saying that the BJP is not inclined for a CBI enquiry, despite clarifications from central ministers too. The Chief Minister then said that owing to this persistent demand, he has decided to petition the High Court for the same:
But as usual, the anchors have little regard for factual coverage. Sample this and this.
Barkha Dutt gets to do an exclusive interview with the Chief Minister. The CM clearly explains the background of the scam, and then explains why he decided to approach the High Court for requesting a CBI enquiry. Yet Barkha persists with the question on why he changed his mind! Most of her questions start with “People are saying” and “Congress/opposition is saying” – with little focus on facts.
She also says that people think Vyapam would not have become such a big scam if not for the deaths. Nearly 1800 people have been arrested so far in this scam that dates back to 1993 according to some reports! 1800 people – and the TV anchors think this is not a big scam?!
The only proper investigation that these channels have done is that they have uncovered the post mortem report of the girl who died in 2012. The police closed the case as a suicide case – the postmortem report mentions the cause of death as strangulation. The media hasn’t given details yet on why the police closed the case as a suicide case – only then one can comment on the entire case. Meanwhile hyperbole like this, especially when nearly 1800 have been arrested and nearly 2500 are the accused, will serve little purpose.
The Vyapam Scam is so huge in scale that this will require much more than tweeting inanities or asking irrelevant questions to the CM (like, did the thought of resigning cross your mind?).  Every single time the English TV wades into an issue, one can be rest assured that facts will take a backseat. Every single time.


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