All of last week Arundhati Roy’s alleged interview to a “Pakistani paper”, The Times Of Islamabad, triggered much angst among hyper-nationalists in India. In the so-called interview, the Booker Prize winning author had said “India cannot achieve its objective in the occupied valley even if its army deployment is raised from 7 lakh to 70 lakh since Kashmiris have remained committed to their anti-India sentiments for many years.” This had prompted actor and BJP MP, Paresh Raval to Tweet the infamous line that spawned animated debates: “Instead of tying stone pelter on the army jeep tie Arundhati Roy!”
What led to Raval’s outburst was fake news carried by the website postcard.news which picked up a story from a “nationalist” portal across the border called the Times of Islamabad which alleged that Roy had “recently made the statement in Kashmir.” The truth is that the writer and activist had not visited the Valley or written or issued statements on the Kashmir issue for almost a year! And pray, what do we know about postcard.news? Well, it was started last year “not just to counter the lies of the Mainstream Media” but also to “showcase positive changes in the country.” Incidentally, several other “nationalist” websites also carried the fake interview story. And Arnab Goswami lived up to his reputation by calling Roy a “one book whiner” on Republic TV.
Shobna Bhartia, chairperson of the Hindustan Times media group, seems to believe that the editors she hires to run her newspapers should have established international credentials and experience. She hired Nicholas Dawes from South Africa where he was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, as Chief Content Officer of Hindustan Times. After he left, she brought in Bobby Ghosh, who had spent many years in America as World Editor at Time magazine, and then editor at Quartz, as editor in chief of the paper. Her latest foreign acquisition is another well known NRI journalist, Raju Narisetti, editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe. He has been hired to launch a brand new business paper for the group. Hindustan Times already publishes Mint, a pink paper but clearly Bhartia feels that Narisetti can help produce a serious rival to The Economic Times, which is why it will be a brand new paper and not a revamped Mint.
The Digital Doom
After winding up its Delhi edition, the Deccan Herald will soon transform into a “digital era media group.” This is expected to bring about several sweeping changes in the old style of functioning as well as restructuring of staff. A new CEO has been hired to affect the changes which has spread panic among the staff. Apparently, the inspiration for embracing the digital world has come from the Hindustan Times which had wound up several editions and cut jobs earlier this year in the name of transforming itself.
More Fake News
In another shocking example of fake news, social media has been abuzz with claims that development economist and columnist Jean Dreze was a foreigner and questioning how a Belgian national was allowed on governmental advisory panels (He was a member of the National Advisory Panel under UPA and his expertise has been used subsequently by various ministries). The origin of the controversy was a tweet by Shefali Vaidya, a columnist at Swarajya, who also claimed that Dreze’s wife, activist Bela Bhatia, was a Maoist supporter. The truth is that Dreze became an Indian national in 2002 when he voluntarily gave up his Belgianj citizenship. Swarajya describes itself as “a big tent for liberal right of centre discourse that reaches out, engages and caters to the new India”.
A study conducted on 40 journalists, members of the London Press Club, showed that their ‘brains were operating at a lower level than the average population.’ The reason given is that ‘they were drinking too much, dehydration and too much caffeine and high sugar food.’ A similar study at the Delhi Press Club would probably come up with similar results