Comedian Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's ‘The Colbert Report’, coined the term "Truthiness" as the notion that truth doesn't lie in books and facts but rather, in your gut. Before his own show Colbert frequently appeared with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’. Both lampoon the American media and politicians and expose their lies on a daily basis. Neither Stewart nor Colbert interpret news reports. They just quote reports and statements and nail the lies behind them or their funny side. What should be even more amusing is that most US citizens trust satirist Stewart for real news. On another front Bill Adair, the chief editor of Politifact states: “Whether the fact has actually died or is just on its death bed, I think it means it's a great time to be in the fact-checking business”. Yes, that’s right, given the lies that our news channels and papers spread, for many in the social media it’s a great time to be in the ‘fact-checking’ business. And may I add, they are doing a great job of it. Most can sense the absence of ‘Truthiness’ when they watch TV reports, especially where it concerns NDTV and Gujarat riots and Narendra Modi.
There has to be some motivation for NDTV, also other late-joiners like TOI and Indian Express, for the extra-ordinary mud-slinging they have indulged in against Narendra Modi and Gujarat. So much that the SIT closure report which absolves Modi of any wrong doing on the riots is unpalatable for them. And now their entire faith in the prospect of screwing Modi hangs on a tiny fable. It’s a story concocted by Sanjiv Bhatt that he was present in a meeting held by Modi and that the CM had made statements encouraging “Hindus to vent their anger” against Muslims for the Godhra train horror. The SIT has established, through witnesses, that Sanjiv Bhatt was not present in the meeting of February 27, 2002. Not just witnesses, other evidences – factual and circumstantial including mobile records, clearly establish the lies of Sanjiv Bhatt.
There’s some history to this. It is not just as a channel that NDTV has been campaigning against Modi. It is some of its members who have been in that business long before NDTV came into existence as a separate news channel. Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were the pioneers in this endeavour even while they were with StarNews. But now it’s the newcomers on the channel who have been delegated that assignment. Which should explain a statement by NidhiRazdan, which she reportedly made, on her show Left,Right,Centre on May 10: "Some would say Hafiz planned 26/11 in the four walls, hence it is not an offence".(Thanks to @ssudhirkumar for reporting this ). Even on a live show that looks like a well prepared and well rehearsed statement. This followed an article on NDTV website “Gujarat riots: Illegal orders within a room no offence, says SIT report on Modi”.
Truthiness in an observer’s gut will explain that the headline itself is mischievous and intended to camouflage the actual explanation of the SIT. The SIT only hypothetically stated that even if the ‘alleged’ statements were made by Modi then such a statement within four walls does not constitute an offence. More importantly, circumstantial evidence and subsequent actions by Modi do not in any manner suggest or imply that he made that statement or carried it out. So the wisegal Nidhi tries to equate the “alleged” statement with possible statements by Hafiz Saeed, the wanted Pakistani terrorist, within four walls with Modi. Make no mistake – the unstated implication is that Modi is as much a terrorist as Hafiz Saeed. I am surprised Nidhi stopped at Hafeez Saeed and did not go on to make a comparison with the ‘Viagral’ adventures of Osamji within four walls.
By Nidhi’s logic Hafiz Saeed would not be guilty of terrorist activities if he plotted them within four walls. “Take that, all you goats who died in 26/11”. It doesn’t matter to NDTV or Nidhi Razdan that Saeed, by subsequent conduct and actions, had carried out whatever he may be accused of plotting within four walls. This is how our news channels compromise our actions against terror. Oh wait, NDTV is the only channel that also broadcasts in Pakistan, to my knowledge. Is that a motivation? I have stated in no uncertain terms earlier that the manner of reporting and lies spread on the Gujarat riots by our news channels may have even inspired many terrorists and terror attacks. Balance and sensitivity has long been lost on NDTV. No wonder Chetanya Kunte after the 26/11 carnage accused them of ‘Shoddy Journalism’.
This is not the first time that NDTV has perpetrated reports lacking in Truthiness. In February 2012, just around the 10th year of the Godhra horror they pulled out another fairy tale. Not surprising, considering their group editor is frequently obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. They put out this report: ‘2002 Gujarat riots: Former judge says there's audio tape with evidence against Modi’. Both reports are by NDTV reporter Rohit Bhan, but these days anyone can draft any report or even affidavit as a TOI journalist will tell you. The atrocity of this report can be measured by the following content in it:
Justice Suresh says that during his trip to Gujarat, he met Haren Pandya, who was then a minister in Mr Modi's government. Mr Pandya allegedly said that the chief minister had called a meeting in February, hours after a train was set on fire at the Godhra station. Justice Suresh says that Mr Pandya' conversation with him and retired Supreme Court judge PB Sawant was recorded on an audio tape. But Mr Pandya pleaded with both judges to not attribute this information to him. "He said he will come and meet us provided its kept confidential and his name should not be disclosed ...we agreed on that...only some of us Justice Sawant, myself and one or two others were there ..and then we heard him, recorded his statement but we kept it very confidential," Justice Suresh told NDTV.
Now, this judge was specially interviewed by NDTV in February 2012. Interesting how after Haren Pandya’s death the judge claims an audio tape that for “confidential” reasons cannot be disclosed or aired. Even if Haren Pandya did make a statement to these judges, they claim to have already discussed it with the SIT. So what NDTV was trying to imply by this report and the interview is for you to figure out. But hey, it helps to add any fuel to the fire started by NDTV.
If Politifact were to assess NDTV’s reportage over the years I am quite certain that they would have scored “Pants on Fire” on a number of occasions. Facts established by special investigating bodies do not seem to count with NDTV. So what exactly is NDTV’s motive behind such a long witch-hunt? So much that there is a sharp and militant unwillingness to accept even the SIT’s report. Looks like they will not be happy unless and until some kangaroo court of their own choice pronounces Modi guilty and sentences him to death. Of course, they aren’t alone but they are the most voluble in this campaign. Far from justice for any riot victim or justice for the sake of supremacy of law, the motives surely have to be something else and somewhere else.
The most apparent motive is obviously the decimation of BJP as a political party through their anti-Modi campaign. This becomes even more obvious with elections in Gujarat around the corner and general elections in 2014. The increasing noises about Modi as PM candidate is probably also sending chills down their spine. The most disturbing aspect for me is that there might be very powerful forces behind NDTV’s campaign. The blatant violations and disregard for routine norms of ethics in journalism suggest a “larger” (A term Nidhi Razdan would love) conspiracy that only time will tell. The involvement of many Indian journalists and their being beneficiaries of Ghulam Nabi Fai must be borne in mind. One never knows how many such Fais are lurking around the shadows and feeding our journalists and media outlets.
There’s only one question that hasn’t been answered for a long time. How does NDTV, a channel which has constantly lost share value, consistently made losses still manage to stay afloat? Well, Deep Throat did say “Follow the money” and I hope someone will. Only that will finally reveal whose war is being fought by NDTV and what goes on within their four walls. Going by Indian media ethics it won’t be another journalist or media outlet that will bring the truth home. It will be probably be some comedian who has a gut feel for Truthiness.