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FMP's Statement on Fake News
February 15, 2018

The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) cautions members of the public in India that they should be watchful of the veracity of the news they consume because there have lately been repeated instances of fake news going viral on the internet and the social media.  

A report which appeared in a new and unknown ‘news’ portal in early-February 2018 made certain salacious claims about Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav. The website has since disappeared and its ‘news’ report has turned out to be baseless. Around the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit this month to United Arab Emirates, a video clip purportedly of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saying “Jai Siya Ram”, played out not only on the social media but even on mainstream television news channels such as Times Now and Zee News.  A prominent newspaper in the UAE, Gulf News took the publication of this information to be a clear indication that the “mainstream media in India is falling prey to propaganda and fake news”, and wondered whether this was “by choice” or whether media personnel in India were “incapable of verifying basic facts – which form the backbone of journalism.”

The FMP shares the concerns raised about the falling media standards in India.

There have been other egregious examples in recent weeks of the Indian media failing to verify basic facts before publication. In Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, which saw communal violence, false information about a young Hindu man being allegedly killed by a Muslim mob for carrying a saffron flag in a Muslim neighbourhood was spread on the social media by various people including the editor of Mail Today, Abhijit Majumder. Further, an anchor from the same India Today group’s Hindi TV channel, Rohit Sardana, made inflammatory statements while the situation was tense in the area. 

It is worrying that another editor from the India Today group, Angshukanta Chakraborty, had to leave her job this week for tweeting against promoters of media organisations turning a blind eye to “hate mongering, fake news spreading” journalists. India Today justified its actions by claiming that her services had been terminated for breach of editorial conduct. The statement went on to say, “Our Code of Conduct is sacrosanct across all mediums including social media…actions contrary to our editorial ethos have no place in our organisation”.

It would appear that India Today’s Code of Conduct does not consider facts or the law of the land sacrosanct. Promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion is a crime under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code.  Inciting a community to commit an offence against another community is a crime under Section 505 of the IPC. The editors who spread fake and inflammatory news during rioting have kept their jobs, but the person who spoke up against such actions has not.

When some of the biggest names in Indian journalism, such as India Today, the Times Group and Zee News, manage in the space of a few days to either disseminate fake news or act in support of those spreading fake news, it is a cause for grave concern.

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