Ranjona Banerji: How PIB made a fool of itself but also made the PM the butt of jokes on social media

08 Dec,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Why the Press Information Bureau did this boggles the imagination and contravenes every idea of good sense. PIB is the government’s official media wing; we understand and accept that. It is not the most exciting media organisation but it is vital as it chronicles government history and therefore in a sense, the history of contemporary India.


But when the prime minister did an aerial survey of the Chennai floods, someone in PIB decided to be dramatic and creative on social media. As a result it made not just a fool of itself but also made the prime minister the butt of jokes on social media.


For those who came in late, what happened is this: Narendra Modi went on an aerial survey of Chennai. PIB put out a picture of him on Twitter, on the plane, looking out of the window. As anyone would expect, the scene of the ground below, through the window, was hazy and blurry – rain, clouds, floods. A few hours later, the same picture was re-released on Twitter. This time, the view from Modi’s window was crisp and clear, there were no clouds and no blurring.


Twitter was quick to realise that some computer wizardry had been used to manipulate the view from the window. And a whole series of memes crowded the internet.


PIB put out an apology: “Out of the seven pictures released, one picture used the technique of merging of two pictures. This is being referred to as “Photoshopping” in sections of media. This happened due to error of judgment and the picture was subsequently deleted. PIB regrets the release of the above mentioned picture. The inconvenience is regretted.”


The apology is as is obvious written in the worst sort of bureaucratese. The mention of reactions in “sections of media” (Twitter) and the sort of umbrage to the word “Photoshopping” only demonstrates that this apology was wrung out of PIB because of the ridicule it had to suffer, which clearly stung. The only inconvenience to be regretted is that caused to PIB itself because everyone else had a good laugh.


Members and supporters of political parties and the general public are well-known for “using the technique of merging pictures” (since the term “photo-shopping” is seen as offensive!). Stations in China mysteriously show up in Gujarat, bullet trains from Japan arrive on Indian platforms and marooned United Airlines planes, complete with snow machines around them, materialise on the tarmac of Chennai airport.


But the Press Information Bureau is not a nutcase on Twitter. Enough said. The inconvenience is regretted.


This is from scroll.in:




Talking of the technique of merging two pictures, here’s a report of how the Tej news channel merged picture of their reporter with rushing flood waters, to demonstrate the technique of sending a reporter to a site without moving out of the studio:



Now PIB can be “forgiven” for the “inconvenience” because it is part of the government. But media organisations which resort to such outright lies cannot make any excuses at all. This is not an error of judgment. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead.


More shame on us.


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