Ranjona Banerji: Right & Wrong

16 Nov,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


I tried, I must confess, to read OpIndia’s “brilliant takedown of the Beeb”, to quote former colleague R Jagannathan and currently editorial director of Swarajya. But it was so badly written that I found myself floundering after the first four paras. Perhaps I should in all fairness rephrase that. OpIndia’s brilliance flies straight above my lowly head. On the other hand, when Swarajya bought OpIndia, Jaggi had called it a satirical website, in which case, I totally get it. Or perhaps not even then.

The “Beeb”, as in the BBC’s report on fake news in India, must have hurt both Swarajya and Opindia and not just because both of them were named in it. The bulk of fake news in India, as in most of the rest of the world, comes from the rightwing. And the “Beeb” named both Swarajya and its editors. The conclusion is that the spread of fake news is mainly connected with the sort of “nationalism” encouraged or nursed by the BJP and the Narendra Modi Government.

The OpIndia piece is here, for those with more brain power than me. I will be posting another OpIndia, er, comment as well, so be prepared.

The BBC research on ‘fake news’ is shoddy, unethical, dishonest, and actually an example of fake news

Interesting, this brilliant piece calls the BBC a “biased, leftist rag”. One may disagree vehemently with the BBC and why not, but you know, it is a news channel. Not a printed thingummy like a “rag”. No use using journalistic slang if you haven’t figured out the basics. Just to quibble, you know, for the fun of it. Also there is no explanation as to why the BBC, as in “British” Broadcasting Corporation, would be a propaganda machine for those who are opposed to the Modi government. Opposition by the way is legitimate in a democracy and one does feel that one’s rightwing friends would be happier in opposition, given that they are not even that happy about rising “nationalism” under Modi. Ah well.

Anyway. OpIndia and Swarajya are very angry.

Incidentally, according to The Print, Union Minister for Law and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to turn up for the BBC’s conference on fake news, where he was the keynote speaker, because he had heard about the results. O dear. When you can dish it out but can’t take it.

Why Ravi Shankar Prasad cancelled his scheduled speech at BBC’s fake news conference

And there was IndiaSpend’s new Hate Tracker which has shown that communal violence in India has grown since the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre. The attack on IndiaSpend by Swarajya is a neat one. It bypasses IndiaSpend and focuses on The Washington Post which carried the report. Perhaps the idea is to get more international traction by only focussing on the foreign press. We do know how much nationalistic Indians love living anywhere but in India and especially in the US.

So OpIndia is angry with not just the BBC or as it calls its good friend, the “Beeb”, but also with IndiaSpend. While Swarajya is mainly angry with Washington Post for the IndiaSpend report. Two websites from the same stable in a state of rage. Because how dare anyone suggest that Muslims and Dalits have borne the brunt of Hindutva violence in India since Modi came to power at the Centre. What are facts when faced with “Hindutva” pride and “brilliant takedowns”?

The Fault in our Stats: IndiaSpend seeks to ‘identify patterns’ from biased reportage to reach dimwitted conclusions


One of the founders of OpIndia, Rahul Raj who ran it largely to attack the English language media in India before Swarajya bought the site, put out this tweet in defence of his creation: “I appreciate your views on OpIndia. If it makes you happy, I will agree that the site is full of flaws. It is not run by trained posh journalists, but by commoners. It made a mark because the team uses logic and facts to counter fake stories spread by big media houses. Chill.”

This is actually very sad because anyone who works in the media, whether they are “trained posh journalists” or not know that there is huge pressure on journalists to hold back on criticism of the Modi government because of possible consequences.

But this is the insecurity of the rightwing universe at work.

Just for the fun of it, here’s Alt News on how OpIndia, Zee News and their good friend Postcard News love spreading fake news. Enjoy.

Zee News, OpIndia and Postcard News publish a satire from Navbharat Times as actual news

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

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