Double Standards: What Leftist Media’s Contrasting Responses To Errors By PTI And ANI Reveal
Both news agencies erred in their recent reports, but ANI was subjected to a massive smear campaign while PTI got away with almost no criticism. Is Leftist media fighting misinformation or their ideological opponents?
Press Trust of India (PTI) and (Asian News International) are two New Delhi-based news agencies in India. They are counted among the most premier in the field.
Both agencies erred in one of their reports this week.
Error By ANI
On 7 April, @ANINewsUP tweeted a quote by Gautam Budh Nagar DCP Sankalp Sharma saying that “those in Sector 5, Harola, Noida who came in contact with Tablighi Jamaat members have been quarantined”.
The police refuted the claim. On 8 April, DCP Noida’s official Twitter handle quote-tweeted ANI and said that “people who had come in contact with the positive case were quarantined as per the laid procedure” and “there was no mention of Tabligh Jamat.”
The ANI handle soon posted a “correction”. It also deleted the original tweet that had been retweeted around 150 times, and picked up by Dainik Jagran and The Times of India.
Media Coverage Of The ANI Error:
A large number of publications reported about the error made by ANI, including at least two dedicated fact-checking websites and a self-proclaimed media watchdog portal.
- AltNews.com: DCP Noida refutes ANI on linking quarantine setup in Sector 5 Harola with Tablighi Jamaat
- Boomlive.in: ANI UP Misquotes Noida Police; Adds Tablighi Jamaat To Tweet
- Newslaundry.com: Noida police accuse ANI of ‘fake news’ for adding Tablighi Jamaat angle to Covid-19 quarantine exercise
- Thewire.in (that reproduced AltNews.com report): DCP Noida Refutes ANI Report Linking Quarantine Setup in Noida With Tablighi Jamaat
- Thelogicalindian.com: Accused Of Misquoting, Spreading Fake News By Noida DCP, News Agency ANI Issues Correction
- Jantakareporter.com: ANI caught spreading fake news on Tablighi Jamaat, news agency faces social media roasting after Noida Police’s public admonishing
- Thelallantop.com: न्यूज एजेंसी ANI ने तबलीगी के नाम से गलत खबर दी, DCP नोएडा ने ऐसे फटकारा
That’s not all. Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan asked for police case against ANI and its editor-in-chief Smita Prakash. Another user posted that he had filed an e-FIR in the matter.
On social media, hashtag #ThooSmitaPrakashThoo was trended. At least two publications – theprint.in and Freepressjournal.in – reported about the Twitter hashtag. Joining the mob of online spitters was one of Theprint.in’s own writer, Zainab Sikander.
Error By PTI
On 9 April, PTI published a report where it quoted “police” to say that a man identified as Mehboob Ali had been beaten to death in Delhi’s Bawana area after he was suspected of a conspiracy to spread Covid-19.
Several hours later, the agency put out another report saying that Mehboob Ali is recovering in a hospital and is stable, and that “it was earlier erroneously reported that he had died after being thrashed”.
Before it admitted to the error, the PTI report had been picked by scores of prominent publications.
Several of these publications continue to carry the erroneous report.
Media Coverage Of The PTI Error:
- Opindia.com: PTI spreads fake news that Mehboob Ali was lynched over suspicion of spreading coronavirus in Delhi, later rectifies that he is alive
- AltNews.com mentioned the error in a report titled "Communal attack in Bawana shared with false claim of Muslim man injecting fruits with spittle". Unlike in the case of ANI, however, AltNews.com did not make the misinformation by PTI their main report.
Yes, that’s about all the coverage of the error by PTI.
As one can see, the misinformation by PTI has been largely ignored by the media and social media. A key reason, of course, is that unlike in the ANI case, where an official police handle immediately refuted the error – and did so with uncharacteristically harsh words – the police in the Bawana case posted no rebuttal at all.
That, however, isn’t the only reason for the huge mismatch in coverage. Any casual observer of the media can see that there is more at play here – and it is the ideological and political bias of the Leftist-Islamist media.
ANI is not a favourite of this highly influential section that dominates the news industry. This section views ANI as being partisan to government and often derides it as a mouthpiece of the government. AltNews.com, particularly, targets it often. See here, here, here and here.
The intention of this piece, however, is not to check any news agency’s bias but to evaluate the response of Leftist media to misinformation in general.
The hate and the massive smear campaign that ANI was subjected to was clearly disproportionate to the error it made, while PTI – whose error was far more damaging to law and order – has got away almost unscathed.
The error by PTI was amplified far more by mainstream media and prominent social media influencers than the error by ANI. Among others, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Congress leader Salman Nizami shared the false news with provocative and sensational claims. Azad’s post was retweeted over 2,000 times before he deleted it.
Evidently, the Leftist media’s response to misinformation in ANI’s and PTI’s cases has been starkly different, and it puts a big question mark on their claimed commitment to fighting misinformation. It appears that their commitment wavers, and depends on who is propagating misinformation.
After all, the Leftist media, and ideologically aligned fact-checkers and watchdogs to misinformation, routinely ignores misinformation spread by their own:.
- When the editor of thewire.in, Siddarth Varadarajan, was caught spreading a concocted quote by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and was called out by the media adviser of Adityanath on Twitter, the cabal lignored the error. Some publications even whitewashed the misinformation as “objectionable tweet”.
- When theprint.in, owned by Editors Guild of India president Shekhar Gupta, published a statement by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman which the minister said she had never given, the cabal ignored this misinformation. This is despite the fact that the portal pulled down the report without an explanation.
- When the Directorate General of Civil Aviation publicly said that Huffingtonpost India had misquoted its chief in a report, the cabal ignored this rebuttal.
- When Theprint.in published a false claim about an IIT faculty Vashi Sharma that he “condemns Dalit upliftment” and pulled it down only when Sharma produced evidence of his active work towards upliftment of dalits, the cabal ignored this damaging misinformation.
These are just a few of the many such cases.
Clearly, it is not fake news that this cabal is fighting. Their ideological and political opponents? Yes, that appears to be the case.
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