24, Apr 2018 | CJP Team
While it is not uncommon for the police to issue press releases, one such communication from the Jammu and Kashmir Police came as a shocking reiteration of the reality of our times. The press release that shot down a variety of ‘conspiracy theories’ floating around in the aftermath of the gruesome rape and murder or a minor Muslim Bakarwal girl in Kathua, was a slap in the face of multiple news organisations that helped perpetuate these ‘alternative facts’.
The professionally toned yet strongly worded communique’ released by the J&K Police on their official twitter handle, says, “… for the last couple of days, a section of print/electronic media has published/broadcast information/reports shared on social media sites as well, which are far away from the truth.”
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The Press Release further states, “Constrained by this reportage, it is to place on record that on the strength of opinion furnished by medical experts, it has been confirmed that the victim was found subjected to sexual assault by the accused. The medical expert has also opined that hymen of the victim was not found intact.” It states this as the reason for adding charges under section 376 (D) RPC which pertain to rape.
On the matters of sedation and captivity the Press Release states, “… medical opinion has established beyond doubt that the victim was held in captivity and administered sedatives and her cause of death was asphyxia leading to cardio pulmonary arrest.”
This Press Release is pertinent as several news organisations had claimed that no rape had ever taken place and that the charge was added later to not only sensationalise the case but also taint the reputations of the accused in the case.
The Press Release can be viewed here:
Earlier Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran had published a story claiming that the little girl was not raped before being murdered. The story can be viewed here:
Similarly a special report hosted by Sudhir Choudhry on Zee News several ‘angles’ of the case were examined with the narrative being spun around the temple where the girl was raped having multiple doors and windows. The Zee News report wondered how could the child have been raped in a place like that, also given how it was frequented by public. The report also cast aspersions on advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat’s motivations for taking up the case. Advocate Rajawat has now served Zee News a legal notice.
The Sunday Guardian also published a ludicrous story full of conjecture. Oddly enough, not only was the article titled Anatomy of a Concoction*, it was also categorised under Fake News and came with a disclaimer that said,
* This article is a pure concoction based on fiction. Any resemblance with any character or event is unintentional and coincidental.
The publication claimed that the story by Sushil Pandit had nothing to do with real life or people. Except that it did given how it named actual people and places that were connected with the Kathua rape and murder case.
You can read our detailed story on Fake News being spread on social media with the alleged objective of blaming Rohingya refugees for the crime here.
The Curious case of the Bathtub and the Biryani
But this isn’t the first time the Indian media has engaged in wild conjecture. Conspiracy theories were aplenty and actor Sridevi passed away suddenly in Dubai in February 2018. These theories, often presented on television screens with elaborate images of the actor’s corpse in a bathtub attracted much criticism and even earned the monicker “Bathtub Journalism“. All this while these journalists showed little respect for the truth or even the grieving family of the actor. They also engaged in hugely inappropriate speculation about the cause of the actor’s death even though the Dubai Police released a full report that made everything crystal clear.
Similarly when Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was arrested and held behind bars during his trial in the 26/11 terror attacks, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam declared to the media that an audacious Kasab had demanded that he be fed ‘biryani’ instead of regular jail food. However, two years after Kasab was hanged Nikam himself admitted that he had fabricated the story as he was disappointed with the media’s concern over Kasab’s young age and the possibility of him being brainwashed by extremists into conducting the terror attack.
The Bigger Question
It is one thing to do half hour specials on cows being abducted by aliens and quite another to engage in a willful campaign of misinformation… one that foments suspicion and hate for minorities and vulnerable communities. So will media houses blame it on the ratings battle and audience preferences, or will they finally accept responsibility for bad journalism?