“As journalists we treat our readers, viewers, listeners and online users as fairly and openly as possible. Whatever the medium, we tell our audiences the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it.”
This lofty claim, in the rather fancily titled “Ethics in Journalism” section of The New York Times, stands diminished, if not irreparably damaged, by the shocking piece of screed carried in the paper on September 17, 2013, titled “Campaign for Prime Minister off to a violent start”. While it is the absolute prerogative of The New York Times to take any editorial stance, one expects that facts will not be put in complete abeyance, and bigotry and racism will prevail, with a purpose to besmirch democratically elected leaders in other parts of the world.
Narendra Modi, three times elected Chief Minister of Gujarat, and who has been recently chosen as the candidate for Prime Minister in next spring’s election by his party, the BJP, is referred to as a Hindu chauvinist by the reporter who wrote this article. Did The New York Times ever describe President George W Bush as a Christian chauvinist for his overt Christianity and for appointing, for example, General William Boykin, who once told a Muslim warlord in Somalia: “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol”, to head the hunt for Osama bin Laden? This is the standard of bigotry and racism: treating a comparable situation differently based upon race and identity.
Modi is accused of “mass murder” (sic), informs the NYT to its unsuspecting readership. What the paper does not inform its readers is that the Supreme Court of India-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has absolved Modi of every charge leveled against him and that there is no case of mass murder against Modi in any court of law. Neither does the paper inform its reader, that almost all of those who carried out a decade-long malicious campaign against Modi have been either found to have been forging evidence or have being accused of defrauding riot victims. “Complete, unvarnished truth” is what the paper claims to tell its readers. Had this been practiced too, The New York Times would have told its readers that Modi has faced a fiercely independent national media, a very independent judiciary, and an opposition federal Government for the last nine years, and yet not a shred of evidence has been produced in any court of law against him which could withstand legal scrutiny.
Indeed, whatever evidence that was presented was found to be forged or concocted by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.
While endorsing John Kerry against President Bush in 2004 US Presidential election, The New York Times accurately summed up the evidence that was presented by Bush Administration as justification for Iraq war: Rumour and forgery about purchase of critical material from Niger and a concoction by a low-level analyst, but with full knowledge of senior administration officials, about purchase of aluminum tubes. This deliberate falsehood unleashed a war in Iraq in which, by conservative estimates, over a 100,000 people were killed. Despite this evidence, has The New York Times ever described President Bush as being accused of mass murder? This is the standard of bigotry and racism: Treating a comparable situation differently based upon race and identity.
On August 27, 2013, in Muzaffarnagar town of Uttar Pradesh, Shanawaz Qureshi, who was sexually harassing a 14-year-old girl for some time, was allegedly attacked by a knife by Sachin Singh and Gaurav Singh, brothers of the girl. A bleeding Qureshi later succumbed to his injuries in a hospital. Meanwhile relatives and friends of Qureshi allegedly caught the two brothers and lynched them in a drain. The Uttar Pradesh Police caught all the eight accused in the murder of the brothers the same night. As video sting operations aired by multiple TV channels in India now bring out the story, Azam Khan, a senior Minister in the provincial Government in Uttar Pradesh, and which is an ally of the Congress ruling at the Centre, allegedly intervened and got all the accused illegally released. The officials who had promptly arrested the accused were transferred and the family members of the brothers were now falsely made accused! At a Friday religious meeting on August 30, Qadir Rana, Noor Salim Rana (legislators of an ally of the Congress), Sayeed-uz-zaman (former Member of Parliament from Congress) and other local politicians made highly incendiary communal speeches. These speeches are on tape and have subsequently been telecast on Indian TV. Demanding justice against the alleged favouritism shown by the local administration, a large rally was organised on September 7, in which politicians of various parties, including the BJP, participated. Participants of this rally, while returning home, were brutally attacked. It was this sequence of events that sparked the riots on September 7, in which 44 people were killed, and not some circulation of a fake video on Facebook, as is suggested by The New York Times. In a region where internet penetration density is in low single digits and where power is available for not more than few hours a day, Facebook is hardly the medium of communication in the remote villages, where the rioting took place.
This sequence of events is important to detail because The New York Times, alleges that, “not coincidentally” (sic), rioting broke out in Uttar Pradesh concurrent with Modi being named as Prime Minister candidate by BJP. The BJP made the announcement on September 13, 15 days after the first incident took place and a week after the mass rioting took place. The entire thrust of the article, apart from presenting prejudice as fact, has been to mendaciously link the nomination of Modi with the unfortunate rioting in Uttar Pradesh.
On August 3, 2012, President Barack Obama talked about the tax cuts for middle class in an address in South Court auditorium. Just two days later, on August 5, a gunman killed 6 people at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. On December 8, 2012, President Obama again spoke about tax cuts for middle class in his weekly address. Less than a week later, on December 14, a gunman killed 26 people in New Town, Connecticut. On September 16, 2013, President Obama spoke on the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis. This time, on the same day, a gunman killed 13 people in a US Navy Yard in Washington. As per The New York Times standard of causation, would it be fair to argue that every time President Obama speaks about the US economy, not coincidentally, a mass killing incident takes place? Certainly more evidence has been presented to arrive at this causation than was presented by The New York Times reporter while making allegations against Modi. This is the standard of bigotry and racism: Treating a comparable situation differently based upon race and identity.
The reporter makes other startling claims in his article which have not been substantiated or presents facts in a manner which hide the truth. Assertions by the reporter, such as, “Most of India’s Muslims hate him (Modi)”, are presented as facts. Maulana Vastanvi, former Vice Chancellor of Deoband, South Asia’s most respected Islamic theological school, and who comes from the state of Gujarat, is on record having praised the governance of Modi. “Gujarati Muslims had benefited from the inclusive development policies of Modi’s Government”, he said. This is substantiated by the fact that in most development indices, such as per capita income, per capita bank account deposits, reach of Government schools and health facilities in Muslims dominated clusters, Muslims in Gujarat fare far better than their counterparts in any other State. Not surprisingly, in the recent state elections in December 2012, BJP legislators have won from almost all constituencies where Muslims form a substantial portion of the electorate.
CP Scott, the legendary British journalist, gave this standard for journalistic ethics, and which has become the standard bearer by all respected publications throughout the world: “Comment is free but facts are sacred. “Propaganda”, so called, by this means is hateful.” It would seem, that for all its opposition to George W Bush, The New York Times relies more on the Bush doctrine of fact presentation than Scott’s ethics.