NDTV, the oldest television news channel in India, was forced to withdraw a headline that portrayed gang violence in Dhule in Maharashtra as yet another case of ‘lynching’ in India after readers objected.
Many commenters felt that the channel, which has been attempting to project itself as ‘Liberal’ outfit standing up to a ‘right wing’ government, was bending the truth in its fight with the administration.
“Why is NDTV calling a war between criminals, lynching? Just because the name of the deceased is Rafiquddin,” asked a prominent Delhi-journalist on his Facebook account.
“This headline follows the dangerous trend of painting all criminal activities as a clash between two communities in India,” the journalist added in a status that is visible only to his friends.
“Please don’t show this as a Gau Rakshak event,” commented another person by the name of Mohammad Sami under the article. “This guy has more than 50+ criminal cases, plus we don’t know in how many more crimes he is involved. some aggrieved party may also have taken retaliatory action,” he added.
The orginal headline of the article was “Lynching continues in India — Rafiquddin struck 27 times with swords, shot in the head”.
The article, published on Thursday, was shared nearly 18,000 times according to statistics on the page.
“Rafiquddin, 33, was having tea at a roadside stall in the heart of the city on Tuesday morning when the attackers barged in with swords and hockey sticks and set upon him. The police say he was struck 27 times with swords before the killers escaped in bikes and scooters,” NDTV said.
“Rafiquddin, say officers, was out on bail and had in his record more than 30 cases of extortion, rape and murder,” the report added.
The controversy comes in the wake of several attacks in North India in the last several months on people who transport or consume beef, and a controversy around allegations that NDTV was involved in money laundering.
The company has alleged that the government is targeting it for its uncompromising journalism. The company’s channels are among the few in India that has refused to jump on the ‘nationalistic’ bandwagon to attract ratings.
In a statement yesterday, NDTV also attacked the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal’s most recent order in the three-year-old case.
The tribunal order held that in 2009, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs helped the owners of NDTV in hiding financial information of the foreign shell companies floated and used for money laundering of Rs 642 crores. It held company promoter Prannoy Roy personally responsible for tax evasion and laundering of 642 crore of rupees.
“Suddenly the order was prepared in an unprecedented 4 days after arguments ended. So after 21 adjournments, a 385-page order was prepared at lightning speed – almost unprecedented,” it said in a statement.
It said even though most of the charges are against NBC and GE of the US, it was NDTV that continued to be ‘harassed’. “..the harassment of NDTV continues, while not even a letter of enquiry has been sent to GE/NBC,” it alleged.