The Press Council of India has censured ‘The Indian Express’ and ‘Loksatta’, a Marathi daily of the Express Group, for publishing fake news about RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr. Mohan Bhagwat. The Indian Express columnist and ‘veteran’ journalist Karan Thapar and the editor of the Loksatta Girish Kuber wrote the articles containing fake quote of the Sarsanghchalak.
In 2018, the Sangh had organised a three-day lecture series named ‘Bhavishya ka Bharat’ in New Delhi. Misquoting Mohan Bhagwat who spoke in the interaction session on the final day of the lecture series, the Marathi daily ‘Loksatta’ published an editorial, on September 21, 2018, stating, “In 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on suspicion of consumption and storing beef. There is need to express reaction by the RSS chief. “The Vedas order the killing of the sinner who kills a cow”, this reaction was expressed by the RSS Chief after three days of this tragic incident,” wrote Girish.
On the same day, ‘The Indian Express’ carried an article titled “Has the RSS ground shifted?”, in which Karan Thapar wrote, “In fact, Bhagwat himself is not averse to making inflammatory statements. In 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on suspicion of consumption and storing beef, he’s reported to have said : “the Vedas order the killing of the sinner who kills a cow.”
In fact, the Sarsanghchalak had strongly condemned the violence and mob lynching. But both the newspapers and the columnists wrongly attributed the words to Mohan Bhagwat that were never expressed by him or other leaders of the RSS.
Following a complaint filed by Akshay Phatak, a resident of Dombivali, the Press Council had issued Show Cause notices to the editors of both newspapers.
When the matter was heard finally on March 29, 2019 by the Press Council, the respondent newspapers ‘contended that they assumed that the attribution was correct and that it was a bona fide mistake’. They also questioned the locus standi of the complainant.
The Council found that the mistake was not bona fide. With respect to Karan Thapar, the Council accepted the report of the inquiry committee, which opined, “had the mistake been bona fide and committed by a junior correspondent could have been accepted and the proceedings dropped. Here such a mistake has been committed by none other than a senior columnist having long experience. In the facts of the present case, the Inquiry Committee is of the opinion that the mistake is not bona fide. This was a verifiable fact and while attributing the statement of such a magnitude to the head of an organization, the columnist ought to have been more careful and taken due care. He has failed to do the same.”
With respect to locus standi of the complainant, the Council held that, “Even a reader has a right to approach the Council, if he finds some mistakes in the newspaper.”
The PCI also rejected the apologies published by both newspapers, holding that “the corrigendum and the apology in the facts of the present case have been tendered only with a view to get out of net of law and do not deserve acceptance.”
The Press Council decided to censure ‘The Indian Express’ and ‘Loksatta’ and directed that a copy of the order be forwarded to the DAVP, The Director of Public Relations, Government of Maharashtra and The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mumbai.
Courtesy – Organiser
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