Different truths

A person who reads one newspaper will consider what is written there as the gospel truth. There will be as many “truths” as the number of newspapers one reads. The same is true of the TV audience

The Narendra Modi government said that the Indian army entered the territory of Myanmar (Burma) and gunned down Naga extremists. This news was publicized by almost all TV and radio channels as well as newspapers. But the Myanmar government denied Indian media reports that the Indian forces attacked the camps of the militants on its territory and insisted they had operated inside Indian borders. Myanmar also said that it would never tolerate such intrusions by the armed forces of neighbouring countries. But Myanmar’s claim got little place in Indian media.

photo-3A question that can be legitimately asked is whether those who watch TV channels, hear radio news and read newspapers get to know the truth of any incident. In every city and village, groups of (two-four) youths can be formed to conduct a survey to find out what the readers, listeners and audience know about a particular incident or case. A person who reads one newspaper will consider what is written there as the gospel truth. There will be as many “truths” as the number of newspapers one reads. The same is true of the TV audience. Thus, every newspaper and every TV channel has its own version of the truth and at some point in time, one may discover that the real truth is different from all those truths. Few newspaper readers and TV watchers would know that the Khaplang faction of the NSCN, which ambushed and killed jawans of the Dogra Regiment in Manipur, was once an ally of the government. Whenever, owing to unrest or anger, a militant organization emerges in any region, the government clandestinely joins hands with one of its factions with the objective to weaken the organization as a whole. The same was the case with NSCN (Khaplang).

Abhishek Shrivastava writes in the monthly Samkaleen Teesri Dunia published from Delhi that in an interview, T. Muivah, the general secretary of NSCN (IM), had told him that when the Indian army raised the Ninth Naga Indian Reserve Battalion, 300 Nagas were recruited for it without any test or interview and they were all militants of the Khaplang faction. This battalion was subsequently deployed in Chhattisgarh. This is one facet of the truth that was entirely missing from mainstream newspapers and news channels. Shrivastava also refers to the US Army operation carried out in Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden. The US claimed that its forces had sneaked into Pakistan without informing the Pakistani government and killed Bin Laden. But the American journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in the London Review of Books on 10 May 2015 that it was Pakistan that had informed the US that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.

Pakistan’s protestations were for media consumption only. The US propped up Bin Laden and the Taliban, and later, invaded Afghanistan in the name of crushing Al Qaeda. Just recall what the newspapers and channels were saying when American Navy Seals intruded on Pakistani airspace to kill Bin Laden. Was that the truth the whole truth? At that time, the general perception was that Pakistan was a rogue state and had harboured Laden.

Let us study another example to see how the truth is hidden between the folds of newspapers. Journalist Tavleen Singh is known for calling a spade a spade. Also, she believes that what she writes is the ultimate truth. In the first week of July, she wrote in one of her columns that “The media has not come out of ‘Lalitgate’ well. Senior television journalists disgraced themselves by not following that most fundamental of journalistic principles: check the story out before running it.” She wrote that after Congress leader Jairam Ramesh announced that the Dholpur Palace was the government’s property and not Vasundhara Raje’s, almost every channel ran the story, without checking the facts. It later transpired, she wrote, Ramesh had presented the wrong documents. She tries her level best in the column to establish her truth that the media was in cahoots with the Congress. Each of her columns has a different facet of truth.

Jairam Ramesh, in his press conference, had presented documents to claim that the government owns the Dholpur Palace. The national media gave extensive coverage to this news. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia has close ties with Lalit Modi, who has been declared a fugitive by the government of India. The Dholpur Palace controversy surfaced in connection with the charge that Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje had helped Lalit Modi.

The media is in the business of news. Whatever the big and the powerful say is news. First, one person speaks his truth, then another airs his/her own truth. The media presents both the truths. The reader or audience watches this game and decides whom he wants to side with. Thus, he is deprived of the opportunity to take the side of the real truth. The youth of villages and cities should try to open the eyes of the people by initiating surveys on the media. The ordinary reader or TV watcher can form their own opinion about the events taking place in the country and the world. They can even argue and fight with those who hold a contrary opinion. But they should be aware that the real truth is hidden somewhere else and that someone is cashing in on his/her opinion.

Published in the August 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine

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