‘In India today truth is no longer what actually transpires, but what reaches people’
New Delhi, September 13 (KMS): Prominent human rights defender Umar Khalid in a letter written by from Tihar Jail has said that most of the Hindi newspapers – which over 90 percent of the prisoners depend upon for their daily dose of news – have thrown all journalistic ethics to the wind.
Khalid’s letter which was published by a section of the media on Tuesday read:“They reported on my bail proceedings very selectively. When my lawyers argued, they mostly did not report our submissions, or if for a change they decided to be too kind to me on some days, they consigned it to a small obscure column on page 5 or 6 and with the most banal headlines. But the public prosecutor’s counters were front-page news, presented in a manner to sound as if those were the court’s observations. And on such occasions, they even dug up some dark photos of mine to complement their sensationalist headlines”.
Today, on Tuesday, 13 September 2022, Umar Khalid has completed two years in Tihar Jail under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), accused by the Delhi Police of involvement in 2020 northeast Delhi pogrom.
“They are pure poison,” wrote Khalid about the news reports on him. “What they are doing cannot be termed as ‘reporting’ by any stretch of imagination,” said Khalid whose trial has yet to commence.
Excerpts from Umar Khalid’s letter:
“…Over the last two years that I have been jailed, the newspapers (the only source of news here) have intermittently reported on my case. The English newspapers have tried to maintain the pretence of objectivity, but most of the Hindi newspapers – which over 90 percent of the prisoners depend upon for their daily dose of news – have thrown all journalistic ethics to the wind. They are pure poison.”
“One morning, a newspaper headline in a Hindi daily screamed, “Khalid ne kaha tha bhashan se kaam nahi chalega, khoon bahana padega”. (‘Khalid said mere speeches do not work, blood must flow) Not only did the main report not substantiate this grand claim made in the headline, but it did not even care to give a perfunctory disclaimer that this is an unproven allegation, yet to be brought to the scrutiny of the court. No quotation mark used, not even a question mark! Two days later, the same newspaper came up with a headline even more sensational than the previous one, “Khalid chahta tha Musalmanon ke liye alag desh”. (‘Khalid wanted a separate country for Muslims’) What they implied was riots in the trans-Yamuna area of New Delhi, in which most of the killed were Muslims themselves, would lead to the creation of a new country for Muslims, truly tragic-comic. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. How do I persuade those who are consuming this poison every day?”
“On an earlier occasion, another Hindi daily claimed that I have ‘confessed’ to the Delhi police about my involvement and role in the Delhi Riots. I have on record submitted to the court twice that during my police custody, I made no statement to the police, nor did I sign any paper. What then was the source of the ‘news’?”
“What they are doing cannot be termed as ‘reporting’ by any stretch of imagination. They are cherry picking arguments, even manufacturing outright lies to suit their predetermined narrative. They are trying to paint me as guilty in the court of public opinion. Even before any court of law takes up my case for hearing/trial. And by doing so, they are shaping the majoritarian collective conscience.”
“Sometimes the lies of the media have far surpassed even the lies of the police. One news report (again in a prominent Hindi daily) claimed that to leave no stone unturned in inciting the riots, I secretly met Sharjeel Imam in Zakir Nagar (New Delhi) on February 16, 2020 – a week before the riots broke out. In reality, on the night of February 16, 2020 – and even the police would attest to this – I was 1136 kms away from Delhi, in Amrawati, Maharastra. And Sharjeel Imam on that night – nobody can dispute this either – was in Tihar jail, as he had been arrested about 20 days earlier in a different case. It seemed that the esteemed journalist who conjured all this up did not care to check even the most basic facts.”
In India today, Khalid said, truth is no longer what actually transpires, but what reaches the people.