Sunday, February 21, 2016

Zee News producer quits for falsifying slogans

We live in a world of intolerance, hatred and bigotry, or so it seems. In Bangladesh and India, any slogan in favor of Pakistan can land the person behind the prison on charges of sedition and treason. And so may be the case inside Pakistan for chanting Joy Hind, which I simply don't know but can only guess given the poisonous environment of suspicion that is so pervasive in South Asia. 

Recently, some students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi have been charged with sedition. They are accused of organizing an event at JNU against Afzal Guru’s hanging (who was  convicted of being behind the attack on the Indian Parliament) and chanting 'Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan). (To learn about the hanging of Afzal Guru, please, click here.)

It was a doctored news clip.  The footage telecast on Zee News formed the basis of the Delhi police’s suo motu FIR on the incident following which JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested. He was mercilessly beaten by two lawyers, Vikram Singh Chauhan and Yashpal Singh, for three hours when he was in police custody. “We thrashed him for three hours and we also forced him to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. He later raised the slogan with us and we allowed him go,” said Chauhan. Singh also said they would beat him up again. 

“I will get a petrol bomb no matter what case is filed against me. I will not leave him even if I am charged with murder… I want to go to the same jail and will thrash him in his cell… I will not give my bail bond. I will go to prison for one or two days,” Singh claimed. 

Singh added, “We thrashed all journalists and JNU professors. If you live in the country, you will have to talk about the country. Police was also supporting us fully and they told us they were in uniform, that’s why they (too) were not thrashing him.” 

Now Vishwa Deepak, an output producer for Zee News, says, The video which had no “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans in it, we played repeatedly to spread madness. How did we establish that Kanhaiya and his associates were chanting slogans when all we heard were voices coming from the darkness. Our biases made us hear Bhartiya Court Zindabad as Pakistan Zindabad.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Deepak said Zee News aired footage of students chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ repeatedly, but it did not have any such slogans in it. “We heard inaudible slogans from the grainy video. Editors at Zee News felt this sounded like ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and that’s the caption we went with,” he said. 

Deepak said he scripted shows and edited footage at Zee News. He added that he had worked on the footage of the Afzal Guru event recorded on February 9 in JNU where reporter Pawan Nara was present, recording the event. Deepak said he received the footage on February 10 and was told to work on it for a show that day. “On February 10, I was on the morning shift, which comprised a shift head, two second shift heads, three or four producers of which I was one, two or three package producers, and two or three video editors,” said Deepak. “At the editorial meet that afternoon, a producer was given the video footage and told to work on it because it was a ‘big story’. The producer brought the video to me and I watched it and heard it. The video was grainy and there was a lot of sloganeering but most of which was not clearly audible. I heard ‘Bhartiya Court Zindabad’,” he said. 

According to Deepak, the producer showed the video to other “responsible” colleagues but none were able to clearly make out the words being chanted. “Then our editors came down to our section and told us it was a big story, it had to go on air and that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ could be heard. So we all agreed because the editors and other colleagues felt it was ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ that was being chanted. We began to produce the show and because the audio was not clear, we added a bubble or blurb with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ written in it to guide our viewers on what we felt was being chanted,” said Deepak. 

A graduate of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, Deepak said he worked first as a freelancer contributing to Jansatta and Sanskar. He also worked with news channels News 24, AajTak, News Nation and joined Zee News as a producer in 2014. Deepak has also contributed to BBC Hindi. 

When contacted, Zee News Editor Sudhir Chowdhary said Deepak’s resignation was an internal matter of the organisation. “Zee media is one of the largest media houses in the country. People leaving and recruitments being done is a normal affair. In any case, the person concerned was not involved in any stories related to the JNU row. He never discussed any issues with anybody in the organisation if he had any. His resignation is an internal matter of the organisation,” said Chowdhary in a text message. Chowdhary did not respond to questions about Deepak’s claims of how the caption ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ was added to the footage. 

The Indian Express had reported on Saturday that police had asked Zee News for the original camera and memory chip of its telecast of the February 9 event. The request had come just days after questions were raised over the authenticity of another video that was broadcast on other TV news channels and went viral on social media. 

The Zee News footage also found mention in an Aam Aadmi Party complaint to Special Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deepak Mishra. The AAP had alleged that students raising slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ were from the ABVP. 

JNU ABVP president Alok Singh had earlier said that some ABVP members were present at JNU on February 9, but were shouting slogans like ‘Bharatiya Court Zindabad’ and ‘Indian Army Zindabad’. The ABVP also filed a counter complaint with police saying that the footage had been tampered with. 

Last week, Chowdhary had said that he stood by the footage aired on Zee News. “The slogans are very clear for anybody to hear. We stand by the footage that was aired on Zee News. We have handed over all the raw footage to the Delhi police,” he had said. 

As noted above, because of Zee News footage, several students charged with sedition, were in the hiding, afraid of their lives. Now with the new revelation, six of them returned to the campus after ten days of hiding. Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ashutosh Kumar, Anant Prakash Narayan, Riyazul Haq and Rama Naga addressed a small gathering of students outside the administration block. The students said they had not appeared in public earlier, fearing “mob violence”. “We saw what was happening in the media and social media, and feared attacks,” said Naga.

While Khalid and Bhattacharya are former members of the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Naga is the general secretary of JNUSU, Kumar a former president and Narayan a former vice-president. 

You can read the original news by clicking here.

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