‘Centre, its media cronies responsible for fake news’

Controversial curtains. Now that was Bangalore Lit Fest’s trademark closure high thus far.

Did the final session’s title ‘Whose lie is it anyway: #Fakenews’ indicate a softening? Not definitely so, not when veteran TV anchor Sreenivasan Jain fired this salvo: The Centre and its media cronies are the biggest culprits of propagating divisive falsehoods. 

The battle lines appeared well-drawn when Jain said the ruling establishment had “succeeded in manufacturing falsehoods through constant amplification of fake news. Right now, this culture of divisive falsehood is encoded into the DNA of the party.” 

French writer and journalist Francois Gautier’s quick defence of the Centre had a definite religious twist. “When BJP came to power, there was a case of nuns being raped. As a journalist, I was sent to the spot in Madhya Pradesh and found that the accused were Christians, not Hindus as it was reported. But the story stuck.” 

It took the active intervention of AltNews to expose many blatant falsehoods forwarded as truth in social media. Its founder, Pratik Sinha, zeroed in on the utter lack of accountability online. “In the last two years, internet usage in India has grown 10 times. And the internet, for a lot of Indians is WhatsApp. They just don’t know how to take the information there,” he said. 

Neither do journalists. As The Hindu’s Editor Mukund Padmanabhan put it: “Journalists constantly look for news on Twitter, and sometimes, completely fake news have got into newspapers. The misinformation is coming from everywhere.” 

So, how does one address fake news?

“The government seems to think there are technical ways to stop it. They often pull the plug on the internet. Last year, they did this 106 times,” recalled Scroll.com founder Naresh Fernandes.

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‘Centre, its media cronies responsible for fake news’

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