Less than 12 hours after visuals first emerged of a mob destroying public property in west Bengaluru’s Padarayanapaura late night on Sunday, 19 April, for which 59 people were later arrested, Kannada television media had already begun analyzing and passing judgement on those accused on communal lines, with the channels making allegations that have already been debunked by the police.
Vehement protests erupted in the Muslim-dominated area, leading to vandalism of public property, when a team of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials along with police arrived there to take 58 secondary contacts of a deceased COVID-19 patient into a dedicated quarantine centre.
‘Traitors and Demons’
Seconds into Public TV’s 40-minute segment analyzing the Padarayanapura incident with ‘Indian orator, social activist and a writer Chakravarthi Sulibele’, they started speculating on whether to term those involved in the violence ‘traitors or demons’.
On being probed by the anchor Arun, Sulibele went on to agree that it appeared that the government was appearing weak and powerless to stop such attacks because of the soft approach the government took against the accused in the attacks on ASHA workers in Sadiq Nagar, another Muslim dominated area.
Mocking the CM for his condemnation of those targeting Muslims in the state over coronavirus, Sulibele said that they appeared to be losing the battle, whereas the UP formula had worked.
“Yediyurappa is creating an atmosphere where people can’t say anything at all against them. That shows we have lost the fight. He is not being tough on the community. We should have given a warning on day 1,” he said.
The same channel was recently served a notice by the Press Information Bureau for a report of theirs that claimed that PM Modi would have money thrown from helicopters to the needy. But this did not stop them from conjecturing without any evidence.
TV Channels Calls Padarayanapura ‘Lahore’
Following a back and forth between senior leaders of the BJP and local MLA Zameer Ahmed over him questioning the government about sending healthcare workers and BBMP members during the night, when the residents were not prepared or informed of the pick-up, TV channels immediately started targeting the MLA over his actions, labeling him ‘king of terrorists’.
Translations of headlines (L-R):
“Is your Padarayanapura in Pakistan’s Lahore”;
“Where are you, king of terrorists, Zameer?”;
“Are you sitting at home and planning with more terrorists?”
Misinformation & Name-Calling
Without waiting for the police to fully reveal the details of charges or names of the accused, terms like ‘Jihadi virus’, ‘rakshas’, ‘traitors’, ‘rowdies’, ‘devils’, ‘sinners’ etc, began to be used to describe them.
This dispatch embedded below asks viewers to memorize the faces of those arrested for the violence in Padarayanapura and ended with the anchor saying:
“We are unhappy with the police that has left them in a state where they are able to sit comfortably... these are the faces of people who were willing to disobey the state government and the health department because their MLA Zameer Khan had not instructed them to leave.”
Despite senior police officials confirming early in the morning that there had been no attacks on cops or officials, this report claimed that the mob had attacked health workers.
Padarayanapura Residents Condemn Reports
Saddam Baig, an advocate and resident of the area, who was there on Sunday night, said that the media was blowing things out of proportion for TRPs.
“What media shows is not right. They should stop doing all this nonsense to get TRPs. Bringing it into a different level, connecting to Tablighi, making it a communal issue, this is not correct. Few of us are planning to file a complaint against some of the media channels. We are making a list of such reports,” he said.
Other activists and netizens tweeted their concern over the reportage.
‘Anchors & Right-wing Groups Echoing Each Other’
Hate Speech Beda, a voluntary group of lawyers, writers, activists have come together to document and lodge formal complaints about hate speech in the media, performing arts and public spaces, has documented several such instances of hate speech by the Kannada TV media in recent times, especially during the CAA protests and following the discovery of the Tablighi J-maat related coronavirus cluster.
“Anchors and right-wing groups echoing each other has become increasingly the norm, with clarifications from the police or the bureaucracy doing little to reframe coverage. This was particularly so in the case of Ardra, who was arrested from Town Hall for allegedly shouting Pakistan Zindabad slogans. It is clear from the first set of reports that the police in fact denied that she had shouted slogans. The accusation had come from members of the right-wing group – whose protest Ardra had gone to counter – and was made without any evidence. Yet, reporters and anchors chose to highlight the accusation, not as an accusation but as an incontrovertible fact,” reads an excerpt from an upcoming report.
“There is a of parroting of right wing narratives with no sense of journalistic objectivity and neutrality. Some of the the ‘key offenders’ are Public TV, Suvarnan News. Terms like ‘Pakistan pisachi (devil) , rakshas, deva (demon)’. They get people like Pramod Muthalik, head of the Sri Ram Sene to speak for them. Saying things like ‘shoot on sight orders should be issued’.”Swathi Shivanand, Hate Speech Beda
Eleven complaints about hate speech have been filed by the organization so far with the district and state media monitoring committee, DGP Karnataka, police commissioner of Bangalore and other authorities.