Aaj Tak, the 24x7 Hindi news channel dug its own pit on Wednesday, 14 February, when it aired a debate around not just any news, but on a fake tweet around Priya Prakash Varrier’s viral Malayalam song.
The 6 pm debate on the national news channel revolved around a tweet that shows Maulana Atif Qadri, the vice-president of the West Bengal Minority United Council, stating that a fatwa had been issued against the actor for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
According to the tweet, Qadri supposedly said:
Aaj Tak, however, went ahead and aired a debate around the tweet, assuming it to be true.
In fact, anchor Anjana Om Kashyap, in her one-minute long opening monologue, attributes the point of the entire discussion to the fake tweet, taking it to be real news, of course.
What’s obvious here is that the tweet had been issued by a parody account named ‘Times How’, and not ‘Times Now’.
In fact, even the parody account’s Twitter handle states clearly that it is intended for satire. *fine print, guys?*
As fake news debunker Alt News notes, the reason many fall for the tweets endorsed by Times How is its logo, which is morphed on to that of Times Now. The only difference between the two handles is the blue tick next to Times Now’s twitter handle.
This, of course, did not stop even senior journalists from coming out all guns blazing against Qadri’s ‘idiotic’ statement.
Ranganathan, however, later rectified his error by calling the ‘Time How’ tweet ‘genius’.
But the one who’s really got no chill was Aaj Tak’s anchor Kashyap, who apart from airing the debate, also tweeted out the a trailer, asking Qadri to use a vacuum cleaner to cleanse his thoughts.
Incidentally, Aaj Tak recently won eight awards for their work in journalism, including the title for the ‘Best Hindi News Channel’.
But one can understand why news persons scrambled to pick on Qadri’s statement, what with inflamed religious sentiments especially post the ‘Padmaavat’ debacle.
In fact, a group of Muslim youths in Hyderabad have reportedly lodged a complaint against the song from ‘Oru Adaar Love’, claiming that it allegedly hurts religious sentiments by insulting the Prophet’s wife Khadija.
UPDATE: After receiving scathing coverage for anchoring the debate, particularly for the opening monologue targeting the parody tweet, Kashyap tweeted a clarification with a video byte of Qadri, where in he is seen condemning the viral Malayalam song for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
In her monologue, Kashyap had said “Maulana Qadri ye keh rahe hain ki Jab woh namaz ke liye aakhen bandh karte hain toh unhe Priya Varrier dikh rahi hain.”
However, no where in the video tweeted by Kashyap is Qadri heard making a statement similar to the one she had earlier admonished him for.