Express Sensationalism

Indian Express headline on November 19 claimed : “R R Patil says Dhule cops never said Muslims are terror masterminds, forgets it’s documented”. The news story then went on to assert that while Patil has categorically denied earlier Indian Express report about remand application by Dhule police, IE possesses a copy of the application to nail Patil’s lie. A closer look reveals another side.

A quote purportedly extracted from the remand application has been rendered by IE in Roman script as :

Bharat deshaat baryach pramanat thikthikani bombspot zaale asun tyaamadhey bombspot ghadvun aanare vyakti yaa Muslim samajachya nishpann zaalele aahet.

For the benefit of those readers who don’t know Marathi the Express reporter has done a translation :

It is an established fact that Muslims are the masterminds behind all terrorist activities across India.

Somebody who is familiar with both the languages will recognize at least on some reflection if not straightaway that the words appearing in red colour are nowhere to be seen in the Marathi quote provided to buttress the “authenticity” in reporting & the newspaper’s credentials in “investigative” journalism. Either the translator is incompetent or is a dangerously mischievous headline-grabber. In today’s news for sale scenario I am persuaded to believe the latter.

I would now attempt to render an honest translation of the Marathi quote, but before doing that let me look at what Marathi words would have had to be there in the original remand application for the paper’s English translation to pass muster.

Established fact = Prasthaapit baab.

Masterminds = Sootradhaar.

All terrorist activities = Sagalyaa aatankwaadi ghatanaa.

Now coming to my literal translation version :

“In India on large scale at various places bomb blasts have happened & the persons perpetrating bomb blasts have been found to belong to Muslim community.”

Whereas my more lucid but still authentic version would read like this :

In the large scale bomb blasts that have happened at various places in India, the perpetrators have been found to belong to Muslim community.

Those who know Marathi may have noticed that the phrase “baryach pramanat thikthikani bombspot” is not well worded (it is not good Marathi) in the original quote. It should have been put as : “thikthikani baryach pramanat bombspot

There is another twist in the tale, but let me warn you that it is purely my conjecture at this juncture unless I get access to the whole remand application to verify it. I guess what the drafter actually meant was :

Bharat deshaat thikthikani bombspot zaale asun tyaamadhey bombspot ghadvun aanare vyakti yaa baryach pramanat Muslim samajachya nishpan zaalele aahet.

In English it would then read as :

In the bomb blasts that have happened at various places in India, the perpetrators have been found to belong largely to Muslim community.

The last seems to represent the true picture of the terror acts in India if one relies on current state of police investigations as reported by our news media. But can we trust our news media to report truth or at least not reporting manufactured lies?

Would you for instance forgive me in believing that there are four or at least two Lt. Col. Purohits? Their names have been reported on various days in Indian Express alternatively & repeatedly :

Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit.

Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit.

Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit.

Lt. Col. Shrikant Prasad Purohit.

By the way for those of you who may be by now wary of my parsing of sentences, this was not a one off of mistake, but a case of serial carelessness. If you don’t believe this, all you have to do is peruse closely the IE of last three weeks or so.

The purpose of all this is to show that our opinions & attitudes are shaped by the information inputs we receive. Depending upon our perceptive filters we do rating jobs on the sources of information and select or discard information accordingly. Popularly newspapers are held by most to report truth, only truth & nothing but the truth. It was never true. It is not true. Media today, including print journalism, is a serious business of making money & growing stockholder value. It also serves the larger business interests of controlling tycoons. Reporting news as objectively as feasible is thus a tertiary activity when there is some free time from the first two. We have to caution each other at every step & remind ourselves to be alert to this fact.

After all as they say the devil is in the detail.

3 Responses to “Express Sensationalism”

  1. Neelakshi Jatar Says:

    I have long lost faith in the credibility of the media. Half truths are very dangerous and public opinion seems to lap up news stories.


  2. Jyoshna Mishra Says:

    Dear Sadanand

    I think perse our journalists should try to be authentic and responsible in reporting facts . A lot of it I believe has passed thru a preconditioned mind -hence reporting any news is without a balance approach (perhaps a delicate balance needs to be adhered to) while penning their columns . Unfortunately ,most are the usual guys who jump the band-wagon because it is the in thing to do .I wonder when they sit down to write how much of it is filtering thru their minds without an emotional back-up or in other words is the thought well removed from his emotions while writing their news articles.

    And i like the way you bring out the nuances and descrepancies of the so-called sensational journalism I hope the Express Editor is an avid reader of yr blog !


  3. C K Sharma Says:

    And, if I may point out one very insidious, sneaky effort of quite a few of the National newspapers but, definitely by HT and ToI — the two I subscribe to.

    The fact that they all have stock pictures that they use is acceptable, but just keep an eye out from now onwards, and you will see that they always end up using a particular picture of LK Advani, taken from slightly below him, in which he has mouth open in a big O.

    By itself, it may not mean much, but if you then look out for the pictures used of Manmohan Singh or Sonia, then you will realise the significance.

    Not really a fair and free media, is it?

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