People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 25, 2007
The Dark Side Of The Media:
The Case Of CNN-IBN & Nandigram
N D Jayaprakash
IN ‘Face the Nation’ programme on November 12, 2007, CNN-IBN telecast blood-curdling images of a villager being shot at in cold blood. This was followed by images of a dead body being wrapped in polythene sheets by a few people in a manner that appeared to be an attempt to dispose off the body secretly. Very very shocking images, indeed! These images have brought to the forefront the darkest side of the happenings in Nandigram. The deeply disturbing happenings are also a lesson for all Indians to desist from taking undue advantage of the miseries of hapless rural folk for advancing sectarian political interests. However, sheer force of habit propels some to overlook the poignant situation and to focus their attention solely on gaining political mileage out the terrible images by hook or by crook. That is precisely the kind of highly unethical operation that the television channel CNN-IBN has indulged in. On November 12, 2007, CNN-IBN, in a calculated move to damage the prestige of the CPI(M), took the liberty of declaring that the CPI(M) cadres were behind the above-mentioned gruesome incidents. The next day CNN-IBN itself was casting doubts about the verdict it had arbitrarily pronounced since it could not produce any evidence to point a finger at the CPI(M) on this count. In fact, circumstantial evidence actually proves that it was the Bhumi Ucched Pratirod Committee (BUPC) members, who were behind the said ghastly incidents – a fact which CNN-IBN is wary of admitting.
CNN-IBN’s ‘Face the Nation’ programme has, thus, brought to the forefront the dark side of media misreporting as well. Having sufficiently inflamed passions of the viewers through those horrendous images, the question ‘Does CPI(M) have blood on its hands?’ is posed to them to be answered through sms and online. At the end of the programme the verdict was out: a whopping 86 per cent said “yes” and just 14 per cent said “no” to the above question! It is totally surprising that even 14 per cent of the viewers had said “no” to the question after seeing those searing images! On the contrary, it is also possible that those 14 per cent of the viewers had sufficient grounds to doubt the predetermined conclusions that an over-zealous CNN-IBN appeared to be drawing from those gruesome images. Yes, CNN-IBN had absolutely no evidence of any kind to draw the outlandish conclusions it did from the footage that it was telecasting then. The brazenness with which CNN-IBN had gone about deliberately concocting stories with a view to poisoning the minds of the viewers while conducting the said opinion poll exemplifies the manipulative side of news making.
The charge against CNN-IBN of deliberately misleading the viewers can be easily verified by a closer examination of the said footage and the manner in which CNN-IBN chose to interpret the same. The veracity of the charge against CNN-IBN is re-confirmed by the disclosures made by the photo-journalist, who had reportedly shot the said footage, during his interview in the CNN-IBN programme “India at 9”, which was telecast on November 13, 2007. For the benefit of the reader, the relevant portions of the transcripts of the said “Face the Nation” programme and the said “India at 9” programmes are reproduced below along with comments on the same.
The abridged transcript of the said “FACE THE NATION” programme that was telecast by CNN-IBN at 10.00 pm on November 12, 2007 is as follows:
PART - I
“CNN-IBN: …. From inside Nandigram, West Bengal, exclusive first pictures of the violence that held villages hostage. [VISUALS: Shocking footage of a man being shot at in cold blood followed by images of a dead body being wrapped in polythene sheets by a few people, etc.] Armed CPI(M) cadres are on a murderous rampage.
[COMMENT: While from the said footage there is not a shred of evidence to link the CPI(M) with the gruesome shooting, CNN-IBN has at the very outset deliberately poisoned the mind of the viewer by insinuating that the said shot was fired by CPI(M) cadres.]
CNN-IBN: That brings us to the question of the day:
“Nandigram: Does the CPI(M) have blood on its hands?”
sms us at: 52622
Type: QOTD Y
Type: QOTD N
You can also log on to ibnonline.com and cast your vote online and express an opinion.
Time now for the top story on Face the Nation. The CPI(M) claims that it has recaptured Nandigram from those who were resisting the CPI(M). Political power grows from the barrel of the gun said Mao Tse-tung.
[COMMENT: What else constitutes “State power”? It was certainly not Mao, who invented “politics” or “guns”! Mao was merely re-interpreting a fact of history.]
CNN-IBN: And the CPI(M) has certainly shown that it abides by Mao’s teachings till today. Rapes, killings and intimidation has been the CPI(M)’s way of regaining Nandigram and has been the CPI(M)’s way for the last 30 years, perhaps, in the rural country side.
[COMMENT: CNN-IBN has not only tried to imply that Mao’s teachings encouraged cadres to resort to rapes, killing and intimidation but also has gone on to give credence to the baseless allegations against the CPI(M) as the proven truth. Moreover, CNN-IBN had the gall to allege that the CPI(M) had obtained the confidence the people of West Bengal for the last 30 years through rapes, killing and intimidation! Such preposterous allegations constitute nothing but an expression of utter contempt for the democratic consciousness of the people of West Bengal. By choosing to indulge in malicious propaganda, CNN-IBN has inadvertently exposed the skewed mind-set of those anti- Left-Front forces, who are at a loss to explain their inability to obtain mass support in rural Bengal. With such deep-rooted biases, CNN-IBN does not even try to pretend that it was purveying news objectively! On the other hand, by adopting a blatantly partisan attitude and by distorting facts, CNN-IBN has jettisoned whatever credibility “the best English news channel” in India might otherwise have had.]
CNN-IBN: Here now is the exclusive footage from inside Nandigram for the first time on television. [VISUALS: Repetition of the above mentioned gruesome images with additional footage of masked armed men taking aim to shoot.] The real picture of battleground Nandigram. For the first time on television bullets, bodies, bombs. Away from the sight of the media armed cadre moving in. Evidence of violence is quietly put out of sight. As CRPF troops are made to wait for days, ineffective outside the circle of violence till they are finally let in to end the bloody battles. But will the CPI(M) live down the charge that Nandigram is CPI(M)’s Gujarat?
[COMMENT: The fact is, the West Bengal state government apprehending escalation of the on-going violence in the area had made a requisition to the government of India (GoI) on October 27, 2007 to deploy a battalion of CRPF at Nandigram. The GoI not only prevaricated on the request but there was active opposition from a cabinet minister (Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who went on to issue a public statement on October 30) against deployment of central forces at Nandigram. Finally, after the violence escalated, the CRPF contingent arrived in Kolkata on November 11, 2007 and was promptly deployed at Nandigram, which is 120 kms away, the very next day. Therefore, CNN-IBN’s allegation that the CRPF was made to wait outside the circle of violence at Nandigram for days is nothing but a deliberate misrepresentation of facts with a view to lower the credibility of the state government and the CPI(M) among the viewers, whose thought processes had already been vitiated by the horrendous images they had been witnessing.]
PART – II
CNN-IBN: …. Is this the formal unmasking of the CPI(M) cadre? Is this the way the CPI(M) cadre year after year after year bullied and intimidated the rural countryside of Bengal? And now we are all seeing in front of our eyes the murderous face of this cadre. [VISUALS: Repetition of the above mentioned ghastly images and footage of masked armed men taking aim to shoot.]
[COMMENT: CNN-IBN was making all kinds of loaded statements, which were intended to influence the viewers when they choose their option in the opinion poll. There was nothing in the footage that was being shown to suggest that the viewers were witnessing actions of fiery CPI(M) cadres. It is through the anchor’s coloured remarks that the viewers were made to believe that those in the said footage were CPI(M) cadres.]
PART - III
CNN-IBN: Let us now play you some of the exclusive pictures we have from inside Nandigram. CPI(M) supporters firing at a villager there, you can see the villager there, he is shot at and he falls down. Another case of firing happening there. These are exclusive pictures of a body or weapons. In fact, a charred body there being wrapped up. [VISUALS: The same startling footage that was shown earlier in Part I and Part II of the programme is replayed.]
[MY COMMENTS: There is absolutely nothing in the said footage to suggest that CPI(M) supporters had fired the said shot. Yet, CNN-IBN, in the absence of even an iota of evidence against the CPI(M) on this count, indulges in the highly unethical act of accusing the CPI(M) cadres as the ones who had fired the said shot. The groundless allegation exposes CNN-IBN’s inherent bias against the CPI(M) and the manner in which CNN-IBN manipulates news.]
CNN-IBN: Let me give you some shocking figures here: AK 47 rifles were got by CPI(M) cadres from neighbouring Jharkhand; self-loading rifles were bought.
[COMMENT: All one can say is that CNN-IBN’s news editors had just gone berserk! They had stooped down to peddling these spiteful rumours spread possibly by the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee as acknowledged facts. By allowing their imaginations to run wild, they indulge in all kinds of speculations and then decide to broadcast to the outside world whatever came to their mind as the solemn truth! They are not even bothered about adding the precautionary word “allegedly” before repeating such wild charges! Does freedom of the media entail spreading canard?]
CNN-IBN: The question we asked at the start of the show was: “Does the CPI(M) have blood on its hands?” The final verdict is 86 per cent “yes”. Yes, the CPI(M) has blood on its hands.
[COMMENT: The manner in which CNN-IBN carried out the so-called nation-wide opinion poll is truly amazing! Throughout the programme, the anchor was playing a completely partisan role and was doing all she could to tarnish the image of the CPI(M). All kinds of dubious allegations were flung at the CPI(M) and were passed off as absolute truth. There was not the slightest pretence that the opinion poll was being conducted objectively! The highly objectionable way in which CNN-IBN had conducted itself while presenting the ‘Face the Nation’ programme on November 12, 2007 is a classic example of the virulent anti-Left stance of a sizable section of the Indian media. That CNN-IBN is guilty of manipulating news to suit its interests is re-confirmed in the CNN-IBN programme “India at 9”, which was telecast on November 13, 2007.]
(To be continued…)