//Press Council decision on photograph of Gujarat ethnic cleansing, captions published in The Hindu

Press Council decision on photograph of Gujarat ethnic cleansing, captions published in The Hindu

Chennai:

Qutubbin Naseeruddin Ansari, a victim of minority cleansing in Gujara

Qutubbin Ansari

The publication in The Hindu of a Reuters photograph of  a victim of minority cleansing in Gujarat, "Qutubbin Naseeruddin Ansari",  with captions, showed no "mal-intent on the part of the newspaper and even the various headings given over a period of time did not substantially differ from the sum and substance of the caption given by Reuters" but "the newspaper should have avoided mentioning the religion of the man identified in the photograph or of his attackers," the Press Council of India has ruled.

Human Rights Watch in its report said "State officials of Gujarat, India were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims since February 27 and are now engineering a massive cover-up of the state's role in the violence"

The complainant was Krishan Kak, a former IAS official who filed the petition to Press Council on June 2004. Mr. Kak is a media critic with strong Hinduta ideology and a spin master of the hindu militant organization, RSS.  He is a regular columnist to various sangh parivar publications. Recently,  Mr. Kak  wrote a book called, "NGOs, ACTIVISTS AND FOREIGN FUNDS ANTI-NATION INDUSTRY" along with Mrs. Radha Rajan . The book alleges about media bias faced by hindus in the country, and ridicules the thoughts and acts of humanists in India like Amartya Sen, Sandeep Pandey, Harsh mandir, Arun Roy, Admiral Ramdas, Nirmala Desh Pande, etc.

According to a survey conducted across the newsrooms of  top newspapers and television news networks by Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), it's the upper caste that makes the key editorial decisions for the rest of the country. The survey covered over 300 top editors working in 40 television and print news networks, and profiled them in terms of age, religion, caste/community and gender.

It reveals that Hindu upper caste men, who constitute just eight per cent of the total population of India, hold over 70 per cent of the key posts across newsrooms in the country.

The so-called twice-born Hindu castes dominate 85 per cent key posts despite constituting just 16 per cent of the total population, while the intermediary castes a represent meagre three per cent.

The Hindu Other Backward Class groups, who are 34 per cent of the total population, have a share of just four per cent in the Indian newsrooms.

Muslims, who constitute about 13 per cent of the population, control just 4 per cent top posts while Christians and Sikhs have a slightly better representation. There is no muslim member in Prss Council of India , while Dr. Sebastian Paul, a Christian member of parilament , a well known media critic is accomodated.

But the worst scenario emerges in the case of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs)

The  Press Council of India's Inquiry Committee that went into the complaint submitted by Mr. Krishan Kak noted that The Hindu carried reports in different issues making a reference to the photograph indicating that Mr. Ansari was pleading for his life during the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat. The Committee noted that it was a fact that communal violence took place in Gujarat in 2002, and the photograph published was taken by a reputed international news agency, Reuters.

The Committee's inquiry was limited to examining whether the captions provided by the newspaper over a period of time were appropriate and whether there was any deliberate intent in giving the captions. The Committee noted that the caption given by Reuters was: "An Indian Muslim man surrounded by Hindu rioters begs in Ahmedabad. An Indian Muslim man stranded on the first floor of his house and surrounded by Hindu rioters begs to nearby police to rescue him [in] Ahmedabad, the main city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, on March 1, 2002. Troops arrived in India's riot-torn western state on Friday to crush religious violence that has killed more than 190 people in two days, the worst communal bloodshed in a decade."

No mal-intent

After perusing the various captions relating to the photograph published in The Hindu , the Inquiry Committee "felt that … there was nothing on record to establish any mal-intent on the part of the newspaper and even the various headings given over a period of time did not substantially differ from the sum and substance of the caption given by Reuters." However, the Committee observed that "the newspaper should have avoided mentioning the religion of the man identified in the photograph or of his attackers. This has time and again been stressed not only by the Council but even by the National Integration Council and several other apex authorities of this country. The Hindu should have exercised restraint in the matter and was expected to be careful in future. The Inquiry Committee decided to recommend to the Council to dispose of the complaints with these observations."

The Press Council decided to accept the reasons, findings and recommendations of the Inquiry Committee and communicated this decision to the newspaper.

Gujarat Ethnic cleansing