Media that publishes Islamophobic government advertising thrives on blood money
Last week, a front page ad from the Uttar Pradesh government in a newspaper I subscribe to made me squirm. There were two images. In the first picture was a young man with a kaffiyeh around the neck, symbolizing a terrorist, with a fierce look in his eyes. This, the ad tells us, is a scene from a time before 2017. In the second image, the same young man is seen with his hands folded. Seeking forgiveness. This apparent transformation took place after 2017, when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state. Advertising is paid for by the taxpayer but cleverly uses BJP colors to reinforce the political message.
You don’t have to be very creative or imaginative to decipher the images and get the point across. Even without Prime Minister Modi having already reminded us that criminals can be recognized by their clothes, the publicity of the UP government is open Islamophobic propaganda. I am not a muslim. Even then, it hit me in the guts.
Why should anyone feel so upset to see this on the front page of a newspaper? After all, wasn’t it just an advertisement? And was the word Muslim used anywhere in the ad copy? No, but those who do knew that our films have already popularized the representative image of a Muslim. There is therefore no point in denying that this is a crudely coded advertisement aimed at demeaning, defaming and dehumanizing Muslim men and, in doing so, also to justify the use of violence against them.
I later learned that the ad was running in all newspapers in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Signs displaying the same image have been placed in different parts of Lucknow. This ad campaign must be seen in the context of what was done by the Adityanath government to anti-CAA protesters detained by police a few years ago. He put their names along with photos, addresses and other details on signs across Lucknow. It was an unprecedented gesture. This was a direct incitement to violence against anti-CAA protesters, declaring them criminals without even having been convicted by the courts. Most of them were Muslims. This new palisade will henceforth be considered by the public as a continuation of the old palisades. So the message does not remain even so indirect.
It was no surprise to see the Hindi media running this ad as over the past three decades we have seen it align more and more with the ideology of BJP and RSS. the Indian Press Council investigated role of Hindi media in ‘Ram Janma Bhumi Abhiyan’ and found him dangerously partisan, and also responsible for the communal violence that marked the temple movement. We saw this trend continue over the following years. You could see the openly anti-Muslim stance of most newspapers during the community violence in Muzaffarnagar.
But the English media have also found a way to amplify the ideological and political message of the BJP. As it is the BJP which runs the governments of the Union and the UP, the newspapers report all the speeches of the PM, CM and other ministers, even those who have little to do with the government and are mainly ideological and political propaganda, often attacking and humiliating the opposition. Almost all of them are on the front page, on the pretext that after all this is an event involving the PM.
Claims by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary or the UP Chief Minister are reported as undisputed facts. Even in the cases in which the newspaper itself has exposed, the BJP claims to be a fake.
For example, an English newspaper reported the speech of the UP CM given to Kairana under the title “Yogi Adityanath Promises Safety to the Families of Kairana”. Adityanath was repeating a false claim made earlier that Hindu families were forced to flee due to pressure from Muslims. The same newspaper then investigated this claim and found it to be false. There were also other investigative reports that uncovered the lies in the claim. But when the same newspaper reported on the CM’s speech this time, it presented its own previous report in such a way that it gave some credence to the CM’s false claim:
“The CM said that Kairana’s position as a major industrial town and center for classical music had suffered, as well as cities like Kandhla, due to” the criminalization of politics in the early 1990s and the politicization of professional criminals. Hindu businessmen and other Hindus have been forced to migrate from here on a large scale ”.
Since 2017, however, Adityanath has added, “Due to our government’s zero tolerance policy towards crime and criminals, many families have returned. “
He further reported,
“In a video released by the state government, several people met by the CM can be heard praising his government’s measures to make them feel ‘safe’. When a resident of Kairana told him that they were very afraid of the gangster Mukim Kala and were relieved to learn that he had been killed in Chitrakoot prison following a gang dispute, Adityanath says, “He got what he deserved.”
We can see what’s going on here. The name of the criminal is mentioned specifically. As noted, the newspaper tries to temper Adityanath’s remarks:
“Then, BJP deputy Hukum Singh claimed that nearly 350 Hindus had left under threats from criminals from Kairana, one of the towns affected by the 2013 riots. However, an investigation carried out by the Indian express had found several differences on this subject.
This disclaimer in no way diminishes the effect of the report. The “fact” of the “exodus” by Muslim criminals is firmly established in the minds of its readers.
After that, the media reported the Minister of the Interior talks about this exodus and his appreciation for Adityanath’s determination to stop him with his “no nonsense policy” of dealing with criminals. In these reports, the newspaper does not think it necessary to tell the reader that the basis for the Home Secretary’s request is questionable.
And then comes this ad. One can imagine what impression this would leave on the minds of readers of previously published reports. Senior journalist Ajaz Ashraf writes aptly“The editors will say that the reports on the speeches of the leaders should be published without countering them.” Tony Rosenstiel, former executive director of the American Press Institute, once said, “Something can be both correct and substantially wrong. He cited an example: “If I quote neo-Nazis saying a bunch of things that are technically correct, but a total distortion of reality, then I have quoted them accurately telling their lies. “
The recent publicity confusing criminals, terrorists and Muslims should be read in the context of this speech. Ashraf helps us understand how it works: “Advertisements, legislative decisions and the media are woven together in the BJP’s polling strategy.
Partners in crime
The media have now become a shameless partner of the BJP. Never mind that the regime’s critics also find their place in the editorial and editorial pages. Because a handful of critical editorials can hardly compete with the enormity of the impact produced by the combination of routinely “objective” reporting – that is, the unexamined publication of the lies of the leaders of the BJP – and fanatic commercials.
We know that publishers have virtually no say in deciding which announcements should be taken. But as a noted editor from his experience as a newspaper editor a decade ago, “..the ad service would take questionable” creatives “from Page 1 to the editor to check their suitability and there was hell to pay if they didn’t.” We know that in most cases newspapers today, this is not the practice. Publishers also don’t see these questionable front-page ads until after they’re printed.
We know that money has no dharma, no conscience. To run a newspaper, you need money. But this money is stained with the blood of Muslims. Of those who are affected by this policy and of those who will be. Newspaper publishers and owners, including their readers and writers, need to tell their owners that they need to have non-negotiable items. In these times of brazen anti-Muslim violence, you cannot let anything go that fuels the blazing fire.