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A medium that publishes anti-Islamic government advertising lives on blood money

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Last week an ad on the front page of the Uttar Pradesh government in a newspaper to which I subscribe made me squirm. It had two pictures. In the first picture there was a young man with a kaffiyeh around his neck, which symbolized a terrorist, with a grim look in his eyes. According to the ad, this is a scene from before 2017. The second picture shows the same young man with his hands clasped. Please excuse me. This apparent transformation took place after 2017, that is, when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state. The ad is paid for by the taxpayer but cleverly uses the colors of the BJP to reinforce the political message.

You don’t have to be very creative or resourceful to decipher the images and get the message across. Even without Prime Minister Modi having already reminded us that the criminals can be recognized by their clothing, the advertising of the UP government is openly Islamophobic propaganda. I am not a muslim. Even then, it hit me in my gut.

Why should you be so concerned when you see this on the front page of a newspaper? Wasn’t it just advertising? And was the word Muslim used anywhere in the ad text? No, but those who did knew that our films had already popularized the image of representing a Muslim. So it cannot be denied that this is a crudely coded advertisement that aims to humiliate, defame and dehumanize Muslim men and thus also to justify the use of violence against them.

I later learned that all newspapers in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi spread the advertisement. Billboards with the same image have been put up in different parts of Lucknow. This advertising campaign must be seen in the context of what the Adityanath government did a few years ago against the anti-CAA demonstrators booked by the police. It put their names with pictures, addresses, and other details on hoards all over Lucknow. It was an unprecedented move. It was tantamount to inciting violence against the ant-CAA demonstrators by declaring them criminals without even having been convicted by the courts. Most of them were Muslim. This new hoarding is now perceived by the public as a continuation of the earlier hoarding. So the messaging doesn’t even stay that indirect.

It was no surprise that the Hindi media ran this ad, as over the past three decades we have seen it adapt more and more to the ideology of the BJP and RSS. The Indian Press Council had investigated the role of the Hindi media in “Ram Janma Bhumi Abhiyan” and held them dangerously partisan and also responsible for the communal violence that characterized the temple movement. This trend continued in the following years. You could see the open anti-Muslim stance of most newspapers during the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar.

But the English media have also found a way to reinforce the ideological and political message of the BJP. Since it is the BJP that runs the governments of the Union and the UP, newspapers cover all the speeches made by the Prime Minister, CM and other ministers, even those that have little to do with the government and are mostly ideological and political propaganda that often do who attack and humiliate opposition. Almost all of them are featured on the front pages, under the pretext that this is an event with the Prime Minister.

The allegations of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary or the Chief Minister of the UP are reported as undisputed facts. Even in matters where the newspaper itself has exposed, the BJP claims to be fake.

For example, an English newspaper reported on the UP CM’s speech in Kairana under the headline “Yogi Adityanath Promises Safety to the Families of Kairana”. Adityanath reiterated a previous false claim that Hindu families were being forced to flee due to pressure from Muslims. The same newspaper had then investigated the claim and found it to be false. There were other factual reports that got to the heart of the lies in the allegation. But when the same paper covered the CM’s speech this time, it presented its own earlier report in such a way as to believe the CM’s false claim:

“The CM said that Kairana’s reputation as a major industrial city and center of classical music, along with cities like Kandhla, suffered 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 on a large scale. “

However, since 2017 Adityanath added: “Because of our government’s zero tolerance policy towards crime and criminals, many families have returned.”

It further reported

“In a video released by the state government, several people the CM met can be heard praising the government’s efforts to make them feel“ safe ”. When a local from Kairana told him that they were very scared of the gangster Mukim Kala and were relieved that he was killed in Chitrakoot prison after a gang fight, Adityanath says: “He got what he deserved.”

You can see what’s going on here. The name of the perpetrator is explicitly mentioned. As I said, the paper tries to mitigate Adityanath’s remarks:

“Then BJP MP Hukum Singh claimed that nearly 350 Hindus left Kairana, one of the cities hit by the 2013 riots, under threats from criminals. However, an investigation by the Indian Express found several inconsistencies. “

This disclaimer in no way diminishes the effectiveness of the report. The “fact” of the “exodus” due to the criminals being Muslim is firmly entrenched in the minds of its readers.

Afterward, the media reported that the Home Secretary spoke about this exodus and his appreciation for Adityanath’s determination to stop him with his “no nonsense” in dealing with the criminals. In these reports, the newspaper does not find it necessary to tell the reader that the basis of the Home Secretary’s allegation is in doubt.

And then this ad comes along. One can imagine what an impression it would make on readers of the earlier published reports. Senior journalist Ajaz Ashraf aptly writes: “The editors will argue that reports of speeches by leaders should be published without counteracting them. Tony Rosenstiel, former executive director of the American Press Institute, once said, “Something can be factually correct and essentially untrue at the same time.” He cited an example: “When I quote neo-Nazis who say a bunch of technically correct things, but a total distortion reality, then I quoted them telling their lies exactly. “

The recent advertisements confusing criminals, terrorists and Muslims must be read as part of this discourse. Ashraf helps us understand how it works: “Advertising, legislative decisions and the media are all intertwined in the BJP’s survey strategy.”

Accomplices

The media have now become an unabashed partner of the BJP. It doesn’t matter that there is also room for criticism of the regime on the Edit and Oped pages. Because a handful of critical comments can hardly keep up with the enormous impact that the combination of routine “objective” reporting – that is, the unchecked publication of the lies of the BJP leaders – and bigoted advertising has.

We know that editors hardly have a say in which ads are shown. But as one editor noted through his newspaper editor experience a decade ago, “… the advertising department took dubious Page 1 ‘creatives’ to the editor to check on their suitability, and hell was going on if they didn’t. “We know this is not the case in most newspapers today. The editors only see these dubious front page advertisements after they have been printed.

We know that money has no dharma and no conscience. To run a newspaper you need money. But this money is stained with the blood of Muslims. By those who are affected by this policy and by those who will be affected by it. The editors and patrons of newspapers, including their readers and authors, must tell their owners that they must have some non-negotiable items. In these times of outrageous anti-Muslim violence, nothing can happen that will fuel the blazing fire.

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