Unethical use of unrelated videos

BY MAANVENDER SINGH| IN Media Practice | 14/09/2015
Footage used by India Today and News24 purporting to show Manipuris attacking Biharis was unrelated to the so-called `story` being reported.
How much worse can the misuse of videos get, asks MAANVENDER SINGH

Both channels  used this  video which is unrelated to Bihari migrants in Manipur.

 

On 31 August, three bills were passed in Manipur State Assembly, including one on land reform. Immediately the bill was attacked as `anti-tribal` and clashes erupted between tribals and the Churachandpur police in Manipur. At the same time, some anti-social elements uploaded videos on social media showing so-called brutality against Biharis in Manipur and  one of  these was picked up by a few news channels and reported as though they were fresh incidents.

One piece of footage showed a car being smashed by a mob; it was an older video showing protests over the Inner Line Permit on August 18 and the car in question is attacked because of  its Assam registration because the agitation is against ‘outsiders’. It had nothing to do with the `fresh’ incidents the TV channels were reporting.

Meanwhile, as retaliation for this `violence’ against Biharis, Pappu Yadav, a former Bihar MP, and his supporters halted trains passing through Bihar and searched for Manipuri passengers to expel them from the state. Luckily they found none.

The footage in question had been on the  internet before the  latest violence erupted in Churachandpur district but the channels that used it had done little to verify its authenticity. No question was raised about who took these videos, on which date and where they were taken. These videos were being used by Yadav and his associates to incite Biharis against people from Manipur.

This is not to deny that there have been sporadic acts of violence against Hindi-speakers in Manipur. It is also true that there is apprehension in Manipur that outsiders will benefit from the new Land Bill. Likewise, the failure of the state to create jobs in Manipur – over 7 lakh educated people are unemployed –has also created tensions and clashes between locals and outsiders.

In short, the reality is quite complex and the misinformation put out by both sides can only be countered if the media takes an interest in reporting such issues with some care. Instead, rather than debunking dangerous rumours, the media proved to be an accessory to this misinformation.

India Today, for example, carried a report on how Biharis were under attack from Manipuris after violence in Churachandpur. The story opens with an august 30 attack on a Bihari sugarcane vendor and then most of the footage used is of the car smashing video mentioned earlier. Which had absolutely nothing to do with attacks on Bihari migrants. It did not stop there, to further prove the channel’s  point a reporter was shown interviewing a  Bihari worker who are frightened by the attacks. The interview runs alongside the car bashing video. There were reports from their correspondents on Manipur and Bihar. Why did they not use their own cameramen instead of picking videos off the internet?

The Hindi news channel, News24, broadcast a story (uploaded on September 2) which showed Hindi speakers being attacked in Manipur. This one is a gem. It opens with the bashing of the sugarcane vendor (same video as India Today) and quickly morphs into a video of a woman being attacked. This one is of local people agitating on the inner line permit issue in Manipur on July 20, 2015. The woman whom the anchor says is being attacked without specifiying  the community she belongs to,  is actually  an illiterate, mentally retarded old widow, a  helpless non-manipuri, but an indigenous citizen of Manipur.  (She is being mercilessly attacked in a public place, according to the description of the original video on the Internet.) Then quickly, the TV story starts showing the same footage of the Assam registration car being attacked.   A mishmash of footage most of which is unrelated to the Bihari migrants Pappu Yadav is talking about. Here too the channel did not bother to get its own footage shot for use. 

Much like India Today then, this  channel also carried random videos with no information about where in Manipur these incidents were happening. News24 did not even bother with a reporter but relied entirely on the videos circulated  by Yadav.

What is shocking is that these channels clearly gave no thought how their incendiary stories could affect people from the North East living in other parts of the country. They have learnt no lessons from the events of two years ago when the circulation of fabricated video MMS prompted an exodus of frightened North Easterners from Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai.

Equally disturbing is how the story of Yadav ordering his thugs to stop trains and search for Manipuri passengers went almost unreported. The Hindu,Times of India, and the Deccan Herald carried information about Yadav but without condemning his actions. The Hindu`s story had a wrong headline. It said `MP’s supporters block train in Manipur`,  when it should have said Bihar.  

Only a passing mention of Yadav although in the past they have covered always similar comments made by Thackeray.

The unfortunate part of this sorry saga, apart from exposing the media’s failure to practise even the most rudimentary rules of journalism, is that the real issue has been sidelined – the confusion about the Land Bill that was passed in the state assembly continues to prevail.

In reporting complex issues, the media are failing to create understanding among readers and viewers about the context and causes of contentious disputes. Their basic duty to inform the public is  not being done. And the real issues that affect people’s lives, such as the price rise of basic commodities in Manipur or the deaths of innocent people at the hands of the police, are ignored.

We can have prime time programmes on the tragic death of a Syrian toddler in Turkey but not about the death of Sapam Robin Hood, a Class XI student who was killed on July 8 in Imphal reportedly by a rubber bullet from police personnel, during an agitation by the  Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System. This death was barely covered by the media. Manipur has been on the boil for the past year because of several cases of police atrocities but this has not been reported. Instead, the people of Manipur are portrayed as violent towards other groups.

The sensational narrative of locals-attacking-outsiders is more appealing than the reasons why tribal people are against a land bill. There is no sensitivity about reporting a story about the so-called mistreatment of one community by  another, no fact-checking, no attempt to source videos and no desire to educate the public so that they understand what is going on in their country.

The All Manipur Working Journalists Union has filed written complaints to the Indian Journalists Union and the Press Council of India blaming both the national media and Yadav for misrepresenting the facts.

 

Original sources of video footage

July, 20, 2015 (Women is beaten up)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHoF6-bqbK4

August, 18 ,2015 (Blue Car being dismantled)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGftMJn5GUk&index=52&list=PLirCDqYSgoC_9o_SeUyOkPmbkHQ2FwfaX

August, 30, 2015 (One person is bashing up the Sugarcane juice vendor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6ysvJIamyk

 

Maanvender Singh is a Phd Student, in the Department of History, Sikkim University, Gangtok

 

 

 

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