• Television as Lynch Mob: District Magistrate Report on JNU Incident Raises Questions of Media Ethics

    Teesta Setalvad

    January 8, 2018

    Students crowd at the JNU Presidential Debate at the JNU campus in New Delhi on wednesday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi 090915

     

    Newspapers have reported that the Aam Admi Government has reportedly told its legal team to file a criminal case against three channels for airing doctored videos where the words, “Bandook”, “Sher ke bacche”, and “Hurriyat ke jawaan” were inserted (extraneously) into the videos to mislead the public. Even “Pakistan Zindabad” were telecast although they were not raised at the event after a magisterial inquiry submitted its investigation report.

    • Three of the seven videos examined by the Truth Labs, Hyderabad to ascertain whether they were doctored or not, were found to have been doctored. The television channels that telecast these doctored videos have not been named in the report.
    • The reporter and cameraman of Zee News were invited onto the campus at 5.20 p.m. by Saurabh Sharma of the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) who is general secretary of the JNUSU, on February 9, and it is after the telecast by Zee television of the doctored videos the next day that the local police station lodged the FIR. The FIR, filed under section 124A of the Indian penal Code (IPC) did not name any students as offenders.
    • While Zee News/television willingly gave the CD of the video recording of the news telecast that led to the registration of an FIR to the police, the same news channel, despite repeated requests did not make available any recording for the purpose of the Magisterial Inquiry. This amounts, in law to suppression of evidence and non-cooperation with a judicial officer.
    • Several of the Security Officers under the administration gave contradictory statements to the District Magistrate and the Internal Inquiry Committee.

    The report submitted by Sanjay Kumar, Magistrate on March 2 completely exonerates Kanhaiya Kumar from shouting any anti-national slogans on February 9, 2016. Even on the role of Umar Khalid, the report states that the voice (allegedly heard giving certain slogans) is not visible on the video from the same source as the image, clearly suggesting doctoring. In the case of Anirban and Ashutosh, certain other slogans could be found to have been uttered by them but the melee and confusion of the crowd makes it difficult to offer certain conclusions. Further investigation has been recommended.

    Delhi Government report on JNU Incident

    Factual Report by the Government of NCT of Delhi, on the Incident which took place at the JNU Camus on February 9, 2016. Sanjay Kumar, Magistrate, New Delhi.

    Major Findings of the Report of the District Magistrate (DM):

    1. Nothing adverse could be found against Kanhaiya Kumar. No witness or video available to me could support allegation against him.
    2. Umar Khalid was visible in videos. His support for the role of Afzal Guru is known and he was the organiser of the event. His role needs to be further investigated (Page 1 ) The Magistrate further says that after a close watching of the videos, he “did not hear any slogan from the mouth of Umar Khalid” (Page 23).
    3. Three out of seven videos which were sent for verification were found to be doctored including one news clipping of a News Channel found on You-Tube.

     
    The report is regarding a February 9, 2016 protest march organised by a group of students at the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Campus where some anti-national slogans were raised. Another group of students protested against this event and raised slogans, JNU security and local police could avert any major fight On February 10, 2016 a news channel broadcast a video of a group of students raising slogans at the JNU campus. A controversy then erupted and many allegations and counter allegations were raised on diff media channels and on social media.

    The orders for inquiry from the office of the deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia into the incident which happened at the JNU campus were given on February 13, 2016, the day after the arrest.

    Terms of Reference:

    “It is necessary to inquire into the incident and bring out a factual report. Accordingly it is hereby ordered that the District Magistrate, New Delhi will inquire into the incident and submit a factual report within 15 days.”

    Methodology:

    The District Magistrate inquired into various footage of the incident available on You-Tube. Thereafter the District Magistrate selected and sifted those videos that had clear contents and were supposed to support some allegations or counter those allegations. The District Magistrate also asked some of the reporters who interacted with him to share some links which are “raw footage of the original”. The decision was then taken to get a total of the seven videos examined by Truth labs, Bangalore.

    The District Magistrate interacted intensely with the Vice Chancellor of JNU and other officials of the administration including the Internal Inquiry Committee. Several of the videos shot by the security staff of the G4S or other JNU officials on their cameras was also collected and examined by the Magistrate.

    Significantly, the District Magistrate wrote to the Zee News channel to get the video footage of the incident. The Zee News channel that has telecast these doctored videos on February 10, 2016 leading to the registration of the sedition case, not only did not reply to the District Magistrate, but did not submit any of the footage to him (as is required under law). “They maintained an ambivalent stand on sharing the footage. Till the time of writing the report, I have not received any footage from Zee News.”

    Importantly, the District Magistrate Sanjay Gupta concludes at Chapter 4 (Sequence of events) that “the event was not organised with prior permission. Hence it would not be right to say that the JNU administration withdrew the permission after granting the same. Although the JNU administration is taking the stand that permission was withdrawn. “Signatures of the Rector were not found on the Performa Permission form regarding the event by the Senior Security officer.

    Contradiction between slogans recorded by the security staff of JNU and the slogans mentioned in the FIR:
     
    “Kashmir ki janta sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai,
    Kashmir ki mahilaon sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai,
    Afzal ki hatya nahin sahenge..nahi sahenge..nahi sahenge..
    Kitne Afzal maroge, har ghar se Afzal niklenge
    University Prashasan khabardar
    Zor lga kar hallaa bol
    Hum kya chate hain, azaadi,
    Hai haq hamaara azaadi
    Ham lekar rahenge azaadi.”
     
    First Information Report (FIR)

    The First information Report (FIR) related to the incident is filed after Zee News telecasts a programme on February 10, 2016, ostensibly on the events that took place on the JNU campus on February 9, 2016. This programme showed some students shouting “anti-national” slogans including “Pakistan Zindabad”. Police then write to Zee News to get the copy of the footage of the video shot by Zee News o February 9, 2016. Police got the CD from Zee news. (Page 16 of the Report)

    Page 16 of the Report

    The FIR records that “people involved in the rally under the leadership of Umar Khalid were shouting anti-national slogans and sentences.”
    As per the FIR these slogans were,

    Fatal ki hatya nahin sahenge..nahi sahenge..nahi sahenge..
    Kitne Afzal maroge, har ghar se Afzal niklenge
    Kashmir ki naujawan sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai,
    Halla Bol, halla bol
    Lal Chauk par uncha bola
    Kitne Maqbool maroge, har ghar se Maqbool niklega
    Sajaaye Maut ko radd karo
    Haq hamaara azaadi
    Lad kar lenge azaadi
    “Pakistan Zindabad”
    And other anti-national slogans.
     
    The police registered a case alleging sedition (under section 124A/34) of the Indian Penal Code.

    Role of the Media, Zee News:

    The District Magistrate’s report states that the Zee News reporter, Pawan Nara, enters the campus for meeting Saurabh Sharma, General Secretary of the JNSU (belonging to the RSS-affiliated, ABVP). Pawan Nara enters the campus till 7.20 p.m. along with cameraman. (Page 15 of the Report)

    Presence of the Media  (Page 19 of the Report)

    Despite the media agency Zee News having no permission to enter the campus, a reporter and videographer from Zee News was present at the campus. The Entry Register of JNU Campus shows that Zee News’s entry was facilitated by Saurabh Sharma of the RSS-affiliated ABVP, general secretary of the JNUSU. The register shows the entry at 5.20 p.m.

    The JNU authorities claimed, according to the District Magistrate report, that the organizers invited the media without permission of the authorities. But, says the District Magistrate’s report, “this was a misconception that the authorities could have corrected.. “Only this news channel could video the event. This news channel flashed the news and thereafter thee Police obtained the copy from their office and filed the FIR.

    Considering the gravity of the incident that took place on February 9, 2016, university authorities constituted a High level Enquiry Committee of three faculty members on February 10, 2016 to enquire into the whole incident although oral orders for constituting the committee was issued on February 11, 2016.

    On February 11, 2016, the DCP (South) writes to the Vice Chancellor, Jagadesh Kumar for permission to enter the campus and the same day, the Registrar promptly grants this permission on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor.

    On February 12, 2016, the Chief Proctor of JNU was allegedly forced to sign a letter recommending the suspension pending enquiry) of eight students. The Chief Proctor, Krishna Kumar resigned from his position on February 29, 206 and has been replaced by A.P. Dimri.  Representatives of the JNUTA have been stating that the Chief proctor, Kumar was made to play into the hands of the Registrar, Bhupinder Zutshi. First a proctoral committee is formed which is then replaced by a Inquiry Committee; but when a suspension letter is to be issued it I signed by the Chief proctor.

    Examination of Videos and Doctored Videos

    The video available at the URL. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Xnl.6d4YoVlctitled as Very Shocking and Disturbing Video from JNU has been finely edited and the word “Bandook” could have been inserted into the recording at around 5 minutes 8 seconds 327 milliseconds
    The video clip from a news channel where “Pakistan Zindabad was supposed to be heard or “Aazadi” was said by Kanhaiya; the videos were edited and the forensic examination found that the sound and video was coming from two different sources. “Hence,” says the Magistrate, “it is a doctored video with possible intention to misguide the public.”

    Content of the FIR

    The police did nothing to prevent the occurrence of a cognizable offense as per the duty cast on the police under section 151 of the CrPC.

    In the FIR registered on February 10, 2016 following the telecast on Zee News television and examination of the video footage provided to the police by the channel, “people raised anti-national slogans under the leadership of Umar Khalid.” At no place in the FIR does it state that “Umar Khalid raised the slogans” or “ Kanhaiya Kumar raised anti-India slogans.” (Page 23 of the Report)

    Police write slogan “Pakistan Zindabad” in inverted comas itself, while other slogans are not in inverted comas. There are doubts of whether the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad: was raised at all since the slogan is neither heard in the Zee News raw footage not in the transcripts of the videos shot by the security staff of JNU. (Page 23 of the Report)

    This shows the presence of a doubt in the minds of the police regarding the raising of “Pakistan zindabad” slogan and on who raised these slogans.

    Important Witnesses and Internal Videos

    Devendra Singh Bist, Manager G4S, gives two distinct set of statements. In the first statement, he attributes distinct slogans to Umar Khalid. The District Magistrate asked him closely whether he heard the slogans from the mouth of Umar Khalid. After the first statement, he changes his statement. Thereafter he admits that he had not specifically heard Umar Khalid uttering these statements: he attributes these sounds to the crowds below. (Page 24 of the Report)

    Amarjeet Singh, a guard with the G4S testified to the sloganeering by Umar Khalid and gang and admitted on detailed examination was found to have contradictory statements about Umar Khalid. The District Magistrate found that none of the words attributed to Umar Khalid were spoken at that moment. (Page 24 of the Report)

    VP Yadav was another important witness who gave contradictory statements, one version to the JNU Inquiry Committee, another to the District Magistrate.  He submitted before the Internal Committee of JNU that “he heard Kanhaiya giving anti national slogans near the Ganga dhaba.” To the District Magistrate this witness had said that he was not at the Ganga Dhaba. This witness has changed his statement. (Page 25 of the Report)

    Role of Different Students
    Kanhaiya Kumar has not been found either by the District Magistrate’s report, or even by the JNU Inquiry Committee as having raised any anti-national slogans.

    After a close scrutiny of the videos, including the doctored ones that have according to the District Magistrate’s report inserted voices with words and slogans that could mislead the public, the District Magistrate’s report finds that Umar Khalid’s voice can be heard only uttering “Kashmir ki janta sangharsh karo, hum tumahare saath hai, Kashmir ki mahilaon sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai.” Even this is not certain.

    As far as the other slogans allegedly rose, the District Magistrate’s report states that they were possibly raised by Anirban and Ashutosh but in the recording of the crowd this cannot be certain.

    Finally, the District Magistrate’s report concludes that since the programme was organised in solidarity for Kashmiris, students from outside JNU also participated and that “possibly students of Kashmiri descent identified through their accent, covering faces, shouted pro-Azaadi, pro-Afzal and anti-India slogans. Though the JNU has segregated many of these faces and put them up on the board for identification purposes, the District Magistrate says it is still difficult to say conclusively whether these other four students shouted these slogans or not. Two of these could also be JNU students. This aspect needs to be further investigated.


     

    First published in Sabrang India.

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