- By Kashif-ul-Huda
It is an open secret that Delhi media works closely with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), dutifully reporting everything that the IB or Delhi Police puts out regarding terrorism cases. It is usually years later that the courts are able to see the contradictions in police version of events and the accused is finally acquitted. Media for not questioning police claims fails in its duties of being a watchdog. It took 160 days from the illegal detention of Fasih Mahmood in Saudi Arabia to his arrival in New Delhi and still there is utter confusion in news reports announcing his arrest.
Engineer Fasih Mahmood was detained on May 13th by Saudi authorities accompanied by Indian officials from his home in Jubail. TCN was the first one to break this news. Initially, India denied any knowledge or hands in Fasih’s arrest but when his wife moved the Supreme Court then India requested Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice. Even then India denied knowing anything about reasons for Fasih’s arrest.
NDTV was one of the first ones to report about Fasih Mahmood’s extradition to India. NDTV tweeted “Suspected Lashkar terrorist Fasih Ahmed arrested at Delhi airport”. Of course in a rush to “break the news” who cares which organization he belongs to? Aren’t all terrorist organization the same? NDTV even published an article with the headline “Fasih Mohammad, suspected Lashkar terrorist, arrested at Delhi airport,” as is clearly visible from their tweet. But this article was later updated to correct the headline to read “Fasih Mohammad, suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorist, arrested at Delhi airport.” The article has no mention of when the correction was made or apologizes for the mistake. In fact, the article has one curious sentence, “India believes that Mohammad, who is 28, is an important member of banned terror group Indian Mujahideen, mentored by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which executed the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed.” In one sentence NDTV very irresponsibly has Fasih linked to 26/11 and death of 166 people, something that not even IB has suggested. But then in the altar of journalism, Fasih is not the first victim.
Niti Central, an online publication, has an article ““Fasih Mohammad – Fact & Fiction.” Never mind that they get Fasih’s last name wrong, here is an interesting statement from writer Ankit Grover, “Fasih Mohammed is a terrorist and suspected member of the banned outfit Indian Mujahideen.” The writer does not clarify what is fact and fiction in his article but the above quoted sentence clearly shows the quality of journalism on this website. Fasih, in their opinion is definitely a terrorist but his membership of Indian Mujahideen is suspected. If the latter claim is not a confirmation then how are they certain of the former claim?
Indian Express also gets Fasih’s name wrong, considered a minor infraction in Indian journalism, but assigns a new role to Fasih of being “Indian Mujahideen operator.” Not sure if this variety of operator is something similar to computer or phone operator. I am sure they meant “operative,” another much used term devoid of any meaning that can be used in place of much abused “terrorist.”
But the award for the article with most factual inaccuracies should go to First Post with their 10- sentence news story. The story first quotes Union Home Secretary RK Singh as saying that “We had info and evidence against him (Fasih Mohammed) for a long time.” FP fails to ask the obvious question for how long you had this evidence and what did you do with this information if you didn’t even contact Interpol until after Fasih’s wife Nikhat Parveen moves to the Supreme Court? Does this mean that you were sitting on a pile of information without taking any action?
But the worst part is this quote from an unnamed “senior police official”- “A year ago, he was arrested by Saudi Arabia police, and has since been in custody in that country. Investigative agencies in Delhi were in constant touch with Saudi Arabian authorities for his deportation to India.”
Fasih Mahmood had gone missing on May 13th, which was 160 days ago. How can you trust the press and the police for making and publishing an incorrect statement which is so central to the whole case?
RK Singh called Fasih’s arrest a “big catch,” though India has so far denied any involvement in Fasih’s detention in Saudi Arabia or his deportation in India. Not sure how can one take credit for something that you have been denying all along?
Times of India quotes Singh saying that Fasih was serving a sentence in Saudi Arabia for some minor crime. In this day and age when everything told by IB, Police, and Home Ministry is parroted as the ultimate truth that should not be questioned, journalist Vishwa Mohan at least puts a doubt in this claim by writing that “Singh, however, did not elaborate on the kind of crime Fasih might have committed there.”
However, Mohan does not hesitate to call Fasih a “facilitator”, “shelter-provider”, and also “communicator” but not “operator.”
Contradiction about why Fasih spent 160 days in Saudi Arabia continues with Vicki Nanjappa of Rediff claiming that it was a “long fought battle” to get Fasih deported to India. But this is not what RK Singh is quoted as saying in other publication where he thanked the Saudis for their cooperation and also said that Fasih was there serving some sentence. But if Rediff is to believed then it “required a lot of coaxing before the Saudi Arabia authorities were convinced.” Conveniently leaving out the part what they needed to be convinced about?
Nanjappa also writes this gem, “Mehmood’s name gained more importance after it came to light that he had his roots from Darabanga in Bihar which, according to the police and the Intelligence Bureau, was the new headquarters for the Indian Mujahideen.“
There is importance and there is “more importance” and for your name to come under that category you just need to have your roots in “Darabanga” or Darbhanga if Rediff knew how to spell it correctly.
It was just a month ago that Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association released its report documenting cases after cases where Delhi Police and media said one thing but the reality was something else. The report should be a must read for all journalists reporting on terrorism cases.
All this criticism of media reporting on terror cases is important; things are changing slowly but surely. The Hindu in its report on Fasih Mahmood’s arrival in India give almost half the article to statements by the family and the lawyer, a rare sight in Indian journalism. But then again, old habits die hard; the same report also declares Fasih to be the “Indian Mujahideen co-founder.”
The confusion in news reporting about Fasih Mahmood begs the question, is IB deliberately putting out incorrect information through different sources or the journalists in their rush to be “exclusive” writing their own fiction?