NL Hafta


Hafta 274: Fake news and TV channels, Aarogya Setu, Arnab Goswami’s interrogation, and more

In this episode of NL Hafta, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande, Madhu Trehan, and Mehraj D Lone are joined by Pratik Sinha, co-founder of AltNews. Abhinandan asks what everyone thinks about the interrogation of journalists during the pandemic, Arnab Goswami being the most prominent example. Pratik says the issue comes down to “what is more primary: freedom of speech, or right to life”. He brings up how Goswami once targeted Umar Khalid and a subsequent attack on Khalid’s life. “Is it okay for news anchors to carry out hate-mongering day in and day out, endangering the lives of people much less privileged than them?” he says. Madhu believes free speech is important, and Goswami should be allowed to say whatever he did. But, she adds, “everybody else also has the freedom to follow up on it”. On Arnab being questioned for 12 hours, she says “the police rarely acts on its own”, and something as major as questioning a journalist “usually comes somewhere from the top”. What one needs to ask, she says, is who is instructing the Maharashtra police? Mehraj adds that he thinks it’s harassment but not a freedom of speech issue. “Going on TV and lying, blatantly lying, communalising an incident” doesn’t come under freedom of speech, he says. Discussing fake news during the pandemic, Pratik says misinformation has “spiked’, and there have been varying patterns of fake news. First about the Chinese state, then medical misinformation and later, when the focus shifted to the Tablighi Jamaat, “for the past 30 days, there has been a majority of communal misinformation”. Pratik says news channels are “becoming megaphones for these false claims”, and that the pattern of misinformation is part of a well-organised effort. Abhinandan says it’s a “well-oiled machinery” and while he can’t prove it, he believes it’s funded by political parties. The conversation shifts to the government’s Aarogya Setu app. It might be an invasion of privacy, Abhinandan says, but in today’s circumstances, it’s “not such an easy liberty versus government-control-over-you choice”. Ideally, Madhu adds, the data on the app should be such that “we put it in and then, say, within six months or a year, it expires”. Mehraj says, “The best way to do surveillance for coronavirus is to do testing.” He thinks Aarogya Setu has practical problems, apart from privacy. “Once you’re in a lockdown, the app doesn’t make sense because if you’re in a lockdown, you’re not going out,” he points out. The panel also discusses the deaths of Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, and much more. Tune in!

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