Many who were present at the Karnataka Home Minister’s press briefing on Gauri Lankesh’s murder were taken by surprise when a tweet by Republic TV quoted him as saying “Will probe Maoist link to murder”. They were sure the Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy had made no such statement.
The tweet by Republic has the statement in quotes. Anyone reading it would think that these were the exact words or a translation of the exact words of the minister. Two journalists who were present when the Home Minister addressed the journalists tweeted their reaction to the Republic TV’s tweet.
Certainly didn't hear home minister saying this. https://t.co/aob3Ahkzee
— Tanu (@TanuKul) September 5, 2017
— Mohit Rao (@mohitmrao) September 5, 2017
“There you go, Maoist link to Gauri Lankesh’s murder” The reaction of the right-wingers to Gauri Lankesh’s murder was predictable. They had not only engaged in their classic victim shaming and whataboutery but also cheered on hearing about the murder. Republic TV now gave them the Maoist link to talk about.
The Republic tweet about the Karnataka Home Minister’s statement of the Maoist link was widely quoted as a new angle to the murder. Did the minister really make the statement that Republic TV attributed to him?
Alt News spoke to some of those present at the briefing and they confirmed that they did not hear the minister say this or even use the term “Maoist” in his statement. Alt News got a recording of the press interaction to reconfirm what the minister said.
The Karnataka Home Minister, Ramalinga Reddy was asked the question, “she played a major role in asking Naxalites from Chikmagalur to surrender. Few have already surrendered; Do you think their groups have played role in this Murder?” To this the minister replied, “only after investigation we can come to know”. This is very different from saying “Will probe Maoist link to murder” that was tweeted in quotes by Republic TV.
As reported by The Hindu, the minister had said, “Though there is a similarity with the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, it is too early to draw conclusions” Clearly the minister was not drawing any conclusions at that stage. Three teams have been formed to probe the murder. Indian Express also quotes the minister as saying “It will not be appropriate for me to make any comments as to who is behind the incident. It could be for personal reasons or for ideological reasons.” Despite him exercising caution and choosing his words carefully, they were twisted to give a Maoist angle by Republic TV.
As a final check and confirmation, Alt News contacted the minister himself to clarify what he said. We informed him about the tweet by Republic which quotes him stating “Will probe Maoist link to murder“. The minister categorically denied that he made any statement about the Maoist link and reconfirmed the statement that other media houses have quoted.
At a time when there is so much vitriol being spread on social media about the murder of Gauri Lankesh, is it too much to ask Republic TV to play a responsible role? Republic TV must answer why it twisted the statement of the Home Minister to conclude that a Maoist angle was being investigated.