No, Rahul Kanwal, Alt News is not obliged to write ‘pro-Modi’ articles

The website that you speak of is founded by a person who has very strong anti-Modi credentials, and the only reason that his website exists is to do stories which are anti-Modi, hasn’t done a single pro-Modi story in his life.” The aforementioned is a statement by Rahul Kanwal, the Managing Editor of India Today, about Alt News in a panel discussion during India Today Conclave 2018. A clipping of the same can be seen below. The full conversation as part of which the above assertion was made can be seen on India Today’s website.

Assertion Part One

The website that you speak of is founded by a person who has very strong anti-Modi credentials

It is perplexing that Rahul Kanwal brings up the issue of political leanings of an individual or a group of individuals as if that should be a gate-keeping criteria to the world of journalism. This train of thought is especially disconcerting since his own colleagues in India Today group represent a myriad of ideologies – from someone who was recently shortlisted for a job at Prasar Bharati to those who are labelled as ‘anti-nationals’. Every thinking individual will almost always have a certain political outlook in life and so do journalists in various newsrooms across the countries. It is not an individual’s personal political ideology but the balance of work that should be a factor by which an individual journalist or a news media organisation should be judged.

Assertion Part two

The only reason that his website exists is to do stories which are anti-Modi, hasn’t done a single pro-Modi story in his life

The assertion here is that since the founders supposedly espouse a certain ideology as individuals, the work that Alt News does is biased and targets only one side of the political spectrum.

Here, we hope that by the phrase “hasn’t done a single pro-Modi story in his life“, Rahul Kanwal is not actually suggesting that a news outfit needs to do ‘pro-BJP’ articles to be qualified as balanced. Journalism is meant to question the establishment, which most Indian mainstream media organisations are increasingly reluctant to do. We are assuming that by the phrase “pro-Modi’, Kanwal probably means that Alt News does not fact-check non-BJP political parties.

If we run with the above assumption, then Rahul Kanwal’s assertion is patently false. At Alt News, we have fact-checked political parties and rumours of all hue. Here are a few recent articles on Alt News that demonstrate that Rahul Kanwal’s outburst was uninformed:

1. Misleading video on PM Modi’s educational qualification circulates on social media

2. Congress Twitter handle conducts poll based on fake news

3. National Herald Twitter polls on PNB Scam backfire

4. Fact Check: Did PM Modi say Karnataka has 7 lakh villages?

5. Fact check: Rahul Gandhi’s claim on wealth inequality in India

6. Social media claims Amit Shah arranged Judge Loya’s son’s press conference, what’s the truth?

Whatever outwardly bias that one might come across is not because we do not fact-check other parties or rumours of all hues, but it is because the right-wing ecosystem has more fake news and rumours. It is replete with fake news websites like PostCard.news, Hindutva.info, DainikBharat.org and 100s of such websites. Fake news has been weaponised to demonise the minorities of the country on a regular basis, and all of this emanates from the right-wing ecosystem. Fake news has been routinely used to target critics of the Government, again a product of the right-wing ecosystem. Hence, if fact-checking websites like Alt News are producing more content that seemingly targets the right-wing, then it is so because of the objective conditions in the country today.

While Rahul Kanwal’s assertions vis-a-vis Alt News are not borne in facts, it is possible that he may not have had the chance to go through all of our writings. Moreover, articles by Alt News that target the establishment and fact-check members of the ruling party definitely get more currency on social media since mainstream media is reluctant to do the same.

Alt News is born at a time when the topmost media organisations in the country act as the courtiers of the king, and are often more loyal than the king himself. In such circumstances, we will continue to question the establishment and feel no obligation to write articles that are “pro” a certain leader or a political party. We do not have to worry about either advertising revenues or TRP. We are a publicly funded website and we will continue to work for the cause of the people. Of the people, for the people and by the people.

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