Social media erupted in laughter yesterday after ANI reported that Uttar Pradesh police released a herd of donkeys from a jail. The donkeys had been detained for destroying expensive plants outside the jail. The offbeat story spread like wildfire and many media outlets tweeted about it. UP police was the butt of many jokes for the entire day. Everyone had a good laugh on seeing the ANI video which showed a herd of donkeys making their way out of jail. The story however took an interesting twist when it turned out that UP Police had nothing to do with the arrests.

Sequence of events – multiple clarifications by the police

Following the ANI story, the news was first shared by Times of India and they repeated the ANI headline “Police release a herd of donkeys from Urai district jail. They had been detained for destroying plants outside jail and were released after four days (ANI)”. This was followed by India Today who tweeted that the “Donkeys spend 4 days in UP police custody for eating expensive plants at Jalaun jail” This was followed by many others including Financial Express, NDTV, Quint and Zee TV.

Uttar Pradesh police

In their eagerness to break the story, the point that everyone missed was that UP Police and UP Prisons are two separate departments under Home Ministry. UP Police had become a target of ridicule even though the detention of the donkeys had nothing to do with them.

When social media took to mocking UP Police, they tweeted to clarify their position. In response to a tweet by Rahul Kanwal, saying, “Happens only in India. Cop even gives a statement on camera to confirm that he jailed a bunch of donkeys! Donkeys spend 4 days in UP police custody for eating expensive plants at Jalaun jail”, they responded with the following tweet:

After a couple of hours when Kanwal shared the news in Hindi, they clarified once again that they had nothing to do with the news.

Rahul Srivastava, Adl SP/ Public relations officer, DGP HQs also clarified the same in a lighter vein on top of the original ANI story.

But the social media was not in a mood to listen. None of the media outlets tweeted any clarification. The jokes continued to flow in.

In the morning, the police then took to clarifying for a third time. This time they responded to NDTV. UP Police was clearly offended given that they had nothing to do with the detention of the donkeys. To ensure that the message is clear to all, they even pinned this tweet on their Twitter profile.

NDTV reaction backfires

NDTV’s reaction was defensive and the Managing Editor of NDTV, Suparna Singh, denied that they had mentioned UP police in the story. She missed that it was not mentioned in print but it was repeated twice in the video with the offensive text on screen that read, “Donkeys arrested, criminals run loose”. What followed was an unpleasant exchange.

It did not end there. Right wing website OpIndia saw in this an opportunity to target NDTV. In an article titled, “Uttar Pradesh Police exposes NDTV lies,” stated that “NDTV’s Managing Editor Suprana Singh, came to defend the lies by asking UP Police to first read the story before asking NDTV to check facts. A bit rich coming from a channel which employs people who have severe lack of comprehension skills and allegedly promotes censors stories.” Fake news website Postcard News took it a step further by claiming that NDTV had manufactured the entire story about the donkeys being detained.

NDTV was not the only one to carry the story. They were not even the first to carry it. UP Police also did not single out NDTV in their response. They had also pointed out the same to ANI and India Today. It was the reaction of NDTV that escalated the situation. NDTV has now deleted the video. We hope the others have done the same and corrected their stories. There may be many reasons to criticize UP Police but detaining donkeys is definitely not one of them!

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