The last few days have seen the advent of a remarkable new tool for avoiding those pesky problems of libel and lawsuits that media often have to deal with. In fact, the tool allows media outfits to avoid facts altogether if they wish. India’s The Sunday Guardian weekly has spawned a new genre where conspiracy theorists can have their say, peddling complete lies masquerading as facts as long as, at the end of the article, one adds a quiet disclaimer claiming it is fiction. Never mind that the article was published in the opinion page of the paper where commentators comment on – well, news!
An article on the Kathua murder-rape case – complete with names of many of the persons involved, including the eight-year-old victim, and arguing that the investigation is a sham – was published by the newspaper, which was founded by the honorary member of Parliament and sometime journalist M J Akbar, with the headline ‘Anatomy of a Concoction*’. That little asterisk led to the following sentences at the end of the article: “This article is a pure concoction based on fiction. Any resemblance with any character or event is unintentional and coincidental.” This, notwithstanding the fact that the author of the article has been out and about peddling this as a version of the truth on several television studios, and that these claims are being used by many of the same persuasion as an apparent expose!
The current Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian, M D Nalapat, when contacted by the news website Newslaundry, defended his publication by saying, “There have been numerous works of fiction about events. This falls within that genre.” Chhetria Patrakar marvels at this perversion of the truth and mulls if many media houses are now planning to use such disclaimers for the entirety of their contents. What, one wonders, will the literary critics now do?
*At Himal Southasian, we take fact checking very seriously. And when we do publish fiction, we assure you it will be listed under its rightful appellation.