NDTV doesn’t only shield people from criticism when they’re from a certain religion — it never named Delhi riots shooter Shahrukh, while repeatedly naming Rambhakt Gopal — but it also tries to cleverly demonize people when they’re from a different religion.
NDTV yesterday carried an article with a rather sensational headline. “No need to fear #coronavirus, practice yoga: Baba Ramdev,” wrote NDTV, while adding a picture of a beaming Baba Ramdev. The headline seemed to hint that Baba Ramdev had asked people to not fear the coronavirus and do yoga instead, which is clearly an absurd position — the benefits of yoga are well-documented, but to hint that one could ignore the coronavirus and do yoga would seem to be fairly jejune.
— NDTV (@ndtv) March 14, 2020
But had Baba Ramdev actually said what NDTV’s headline seemed to imply? It only took a click into NDTV’s own article to figure out the truth. “Yoga Guru Ramdev on Saturday appealed people to take necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and save themselves. He said that there is no need to panic,” the article began. “There is no need to fear from coronavirus but strictly take precautions to prevent its spread and infection. When you are at public places or are travelling by bus, train and flight then you must use sanitizer for your hands. You have to keep a distance of 4 to 5 feet from other persons in public places. You must also wear mask,” he said,” the article continued.
It was only then that Baba Ramdev had spoken about Yoga. “I urge people to practice Yoga and follow a natural lifestyle to increase immunity and treat asthma, heart diseases, and diabetes. Those having these lifestyle diseases are at more risk of getting infected with COVID-19,” he had said.
So NDTV had clearly not only removed any mention from its headine about the precautions Baba Ramdev prominently mentioned — he’d asked people to use sanitizers, asked people to wear masks, and also asked them to stay 4 to 5 feet away from each other, which is all sensible and good advice in preventing the spread of the coronavirus — but also tied in his exhortation to not fear the coronavirus with the statement about yoga. Baba Ramdev had only asked people to take up Yoga as a natural lifestyle choice and said that it would improve immunity and help fight lifestyle diseases.
But NDTV chose to tie together two of Baba Ramdev’s separate statements — asking people to not fear Coronavirus, and asking them to do yoga — to imply that Baba Ramdev had asked people to not fear the coronavirus and do yoga instead. Both of Baba Ramdev’s statements were true — people don’t need to be overly fearful of the coronavirus, because its mortality rate is only 3 percent, and yoga does certainly improve overall well-being. But put together, and by removing all mention of the precautions that Baba Ramdev had clearly mentioned, NDTV manged to paint Baba Ramdev as an anti-science man who was asking people to do yoga as coronavirus spread across the country.
NDTV maintained plausible deniability for its blatant misrepresentation by including his entire statement in the article, but NDTV knows that most people only read headlines and don’t click on articles. And cleverly, NDTV included a picture of Baba Ramdev looking happy and relaxed as the article’s featured image, subliminally signalling to users that he had indeed asked people to not worry and do yoga.
NDTV could have chosen several different headlines to portray what Baba Ramdev had said. It could have gone with “Take precautions, use masks and sanitisers: Baba Ramdev,” or “Don’t worry, but take precautions to prevent spread of coronavirus: Baba Ramdev” which, given Baba Ramdev’s substantial following, could have made people aware of the precautions they need to take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But even in the time of a national emergency, NDTV chose to not go with a headline that that could actually help people, but one that falsely vilified a man who happens to wear saffron. India’s biggest threats aren’t other nations, or even diseases like the coronavirus — its real enemies are within.