These are some strange and unpredictable times that we live in, but there’s at least some reassuring certainty — Rajdeep Sardesai will be spreading fake news, no matter what’s happening in the world.
Today, during the height of the farmer agitation in Delhi, Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted some startling news. “One person, 45 year old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice will not go in vain..,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sardesai even appeared on India Today, and repeated the same allegation. But he’d begun contradicting his tweet on TV itself — in the video, he said that the individual was 24 years old, while his tweet had said he was 45. Sardesai went on to claim on national TV that the individual had received a bullet to the head. He then said that the farmers were keeping his body at the spot, and were demanding justice.
Now this was a sensational claim to make, and could’ve precipitated the already-fraught situation in the national capital. Sardesai was careful to say that he was only reporting what farmers had told him, but he repeated the claims regardless, apparently without any verification of his own.
As it turns out, Sardesai, true to form, was dead wrong. The Delhi Police released the CCTV footage of the incident later in the evening. It showed a tractor barreling towards the yellow barricades, hitting them, and then turning turtle. It was apparent that it was the accident which had caused the death of the individual, not an imaginary shot in the head.
Rajdeep seems to have realized it too, and deleted his original tweet which claimed that the man had been shot in the head by the police. “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited,” he tweeted, while adding the video of the accident.
But the damage might have been done — the information was spread on Twitter and through the India Today TV channel, and had probably raised tensions among the protesting farmers in Delhi. Sardesai had been careful to say that the allegations were made by the farmers, but one wonders if he should’ve transmitted them using his large media platforms. Basic journalism ethics mandate that reporters confirm information from at least two sources before putting it out — Sardesai, it seemed, had only one source in the protesting farmers, and a source that had a vested interest in spreading information of police excesses at that. But Sardesai took the claims of the farmers at face value, and disseminated them to his millions of followers. If this had been a one-off, one could’ve forgiven Sardesai, but considering he lies virtually every day — and usually in ways to spread chaos and misinformation — one would wonder if today’s fake news was carefully designed to raise tensions during the farmer protests.