Hey Indian Media, Ever Heard of a Fact-Check? News Channels Pass Off 2011 Pictures as Galwan Graves

Social Commentary

Hey Indian Media, Ever Heard of a Fact-Check? News Channels Pass Off 2011 Pictures as Galwan Graves

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

In between bouts of obsessing over the death of a Bollywood actor, some TV news channels found time to cover the border tensions between India and China yesterday. However, they weren’t reporting on the latest developments on the front, but an incident from nearly two months ago, when forces of both nations faced off in a clash that left 21 Indian soldiers dead, and reportedly up to 40 injured or wounded on the Chinese side. Though China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) did not confirm their casualties, yesterday the TV news anchors broadcast satellite images of graves of soldiers at Kangxiwa war memorial, claiming they were proof of the losses the Indian army inflicted on their Chinese counterparts at the Galwan clash.

The images and clips from the news broadcasts quickly went viral on social media as well. True to form, the belligerent anchors on national TV and the right wing voices on social media used the news as a platform to launch attacks on critics of the government. Through some convoluted logic, some arrived at the conclusion that dead PLA soldiers amounted to a blow against the Congress party.

However, the celebrations might have been premature. Fact-checking website AltNews published a report that established the provenance of the images of the graves that were being shared. It found that the photos being aired on channels like Times Now, Aaj Tak, and India Today were originally taken in 2011, and the rows of graves belonged to PLA soldiers who had died in the 1962 Indo-Sinian War. The report also found that at least three new graves have been added at the Kangxiwa war memorial since 2011, but nothing close to the numbers being claimed by anchors, which ranged from anywhere between 35 to 105.

Fact-checking website Boom Live also came to the same conclusion.

The slapdash approach to journalism displayed by Indian TV news channels continues to reach stupefying new heights every day. Fact-checking websites should not have to check “reputed” media houses.