By Arré Bench Jun. 18, 2020
Two senior anchors addressed the events at the LAC and the deaths of 20 Indian Army men, by reading out an unverified WhatsApp forward live on air. Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar, read out a list of 30 names of Chinese soldiers who’d apparently died in the stand-off in Ladakh – which turned out to be fake.
Over the last few years, the notorious “WhatsApp forward” has become a primary source of information for a section of the country that has come to be known as the “WhatsApp uncle”. But now, it seems as though a national TV channel has also subscribed to this news service — leaving social media confused about what to believe anymore.
On Wednesday night, two Times Now anchors addressed the rising speculation over the events at the LAC that led to the deaths of 20 Indian Army men, by reading out an unverified WhatsApp forward live on air.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 17, 2020
In a clip that’s doing the rounds of social media, the two senior journalists, Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar, read out a list of 30 names of Chinese soldiers who apparently died in the stand-off in Ladakh on Monday — from their phones.
The information was later concluded to be fake, and there have still been no official reports of casualties on the Chinese side following the stand-off.
The segment was met with great derision on social media, with a number of users questioning the credibility of the two anchors.
And then TimesNow says they’re the most credible journalists…🤣🤣🤣
There are so many eggs on their faces by now, they must be having them for lunch and dinner by now.
— Self Reliant (@SelfieReliant) June 17, 2020
One wondered what Times Now would talk about if WhatsApp was to stop for a day.
These TV Channels will stop their broadcasting if whatsapp is stopped working.
— Sam (@SamJersian) June 17, 2020
While a parody WhatsApp University account was quick to claim credit for breaking the story.
Our university never disappoint.. 🤦♂️
— Whats Appp University 🌐 (@Whats_appp_uni) June 17, 2020
The source of the information was attributed to the “Global Times”, a Chinese newspaper, whose editor later took to Twitter to confirm that they had released no such names.
Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 16, 2020
But the anchors went on, blissfully unaware. Towards the end of the segment, Shivshankar is even heard saying that he doesn’t “really trust BBC news”, minutes after reading out a WhatsApp forward on air for his viewers.
No secret that most news channels are basically WhatsApp broadcasts on a TV screen
Today we got a live example of that when Times Now fell for a fake WA message & read out names of “30 dead Chinese soldiers”
Must see ending🤦🏽♂️
Full story by @Pooja_Chaudhuri https://t.co/ptXjTMLw0j pic.twitter.com/PVNfK636Ij
— Akash Banerjee (@TheDeshBhakt) June 17, 2020
The channel later deleted two tweets that carried the same “story” without offering an explanation or an apology.
Indian news outlet Times Now made a couple of tweets quoting Chinese media sources that “30 Chinese soldiers have been killed during the Ladakh standoff.”
— Uzair Hasan Rizvi (@RizviUzair) June 17, 2020
To the anchors’ credit — if they deserve any — the unverified information was shared widely over the previous day, by a number of social media accounts. But given the nature of their jobs, and their old promise to provide all the information that the “nation wants to know”, the least viewers could have asked for was a basic fact-check.