Indian media on Wednesday widely reported on Time magazine’s ’100 Most Influential People’ and the Indians who made it onto the 2020 list, including PM Narendra Modi.
Conveniently missing from these reports was the exact reason Modi had made it to the list this year. Going by these reports, one would think Modi’s mention on the list was an honour and cause for celebration.
Instead, TIME’s editor at large Karl Vick had written a stinging critique of the Prime Minister, saying Modi governed as if no one except Hindus mattered.
Vick wrote of the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party targeting India’s Muslims, linking to a previous article which noted the PM had made a statement on the Delhi riots three days late.
Vicks also wrote: “The crucible of the pandemic became a pretense for stifling dissent. And the world’s most vibrant democracy fell deeper into shadow.”
All this context was missing from several news sites.
It was India Today’s report that first caught the attention of readers, which chose to trumpet the fact that Modi was the only Indian politician, and avoided quoting any part of the TIME article.
Many then responded to India Today with screenshots of Vick’s write-up.
One reader expressed surprise that India Today had chosen to omit what even the feverishly pro-government Times Now published.
The critique of Modi had also found mention in Zee News, another pro-government news channel.
Hours later, after hundreds of comments pointed out the obvious, India Today updated its article to reflect Vick’s comments on Modi, threat to democracy et al.
But the news site was not alone in attempting to side-step reporting on criticism of Modi.
Previously, Modi’s presence on the TIME list in 2014, 2015 and 2017 had been reported in Indian media with much fanfare.
So you’ll see why its absence from news coverage is so conspicuous this year.
Economic Times’s article made no mention of Vick’s critique, and instead chose to focus on Ayushmann Khurrana’s presence on the list and what Deepika Padukone had written about the actor.
ABP News’s report quoted this sentence,“Free elections are not the most essential for democracy. The election only shows who has got the most votes. India has been the world’s largest democracy for 7 decades. India The population of 1.3 billion includes Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and people of other religions,” leaving out the part where Vick said Modi had brought all this into doubt.
The Hindustan Times simply mentioned who else was on the list alongside Modi.
The Press Trust of India also left its report at that, going so far as to avoid mentioning why any Indian was on the list.
NDTV stuck to saying Modi was on the list under the section of ‘Leaders’, and instead focused on Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis, the 82-year-old woman who is protesting the government’s Citizenship Amendment Act.
News18 took it a step further, avoiding any mention of Modi in its report altogether.
This level of gymnastics—to report and yet not *really* report—should qualify Indian media for the next Olympics.