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After Army Veterans, Former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti Slams ANI

"ANI is far from being a neutral news agency now."

ANI is far from being a neutral news agency now,” said former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, adding to voices of many who have questioned Asian News International’s “loyalties” for some time.

Taking to Twitter, in reference to a Caravan magazine report titled “The Image Makers — How ANI reports the government’s version of truth,” Mufti added, “When not fawning over the current regime, it’s busy discrediting major stories that harm PMs image. Alternate facts are created whereas real stories are pushed under the rug. They only show you what BJP wants you to see.”

In the March 2019 report, Caravan‘s Praveen Donthi wrote:

Several opposition parties have questioned the agency’s ethics. In May 2018, ANI put out videos of scuffles, which were described as “TMC workers bar voters from casting votes.” The Trinamool Congress tweeted: “Why is @ANI spreading rumours and amplifying a few, sporadic, local incidents? We learn that local ANI reporters and stringers getting direct instructions from their bosses in Delhi to shame #Bengal. Agenda driven news-gathering: Derek O’Brien.” Smita Prakash rubbished the allegation and, like she usually does, asked the TMC to stop “defaming Media.”

ANI has even introduced house-style changes to impress the BJP and Modi. “Initially the style was to use ‘Prime Minister’ only once in the copy,” a former desk person with ANI’s print section told me. “We would say, for instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the first line, and after that only Modi.” This was soon altered. “Now, every sentence should be Prime Minister Modi.” ANI’s obituary of Vajpayee had the honorific “ji” after his name with every mention, an honour not extended to leaders of other parties.

Others too have called out ANI for reporting non-facts.

Political commentator Ashok Swain referred to ANI  editor Smita Prakash as “Modi’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders”. Sanders is the White House Press Secretary under President Donald Trump, who The New Yorker in a 2018 profile called “Trump’s battering ram”. Sanders has a reputation for obfuscating facts and supplying misinformation.

Recently, an ANI report quoted former Army Vice Chief, Lt General ML Naidu, as saying, “No, my consent has not been taken for any such letter, and neither have I written any such letter,” in regards to a letter signed by over 150 veterans — including three former Army chiefs, four former Navy chief and a former Air Force chief. These veterans had written to President Ram Nath Kovind, slamming the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party’s politicisation of the armed forces and its “unusual and completely unacceptable practice” of taking credit for military operations.

ANI completely fabricated Lt General (Retd.) Naidu’s quote. In a trail of emails accessed by NewsCentral24x7, Lt General (Retd.) Naidu told fellow veterans — who had expressed concerns over media reports about him withdrawing support from the letter — that this was untrue.

In his emails to Admiral (Retd.) Laxminarayan Ramdas, who had initially written to veterans asking them to be signatories in the letter to the President, Maj General (Retd.) Vombatkere called ANI‘s report “skulduggery”.

Major (Retd) Priyadarshi Chowdhury, in the trail of emails, wrote, “This is disgusting and entails everything that is wrong with this set up (sic). They can stoop to any levels for their narrow political aims.”

Earlier this year, Congress president Rahul Gandhi earned the wrath of many for commenting upon the interview given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ANI editor Smita Prakash. Gandhi termed the television interview as “staged” and alleged that a “pliable journalist” conducted it. But what was cause for outrage a few months ago, is slowly being accepted by many. ANI’s allegiances, after all, stand clearer than ever now.

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