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Some Media Channels Jeopardising Wing Comm Abhinandan’s Safety: Ex-Diplomat Nirupama Menon Rao

Times Now even flashed "Imran's Naya Pak Surrenders" while showing the Pakistan PM's announcement of Abhinandan's release.

Following the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement on Thursday, February 28 to release captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace, the conduct of some major Indian news channels — calling it a ‘diplomatic victory for India’, tripping over each other to ascribe the release to Indian leadership — has come under fire for being irresponsible vis-a-vis Varthaman’s safety, who is still in Pakistan’s custody.

Pratik Sinha, founder of fact-checking website Alt News, posted pictures, from TV news Channels India Today, Time Now, NewsX and CNN-News18, which credit the release entirely to India. Some of these channels went as far as to juxtapose Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pictures.

Times Now even flashed the words “Imran’s Naya Pak Surrenders” while showing the Pak PM’s announcement.

It is noteworthy that since Varthaman’s capture on Wednesday, the PM has not mentioned the pilot once in his dozen public appearances. Even as reports of his capture flooded in, the Prime Minister continued attending PR events and Home Minister Rajnath Singh flew off to address a BJP rally in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.

Also Read: Slain Pulwama Jawan’s Widow Wants Indio-Pak Dialogue, Not War

Former diplomat and India’s ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Menon Rao said that such “churlishness” will not work and jeopardises Varthaman. 

She appealed to media channels to not endanger the IAF pilot’s safety, pointing out that “Pakistani psychology regarding India is extremely complex.”

Vikram Chandra, founder of Editorji, a news media platform, also pointed out the problematic coverage by news channels.

Mahindra Group Chairman, Anand Mahindra, responded to a tweet by Republic TV (widely considered the BJP government’s mouthpiece) which stated that Pakistan had announced the release “giving in to pressure” and asked users to tweet to celebrate “India’s massive victory”.

Mahindra reminded the channel’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami the need for exercising restraint and that the prime objective at the moment was to allow Abhinandan to come home safely.

Media houses have come under fire for their unverified reporting of the recent happenings, however, this is a new low for channels who routinely evoke Indian soldiers in order to target their own political opponents.

“In our desire of peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the India Air Force Officer in our custody,” Khan had declared.

Pakistan detained Varthaman on Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control in which a Pakistani jet was downed. IAF also lost a MiG-21 bison in the engagement.

Also Read: Pulwama Terrorist Attack: Why Isn’t The Media Asking The Right Questions?

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