Times of India


A look at how national media outlets have covered coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it raises the hypocrisies and biases intrinsic in India media.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus disease is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus. While it is mild for most of the people it affects, it can prove fatal to older people and/or people with other underlying health or respiratory diseases. As a global pandemic due to its highly infectious nature, extensive media coverage is required, however, the coverage provided by Indian “journalists” such as Arnab Goswami or Sudhir Chaudhary is dubious at best.

The initial stages of coronavirus consist of foreign nationals or returning citizens entering India from high-risk countries, a stage where contact tracing is easy. At this point, Indian media had gone into a coronavirus reporting frenzy, in the initial stages, those who are affected are mostly those who can afford to travel abroad. It is crucial at this juncture to look at the coverage of the aftermath of the Delhi Riots, which in most media houses was non-existent. Stories of bodies being pulled out of drains or empty relief camps or mass detentions of Muslim youth by the Delhi Police evaded the public eye as we chose to focus on the coronavirus.

Now, that the coronavirus is nearing the third stage, which is the community or local transmission, we look at the fallacies of the fourth estate again. There isn’t a single article against the current central government for its low testing rates, Modi not laying down any concrete plans in his speech, the shoddy quarantine facilities, rising xenophobia against people from the North East, and the work done by the communist government is not to be found on the front pages of Zee News, Republic, Times of India, or the Aaj Tak website front page. The media houses mentioned above have been responsible for baying for the blood of peaceful protesters at any instance, however, people who have disobeyed quarantine instructions or hid their travel history and put thousands of people at risk get just a report. Kanika or Kanhaiya and Umar just go to show the difference a name makes in this country.

At the time of writing this article, the Janata Curfew is in place, with media houses focusing to report on PM Modi’s tweets on Janata Curfew, or pictures of empty streets during a curfew, what the Grade A level Journalism of these media houses mentioned above still have failed to report as of 12:01 pm on 22nd March 2020, was how during a government-mandated nationwide lock down and curfew, petrol bombs were hurled at peaceful protesters in Shaheen Bagh. Will the government, police or the people responsible be put under media scrutiny for this? Perhaps tonight we will get to see reports on how the 5 pm clapping ordered by Modi will create vibrations and how Modi is following astrology with his extremely wise and thought out decisions because of agar Modi ne bola hai, toh kuch soch samajh ke bola hoga.


Featured Image Credits: UN News


Prabhanu Kumar Das

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Since September, the Times of India began devoting a regular column to the Agent Rana comic. Written by television journalists and author, Juggi Bhasin, and illustrated by Subodh Poddar, the comic is “an action-packed, exciting, serialized graphic novel” whose protagonist is Agent Rana, a hyper-masculine-all-talented-spy who saves the country against the dangers of terrorists, nefarious sleeper cells, and conspiracies. The aesthetics and character development (or lack of it) screams sloppy pulp-fiction-noir stereotypes. Ever since the graphic series came out, it was marred by controversies.


Even though the comic has ever since started with content that was laced with islamophobia, the recent story line that introduces a new character, who many believe is based on the Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Shehla Rashid, has caused major outbursts on social media. The character, Sameera, is described as a ‘firebrand’ leader who is leading protests against the vice-chancellor at the National University of Delhi.  This imagery is reminiscent of 2016 Jawaharlal Nehru College protests. Later an ISI agent (disguising as a terminally ill ex-student and well-wisher) offers 50 lakhs to the agitating students to aid their movement. Sammera naively accepts the money and even offers to show him her hostel room only to be raped and killed in an horrifying manner. The question isn’t just about the graphic representation of sexual violence in a leading daily, and the distasteful or casual manner in which sexual harassment is depicted in it – without adding anything substantial in the story – but how it resembles a living person without her consent.  

Feminist groups have also pointed towards the resemblance of the comic character and Shehla. 


American journalist, writer, and musician Benjamin Norton was among those who noticed the similarity.  

Speaking about the comic, Shehla wrote in a Tweet, “That’s Indian media preparing for genocide. Genocide almost always follows villainous caricatures/depictions in popular culture and mass media.


This recent incident isn’t the first time the comic is facing backlash.

Earlier in September, Antara Sen Dave, a reader and a concerned parent has initiated a petition on change.org, asking the newspaper to stop the publication of the novel for its sexually inappropriate content.  When asked whether there will be any changes in the comic or will it be discontinued, author Juggi Bhasin told Scoop Whoop that, “The art team has taken note of the views of some of the readers who have found some parts of the content unpalatable. The feedback from readers is always taken seriously and keeping this in mind, we will, as far as it is practicable in terms of keeping the story line in mind, present the content in a manner that it does not affect the sensibilities of the valued readers.” (Read it here.)

By looks of the newly produced content, it seems that the makers of Agent Rana have no intention of mending their ways. Or perhaps, they are market savvy and know that their readership demographic, which is right-wing, misogynistic, and sadistic, and those who will continue to consume this content. This is sad, but the truth. Unless we all collectively realize that Agent Rana is the not the spy we need.


Feature Image Credits: Agent Rana, Facebook

Niharika Dabral

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Yesterday, in an apparent case of misplaced aggression, Deputy Proctor Swasti Alpana abused and snatched a Times of India (TOI) reporter’s phone. The TOI journalist was trying to record the violence created by ABVP members for evidence.

On Friday, some members of the Right-wing students’ association Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had come to meet the Dean of Students Welfare around 2 pm. When they came out, some of them broke flower pots outside the dean’s office and were soon joined by others. According to Press Trust of India (PTI), DUSU had demanded to resolve issue of 400 final year B.Com. students who had failed in Computer Applications practical examination. 

The TOI reporter alleges that she was recording the vandalism on her cell phone and that’s when Deputy Proctor snatched her phone and threatened to lodge a FIR against her. The Deputy Proctor then asked the other journalists who had been speaking to officials there about the strike to sit in the Media Room.  She was joined by another deputy proctor Ritu Chowdhary in the screaming act. Others in the office kept quiet even as the two women officials kept on abusing the TOI reporter.

When the TOI reporter requested the phone be returned, Alpana refused to budge. Instead, she ordered that all journalists be removed from her office and taken to a “media room”. However, about 20 minutes later, when the reporter went back to the office to ask for the phone she handed it over and quipped that the photograph could have been taken “in a certain way, subtly”.

After the incident was brought to light, Ms Swasti Alpana said in her defense that she mistook the trainee journalist for a Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) member, who was clicking her photographs without her permission. She reasoned, “I remember all regular journalists who visit the campus and this one was not carrying any identity card and I mistook her for DUSU member who was trying to click my photographs without my permission.”

Another journalist who witnessed the entire incident alleged that despite informing them about our identity, the two deputy proctors never stopped misbehaving.

However, a day after the incident took place, Ritu Chowdhary, Deputy Proctor, rendered an apology and a clarification. “I always stand for freedom of expression. I deeply apologise for not helping out the girl and not condemning the criminal act of Swasti Alpana. However, I never abused or shouted at the journalist. I condemn the criminal act of Swasti Alpana that she snatched the girl’s phone and bullied her,” she said.  Talking to DU Beat, Ms. Ritu Chowdhary asserted that in the message she sent to the TOI journalist she offered to depose as a witness if TOI decides to lodge a FIR against the harassment.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Image Credits: du.ac.in

Niharika Dabral
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