Indian American Muslim Council issues legal notice to CNN-NEWS18 editors for false reporting, flouting of journalistic norms
Defamatory rant that gave us no opportunity to respond shows channel’s true colors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2021, Washington, D.C.
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, today issued a legal notice to three senior editors of the CNN-NEWS18 news channel: executive editor Anubha Bhonsle, deputy executive editor Zakka Jacob, and anchor Anand Narsimhan- for making false claims about IAMC with no supporting evidence during a program aired on April 21, 2021. These defamatory remarks were based on the writings of an anonymous blog with no known authors or organizations behind it.
The notice highlighted CNN-NEWS18 editors’ actions in “deliberately, intentionally, mischievously and wrongfully,” airing a program called “The Right Stand” in regards to the report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on April 21. USCIRF’s report recommended that the US government designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations.”
As an advocacy organization working towards upholding the constitutional freedom and civil liberties of India’s marginalized, minorities, Dalits and the lower castes, and towards exposing the nefarious designs of Hindutva, both in India and the US, IAMC is often the target of such misinformation campaigns. The fact that a supposedly “professional” news channel like CNN-NEWS18, that is riding on the brand of the world famous CNN channel, has been co-opted to advance such misinformation is noteworthy. The goal of the lawsuit is to hold CNN-NEWS18 accountable and to give global exposure to the state of affairs of Indian media. Once widely recognized as fiercely independent, the Indian media, with some notable exceptions, has been reduced to singing hosannas to the Modi regime or peddling lies about activists, human rights organizations and critics of the government. Not surprisingly, India ranks 142nd in the World Press Freedom Index.
“Instead of focusing on USCIRF’s thorough analysis of India’s rapid descent into fascism, CNN-NEWS18 chose to create imaginary connections between IAMC and some Pakistani extremist outfits, in order to smear IAMC as an “anti-India” organization,” said Mr. Khalid Ansari, Vice-President of IAMC. “This is part of a long established Hindutva practice of suppressing any dissent and characterizing any critique of the current administration and its supremacist agenda as ‘anti-India’. This is the language of bullies who know they cannot win with reason and logic,” added Mr. Ansari.
CNN-NEWS18 used the brand of CNN to indulge in codswallop journalism by sourcing information from “Disinfo Lab”, a fake organization whose website provides no names of office bearers, journalists and investigators, postal address or phone number. Needless to say, the program offered no evidence to support any of its silly claims, nor did the channel have the courage to reach out to IAMC for comment.
The legal notice issued on May 18, calls upon the editors to immediately withdraw the program from every platform, and issue an unconditional apology to IAMC in writing as well as by airing on CNN-NEWS18 within a week.
IAMC is not only supportive of the USCIRF recommendation to list India as a country of particular concern, the organization believes the US State department’s scathing report on persecution of religious minorities in India, was a step in the right direction.
IAMC works closely with international rights based organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, American Bar Association and the Advocates for Human Rights. IAMC representatives have testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bi-partisan Commission that was established with the unanimous consent of the United States House of Representatives in 2008. The Commission is charged with promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.