Press Council of India reprimands Indian Express and Karan Thapar for attributing fake quote to RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat

The Press Council of India has reprimanded the Indian Express for publishing an article authored by veteran journalist Karan Thapar which contained a fake quotation attributed to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

In 2018, the Sangh had organised a three-day lecture series named ‘Bhavishya ka Bharat’ in New Delhi. Misquoting Shri Mohan Bhagwat who spoke in the interaction session on the final day of the lecture series, The Indian Express’ had carried an article titled “Has the RSS ground shifted?”, in which Karan Thapar wrote, “In fact, Bhagwat himself is not averse to making inflammatory statements. In 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on suspicion of consumption and storing beef, he’s reported to have said: “the Vedas order the killing of the sinner who kills a cow.”

In fact, the Sarsanghachalak had strongly condemned the violence and mob lynching. Phatak, a resident of Dombivali, the Press Council had issued Show Cause notices to the editors of both newspapers.

When the matter was heard finally on March 29, 2019 by the Press Council, the respondent newspapers ‘contended that they assumed that the attribution was correct and that it was a bona fide mistake’. They also questioned the locus standi of the complainant.

The Council found that the mistake was not bona fide. With respect to Sri. Karan Thapar, the Council accepted the report of the inquiry committee, which opined, “had the mistake been bonafide and committed by a junior correspondent could have been accepted and the proceedings dropped. Here such a mistake has been committed by none other than a senior columnist having long experience. In the facts of the present case, the Inquiry Committee is of the opinion that the mistake is not bonafide. This was a verifiable fact and while attributing the statement of such a magnitude to the head of an organization, the columnist ought to have been more careful and taken due care. He has failed to do the same.”

Apart from Indian Express, the PCI has also reprimanded Marathi daily Loksatta, which also attributed the same fake quote to Mohan Bhagwat in an article published on the same day.