June 04, 2020
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The Problem With 'Sources'

First, on Sept 15, we had the "highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media" in the TOI story -- 2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing - First Breach Of 1996 Agreement -- that started the kerfuffle 

Then, on Sep 20,  we had "top sources in the Home Ministry" being quoted in the Hindu that "the Union Home Ministry has decided to file an FIR against the two Times of India reporters who filed a story claiming Indian soldiers had been injured in firing by the Chinese"

The next day, on Sep 21, same or different (we don't know, but we know they were not "top") "sources in the Home Ministry" showed up on the front page of the Indian Express to repeat that "an FIR against the two reporters was being contemplated"

By the same afternoon, "Home Ministry sources" (again, we don't know, whether they are the same or different) had shown up in PTI wires to say confidently that "Police will register FIR within a week against the scribes" for a ""wrong" report about Chinese firing at Indian border guards".

Now, today, Sept 23, they -- "Home Ministry sources" (again, we don't know who they are etc) -- are in PTI wires telling us that "the Centre has decided to drop action", that "the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had sent a complaint to the Delhi police but top officials decided to "let it go""

  • Who are these sources? 
  • What actually was wrong with the original report?
    • that there was a border firing?
    • that 2 ITBP jawans were injured?
    • that a "highly placed intelligence source" had actually confirmed the above?
    • some or all of the above?
  • Why not ask the paper concerned for a retraction?
  • Why threaten the reporters with a criminal action - as against asking the editor/publisher for an explanation? 
  • Did they just want to find out who the "highly placed intelligence source" was?

And since the paper concerned has not retracted the story*, other than providing the ITBP version, are we to assume that:

  • the government has figured out who the "highly placed intelligence source" was? 
  • the purpose of the first leak/plant about contemplating FIRs has been served after the certificate from the mastah, aka the Chinese ambassador, yesterday?

On the other hand, if the story concerned was indeed "cooked up",  it would be nice to learn what exactly was wrong:

  • that there was a border firing?
  • that 2 ITBP jawans were injured?
  • that a "highly placed intelligence source" had actually confirmed the above?
  • some or all of the above?

And it would be only fair that at least some action be taken: demand for a retraction or a front page apology would be a fine start. If nothing else, perhaps some more "top" sources could be quoted to tell us what actually happened. 

***

*ContentSutra has this to say about TOI's response: “We do not give comments on news items as a practice and I have nothing to say on this issue,” wrote Amit Rai, director, legal, at Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, publisher of The Times of India, responding to an email asking for comment about the story that appeared in The Hindu. A spokesperson for BCCL did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The Problem With 'Sources'
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+0530

First, on Sept 15, we had the "highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media" in the TOI story -- 2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing - First Breach Of 1996 Agreement -- that started the kerfuffle 

Then, on Sep 20,  we had "top sources in the Home Ministry" being quoted in the Hindu that "the Union Home Ministry has decided to file an FIR against the two Times of India reporters who filed a story claiming Indian soldiers had been injured in firing by the Chinese"

The next day, on Sep 21, same or different (we don't know, but we know they were not "top") "sources in the Home Ministry" showed up on the front page of the Indian Express to repeat that "an FIR against the two reporters was being contemplated"

By the same afternoon, "Home Ministry sources" (again, we don't know, whether they are the same or different) had shown up in PTI wires to say confidently that "Police will register FIR within a week against the scribes" for a ""wrong" report about Chinese firing at Indian border guards".

Now, today, Sept 23, they -- "Home Ministry sources" (again, we don't know who they are etc) -- are in PTI wires telling us that "the Centre has decided to drop action", that "the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had sent a complaint to the Delhi police but top officials decided to "let it go""

  • Who are these sources? 
  • What actually was wrong with the original report?
    • that there was a border firing?
    • that 2 ITBP jawans were injured?
    • that a "highly placed intelligence source" had actually confirmed the above?
    • some or all of the above?
  • Why not ask the paper concerned for a retraction?
  • Why threaten the reporters with a criminal action - as against asking the editor/publisher for an explanation? 
  • Did they just want to find out who the "highly placed intelligence source" was?

And since the paper concerned has not retracted the story*, other than providing the ITBP version, are we to assume that:

  • the government has figured out who the "highly placed intelligence source" was? 
  • the purpose of the first leak/plant about contemplating FIRs has been served after the certificate from the mastah, aka the Chinese ambassador, yesterday?

On the other hand, if the story concerned was indeed "cooked up",  it would be nice to learn what exactly was wrong:

  • that there was a border firing?
  • that 2 ITBP jawans were injured?
  • that a "highly placed intelligence source" had actually confirmed the above?
  • some or all of the above?

And it would be only fair that at least some action be taken: demand for a retraction or a front page apology would be a fine start. If nothing else, perhaps some more "top" sources could be quoted to tell us what actually happened. 

***

*ContentSutra has this to say about TOI's response: “We do not give comments on news items as a practice and I have nothing to say on this issue,” wrote Amit Rai, director, legal, at Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, publisher of The Times of India, responding to an email asking for comment about the story that appeared in The Hindu. A spokesperson for BCCL did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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