On Wednesday morning, ETV Uttar Pradesh tweeted that actor Aamir Khan had been removed as the ambassador of the Incredible India campaign. Soon Business Standard followed it up with a story titled, “Aamir Khan removed as brand ambassador of Incredible India.”
Other publications like The Times of India followed suit, News X channel tweeted, “RTI query reveals, @aamir_khan removed as brand ambassador of #IncredibleIndia. Aamir no more India's brand envoy.”
So why did media report that Aamir Khan had been removed as Incredible India’s ambassador?
RTI activist Ullhas PR from New Delhi had field an application with the Ministry of Tourism asking answers to two questions:
1. Is Aamir Khan the ambassador for Incredible India?
2. After the ‘intolerance’ remark, is he still the ambassador?
Beating about the bush, the government reply to the first question was: "the Ministry of Tourism has produced TV commercials as part of social awareness campaigns through appointed agencies to sensitise masses and the stakeholders regarding honesty, good behavior towards tourists, cleanliness etc, which featured Mr Aamir Khan".
To the second question, the ministry simply named the appellate authority of the division, whom the petitioner can approach if dissatisfied with the reply.
So how did the media jump the gun that Aamir Khan had been removed as the ambassador?
Well, because the first reply was not a direct one.
So since the reply by the ministry was not a simple ‘Yes’, someone in a newsroom decided that the government had removed Aamir Khan and did not want to say it directly and so the government ‘must be hiding something’.
The government's response in the RTI reply, and also the clarification issued later on Wednesday evening did not say whether or not Aamir Khan was the ambassador for Incredible India!. It simply said that he has been employed by the agency.
When asked about the confusion, RTI activist Ullhas told The News Minute, “I gave the RTI to the media, I have no control over how they report."
Some journalists however say that Aamir Khan may no longer appear in the ads as his contract has ended.
Tourism Ministry says @aamir_khan no longer associated with Incredible India not because he's been fired but because his contract his over 1— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) January 6, 2016
Tourism Ministry had a contract of RS 2.69 cr with McCann Erickson which in turn engaged @aamir_khan That contract is now over.— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) January 6, 2016
This was later confirmed by the government, that the contract with McCann was over and so by extension with Aamir Khan.