PCI censures Star of Mysore newspaper for calling Muslims ‘bad apples'

The Press Council of India censured the Star of Mysore newspaper for publishing an editorial that referred to the Muslim community in India as "bad apples" and recommended that the state government not advertise in the newspaper for 3 consecutive months.
Old man reading newspaper
Old man reading newspaper
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The Press Council of India (PCI) has censured the Star of Mysore (SOM) newspaper for an April 2020 editorial titled "Bad Apples in the Basket". The editorial, published by the Mysuru-based news publication, referred to the Muslim community in India as "bad apples." This censure means that the state government must not advertise in the newspaper for three consecutive months. The Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS), a group that promotes media accountability, filed a complaint with the PCI against SOM editor M Govinda Gowda and the then editor-in-chief KB Ganapathy, alleging that the newspaper was promoting and inciting hatred towards the Muslim community and violating journalistic principles by attributing individual actions to the entire community.

The article published in Star of Mysore referred to the Muslim community as bad apples. It read: “The nation is currently hosting an annoying 18 percent of its population self-identifying as rotten apples” and the “conduct of some sections in the population, marked by their faith and other features including their attire may bring to our mind the analogy of bad apples in the basket.” The article was published in the wake of the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in New Delhi. The gathering, which was held just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread in India, was attended by thousands of people from around the world, leading to the widespread backlash against the Tablighi Jamaat and the Muslim community.

An inquiry committee was established by the PCI to investigate the complaint. After hearing both parties involved, the committee recommended censure and stated that "it is of the opinion that this editorial may have been written in the context of COVID-19 pandemic but the conclusion is inevitable that it is targeting one community, i.e. the Muslims, even though the community had not been explicitly named in the editorial." The committee also rejected the newspaper's apology, which was issued on April 10, 2020, shortly after the publication of the editorial. The committee deemed the apology ‘not genuine’ and said that it had only been made because a mob had surrounded the newspaper's offices.

The inquiry committee also pointed out that it is unfair to blame a specific community for the spread of the pandemic, stating that "there were several lapses during the relevant period and we cannot identify people belonging to a certain community as being responsible for those lapses."

CAHS has previously filed complaints against several Kannada news channels for promoting hate speech through their reporting. The group has filed 17 complaints against these channels so far this year. Their latest complaint was against Public TV for their coverage of a crime that took place in Bengaluru, in which the channel made unverified claims that the arrests were part of a larger conspiracy to target Hindus.

CAHS has also filed complaints against Power TV, News18 Kannada, and Asianet Suvarna for their unverified claims that Karnataka student Muskaan Khan had "fled" to Saudi Arabia to "meet with extremists." These claims were amplified by the right-wing portal OpIndia, and CAHS stated in their complaints that they had endangered Muskaan's safety and that of her family.

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