HT Paid For Shoddy Journalism

Yes, you read it right, Hindustan Times paid for a shoddy piece of journalism. But I do have to give credit to HT for inspiring the title of this post. Source of inspiration for this post and its title comes from a very creative piece of journalism as exemplified by an HT story titled ‘Yahoo! paid for Peerbhoy’s training to hack networks

In case you are wondering why should you care about this news and why is this a news anyway? First line of the story brings you upto speed:

“Mohammed Peerbhoy, the alleged media chief of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), has told investigators that an Italian expert taught him hacking.”

Now that you have been briefed, let’s read the second line:

“The 31-year-old’s employer had apparently sponsored him to learn cyber security skills against hacking from the Internet security expert in Hyderabad two years ago, but Peerbhoy instead used his acquired expertise to hack Wi-Fi networks to send terror emails.”

whoa, whoa, wait a minute is HT suggesting that Yahoo! actually facilitated terror activities in India? Will they also blame the schools where he learned English because terror emails were written in English?

Let’s keep reading:

“Peerbhoy, a former principal software engineer with Yahoo! in Pune, had learnt the “hacking skills” at a six-day course on information security in Hyderabad in May 2007.

The course was organised by Internet security provider E2 Labs and Yahoo! had paid them around Rs 70,000 for Peerbhoy’s training.”

Actually, there is nothing extraordinary in this training, ethical hacking is a training provided to Information Technology experts to identify vulnerbilities in the network that can be exploited by a hacker so that the network and systems can be secured and protected.

“Peerbhoy was attending the course when a blast took place at Hyderabad’s Mecca mosque on May 18. “Peerbhoy visited the blast site at the mosque and got very disturbed and upset to see the damages and deaths,” said the investigator.

By then, Peerbhoy was allegedly already a part of the IM, having been “recruited in Pune by an IM spotter as a computer wizard”, and would interact directly with the terror group’s main controller Riyaz Bhatkal. “After learning hacking skills, Peerbhoy told Bhatkal that he was capable of hacking unsecured wireless networks to send terror emails and the IM utilised his skill after realising the dangers of using cyber cafes,” he added.”

Ok so Peerbhoy happened to be in Hyderabad when Mecca Masjid blast happened, since the investigator is confiding in HT reporter that Peerbhoy was already a member of the IM, it is safe to assume that Mecca Masjid blast was not done by IM. Of course, any sane person after seeing the devastation caused by terrorism will get distrubed, but apparently that was not the cause for Peerbhoy turning to terrorism.

More about hacking unsecured wireless networks later.

“Peerbhoy is currently in Mumbai with a Special Cell team. He has been taken there to confirm how he hacked an unsecured Wi-Fi network there (in Chembur) to sent IM’s email on September 13 before Delhi blasts, according to cell’s deputy commissioner Alok Kumar.”

So Peerbhoy is identified as the man who sent the terror emails sent minutes before the Delhi blasts, and the investigators want to know he is able to hack into an secured Wi-Fi network to send the email. If you still remember the title of this news story then you got it right, this is the conclusion that yahoo! actually paid money that helped in a crime. But wait, there is more:

“His modus operandi was simple: he, along with arrested accused Mubin Sheikh and Asif Sheikh, would move across Mumbai in a car to detect unsecured Wi-Fi connections to send e-mails.”

ah! so this is how they “hacked.” Any dummy with a wi-fi enabled laptop knows how to do it, I am not sure why anyone will need training to do that, let alone pay Rs. 70k for this.

This is an attempt to create a news story where there is no story exists. Yahoo! should take action to this and register protest with HT for this kind of journalism. Indirectly HT has tried to link Yahoo! to terrorism and in the process made a joke of themselves.

I am not sure what is the process of fact checking in Hindustan Times but talking to their own IT department would have saved them from becoming a laughing stock.

Publication: Hindustan Times
Journalist: Abhishek Sharan
Date: March 9th, 2009.

Flagging TimesNow

When there is no news what a 24/7 news channel got to do? Of course, they are going to make up the news.

Horror! Horror! A Pakistani flag unfurled in Assam. This was a big news around October 2008. Look carefully and you see that crescent in Pakistani flag is upside down. Another thing you will notice that news channel Times Now is repeating the same visuals over and over again. There is some sword like thing that is in the picture but it is not clear what is it and who is holding it.

TimesNow video

The TV Channel offers no information on how they got these “exclusive visuals.” Was it shot by their journalists, who alerted them that this flag is there go and shoot the pictures? If it was not their own camera person then who provided them these visuals, who are these people? How they come across this flag and what are their motive in giving this visual?

Times Now failed to reveal the source but thanks to YouTube now you can see the raw footage without Times Now editing and commentary:

Raw footage

Notice that sword like thing is actually a bow and arrow, a weapon of choice in Assam.

I had to consult an Assam resident for this- the people in video are speaking in Bodo language. They are saying- hold the flag, spread it with the bow so that the flag can be photographed.

Also, in this video you can notice that this seems to be an open area, no village around it except a structure visible at a distance. So we established that video was shot by the Bodos, as far as we can see it there are no Muslims or their houses around, if the Muslim village is behind the camera person then he should have shot that as well to make it more incriminating. Given that Bodo miltants are doing their best to drive Muslims out of their villages their action should be highly suspect and a news organization if given a piece of information from one party, should check and verify it before airing it.

But in this case, there is ample evidence that this flag is a fake, probably set up by the Bodos themselves. Given that Times Now edited the footage tells us that they knew that this video is problematic and therefore they cut it short showing only the flag not the people and removing the audio.

Please contact Times Now and complain:

Mr. M.Vasudev Rao
Authorised officer – Legal Department
Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd.
Trade House, Kamala Mills compound,
Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel,
Mumbai – 400 013
Phone: (+9122) 24999944
Fax : (+9122) 29440307

Legality Of Md Mukkaram’s Shooting

Kishore Budha

Okay we know Mohammed Mukkaram was reckless (as is expected of most normal youngsters his age) and he paid with his life for his mis-adventure. The media has faithfully reported this, but has failed to inform us about the legality of his killing. Were the sentries at the army officer’s house within their rights to use lethal force? At best, this CNN-IBN report is not a very professionally produced one. It is not the expected role of the journalist to frame the issue within a bias of deviant and errant behaviour and then normalise the killing. In the times of terror and the media’s sudden romanticism of the army, the CNN-IBN report presents predictable sound bites that condemns Mukkaram and literally states “he deserved it”. There is not a single voice of dissent — bar that of the family. I am not taking away the seriousness of the situation. Surely the guards at the officer’s house must have been edgy themselves. Wouldn’t that have been the result of the media’s incessant coverage of terrorism? Watch video.

A more balanced reporting of the event by Nirmala Ravindran of India Today (link). India Today points out that both guards and policemen searched for the boy. It would appear then, that the cops could have intervened and told the army guards that he was only wanted for a traffic offence. (“Did ‘war on terror’ claim B’lore biker?” India Today, 30 Dec 2008, Nirmala Ravindran, Link)

The Hindu reports that :

While the sentries asked him to surrender, Pasha jumped from the roof and started running towards the compound wall. The police said that the sentries opened six rounds of fire, two in the air, from a Military Service Rifle 5.45 mm, and one of the bullets pierced Pasha’s abdomen. (“Intruder into Sub-Area chief’s official quarters shot dead”, The Hindu, Dec 29, 2008, Link

The Indian Express decided to go with the headline “Every Saturday, he flirted with danger”. This frames the entire situation as if Mukkaram asked for it and seeks to bias the minds of readers (“Every Saturday he flirted with danger”Indian Express, 30 Dec 2008, Johnson T A, Link). It is like arguing that everybody who is killed on Indian roads asks for it because the country has a high rate of traffic deaths. Even if we concede that Mukkaram was in the wrong place in the wrong time, the following questions should be asked:

a) whether the soldiers were in their legal right to shoot.
b) does the army have a security protocol for intruders and did the soldiers follow them.

Kishore Budha is a media researcher at the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds. He analyzes and comments on the Indian media at Subaltern Media.

Shaheen Bagh Kidnapping Case: Observations And Questions

Shaheen Bagh Kidnap Case, Black HyundaiKashif-ul-Huda,

Strange thing about the Shaheen Bagh kidnapping incident is the behavior of the policemen who attempted to kidnap Aamir but even stranger is the behavior of Indian media covering this news. In this particular case UP police is guilty for many unlawful acts and media by not giving the attention it deserves did injustice to the citizens of India.

The heroes of this incident are the residents of Jamia Nagar who were stern but did not take law in their hands; they handed over the car and the captured cop to the local police, thus preventing a bad situation from turning ugly.

Media, Muslims And Mujahideen

Newspaper StackMubasshir Mushtaq

Now that the Delhi Police has “cracked” the bomb blasts, I can make my own confessions. Suspicion is not a fundamental right enshrined in Indian Constitution but it is an unalienable right in a flourishing democracy. Suspicion is the fundamental premise on which the edifice of our intelligentsia stands. Therefore, intelligence agencies cannot be denied the right to suspect. The same right to suspect cannot be denied to ordinary Indians. Equality is the hallmark of a true democracy.

Continue reading Media, Muslims And Mujahideen

Delhi Shootout: Hindustan Times’s Complex Narrative

Jamia Nagar Police Encounter

Kishore Budha

News narratives are complex, especially during times of crises. Journalism professional values often call for striking a balance between the various demands of the sociology of journalism with a focus on balance and fairness. This is not a simple case of reporting or copy editing, but works at various filtering mechanisms such as newsroom culture, biases and ideology, shared values, competition etc.
Continue reading Delhi Shootout: Hindustan Times’s Complex Narrative

Madrasa Reforms: Some Issues To Consider

India Madrasa

Maulana Abu Ammar Zahid ul-Rashdi

(Excerpts taken from the author’s Urdu book Dini Madaris Ka Nisab-o-Nizam [al-Shariah Academy, Gujranwala, 2007] and translated and edited by Yoginder Sikand)

Many people complain about various aspects of the present roles and conditions of the madrasas and I myself raise some questions in this regard. But in raising these concerns, one needs to take a realistic view of the many problems facing the madrasas today. Continue reading Madrasa Reforms: Some Issues To Consider

Terrifying Testimonies

Kashmiri WomenFor several months now, almost no week passes without the media reporting about ‘dreaded Muslim fundamentalists’ being picked up by the police and allegedly confessing to being involved in bomb blasts or plots to engineer violence across India. It is not my argument that all of these reports are cooked-up and dished-out propaganda. Continue reading Terrifying Testimonies

Terrorising Muslims In The Name Of Countering Terrorism

Kausar Bi - Killed And Burnt By Gujarat PoliceIn the face of a seemingly unending wave of fake encounters, killings and arrests of innocent Muslims across the country falsely accused by the police of being ‘terrorists’, a three-day Peoples’ Tribunal was recently held in Hyderabad on ‘Atrocities Committed Against Minorities in the Name of Fighting Terrorism’. Continue reading Terrorising Muslims In The Name Of Countering Terrorism

Muslims Should Adopt Advocacy Instead Of Protests

Hyderabad ProtestsThe number of Muslim students in India’s better universities, engineering colleges, medical colleges, IITs, IIMs, IIScs etc despite much growth of such institutions in recent years still hovers around a miserly two percent. Lack of education among the Muslim youth and their lack of competitiveness were recently pointed out by the Sachar Committee, who conducted a nationwide grassroots survey of the Muslim community, as a significant impediment to the community’s progress.
Continue reading Muslims Should Adopt Advocacy Instead Of Protests