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'Sudha Bharadwaj, Fr Stan not Maoists': Deccan Herald told to remove 'malicious' ad

Counterview Desk 

In a joint letter, more than 100 civil society groups and citizens* have demanded that from the daily “Deccan Herald” editor Sitaraman Shankar and owners to withdraw and apologise for publishing the visual connect advertisement in its Bengaluru edition on July 15, stating, it is meant to “vilify” human rights activists Sudha Bhardwaj the late Fr Stan Swamy.
“We are dismayed at the concept of making a game of a person’s death. It is a shame that a newspaper of repute had to resort to making a prize-winning puzzle about a human rights activist, who was incarcerated and abused by a system that is being globally condemned for being draconian”, the letter says.

Text:

We would like to draw your attention to the State page (Page 5) of E-Paper/Newspaper, released on 15 July 2021. The Deccan Herald’s (DH) Visual Connect ad on the page is not just factually incorrect, but also in appalling taste. Advertising and holding contests based on falsities is not only indicative of the creator’s prejudice, but also of bad journalism.
How did the editorial staff not see the dangerous falsehoods inherent in this advertisement? If this is an oversight, it is indicative of unprofessionalism, and if done deliberately smacks of malicious bias.
We are dismayed at the concept of making a game of a person’s death. 
It is a shame that a newspaper of repute had to resort to making a prize-winning puzzle about a human rights activist, who was incarcerated and abused by a system that is being globally condemned for being draconian. To mock the dead or abuse the living, is not the sign of a civilized person or publication.
The clues used are even more shameful. It is a deliberate attempt to vilify Bhima Koregaon and a 200 year old monument, to vilify human rights activist Sudha Bhardwaj, the late Fr Stan Swamy and the Communists.
Point of fact: Neither Sudha Bhardwaj nor the late Fr Stan have had any affiliation to any Communist party. Moreover, the usage of the Hammer and Sickle image by DH serves to connect every Left symbol with the bogey of ‘Maoism’ as defined by the State, and gives credence to the false allegations of association with banned ‘Maoist’ outfits against Sudha Bhardwaj and the late Fr Stan Swamy.
At a time when there is widespread acknowledgment and critique of misuse of draconian laws by government against human rights workers and dissenters, and there are reports that much of the evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case appears to be planted, it is unconscionable for DH to use the state’s malicious allegations as ‘facts’ to run a contest for commercial gains.
DH is supposed to be a house of reputed journalists and researchers, and no one bothered to correct these false linkages, which are apparent to any educated lay person?
The timing of the advertisement indicates mal-intent. What exactly was DH trying to achieve by running the advertisement/contest a day prior to the hearing of the Bhima Koregaon case? Does it want its readers to develop a bias against the victims of a flawed and draconian state policy?
At a time when the case against Sudha Bhardwaj and others is being decided by the courts, this would add credence to the false narrative around her. This could subliminally influence the readers, jury and others connected with the case. Creating misleading perceptions through the media is dangerous for justice, and an extremely irresponsible act by your newspaper.
We demand that you withdraw this false and malicious content immediately, and issue an apology for the same. We would like the apology to be published in the same space in tomorrow's 16th July's newspaper in all editions. The published apology should take up the same amount of space and prominence as this visual content.
In case there is no apology and withdrawal, we will be left with no option but take the matter to court.
---
*Click here for signatories

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