Jagan government in Andhra gets post-truth ready, declares war on ‘false’ news

With the polls less than 15 months away, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is not taking any chances.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Feb 03, 2023 | 2:00 PMUpdated Feb 03, 2023 | 2:00 PM

YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (Facebook)

Declaring war on “fake and false” news by “Opposition-friendly” media, the YSRCP government in Andhra Pradesh has cranked its fact-checking unit into high gear.

With the polls less than 15 months away, the YSRCP supremo and Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy — who has often accused a section of the media of trying to destabilise his government — doesn’t want to take chances.

The government’s official fact-checking unit, Fact Check AP, launched in March 2021, has now gone into overdrive. For instance, in the past 15 days, at least 10 rejoinders to “false” news reports in the media were issued by different departments.

Most of the rejoinders were to reports published by one of the leading and largest-circulated Telugu dailies, the Telugu language Eenadu.

Jagan often calls Eenadu, Andhra Jyothy, TV5, and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu himself the Dushta Chathushtayam (the Evil Quartet), and also Jana Sena supremo Pawan Kalyan as Datta Putrudu (adopted son) of Naidu.

Drive against malicious propaganda

While launching the fact-checking unit in 2021, Jagan said its main objective was to stop the spread of fake and malicious propaganda on social media.

He said the government condemns false propaganda and said that the unit would showcase evidence and identify how a fake campaign was started, besides revealing the relevant facts.

The chief minister also directed the authorities to initiate action against those spreading “malicious propaganda”.

“No one has the right to deliberately damage the reputation of an individual or the system with personal intentions,” Jagan had said.

Recently, the fact-checking unit issued at least two warnings, saying it would initiate legal and other appropriate action if false information is spread about the World Economic Forum (WEF) invitation to the chief minister to attend its Davos meeting.

The unit also warned of action against those who created a fake GO saying the retirement age of government employees would be enhanced.

Fact Check AP is an initiative by the AP Digital Corporation (APDC), which is supported by the government of Andhra Pradesh.

“The unit scrutinises, examines, and disentangles official data available in the public domain which is often brimming with unnavigable jargon and statistics,” a senior APDC official said.

“By decoding complex information, we provide an in-depth analysis of bills, schemes, reforms, and more, that can be easily understood by all. We are a team of passionate individuals dedicated to providing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” he added.

Apart from “dismantling” fake news on social media, the fact-check unit is coordinating with various government departments to offer explanations/rejoinders to “misleading” media articles, especially in newspapers.

Active rejoinders

The rejoinders are actively forwarded to various WhatsApp groups and also shared on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Jagan’s family-owned Sakshi Media runs a Telugu daily and a 24/7 language news channel. They often counter Eenadu’s articles.

“Officials have clarified that the information provided in the Eenadu article, Peruku chattam, ennellu unna em laabham (Namesake law of no use) was false. The Eenadu newspaper on Tuesday published an article that pointed out the SCs sub-plan showing the expenditure on various social pensions for SCs and STs,” a rejoinder read.

“The present government, just like the previous one, has rolled out initiatives such as social pensions, pensions for the disabled, and mid-day meal expenses as a part of the sub-plan for SCs and STs. The article published on Tuesday deliberately puts the present government in a bad light, pointing out the mistreatment of the initiatives which is not true,” it added.

The rejoinders are accompanied by relevant data, statistics, and evidence, besides giving point-wise rebuttals by the departments concerned.

Another recent rejoinder said:

“The Chittoor district police condemn the distorted facts written in the Eenadu article, Yuvagalaaniki Sharathulu Sankellu:

1. As per the law and the Indian Police Act, the Supreme Court’s directions apply to all political parties.

2. Clearly mentioned rules and regulations should be implemented while organising marches, protests, bandhs, hartals, etc. The same rules are applied to TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh’s Yuva Galam Padayatra.

3. It is non-prejudiced and non-discriminatory.”

South First reached out to Eenadu for a response to the fact-checking of its stories by the state government but had not received any at the time of publishing this story. The report will be updated when it responds.