NEW DELHI: It is again such a travesty of responsible, accountable journalism to target a young student on the basis of a ‘leak’ that carries only insinuations and no facts of any kind. This is the journalism that has taken the profession to a new low, with unverified reports making the news as anchors squeak their shock and reporters are called on to blabber without making any sense.

The Times of India along with its mouthpiece Times Now have started a new campaign against the missing Jawaharlal Nehru University student Najeeb Ahmad, quoting unidentified sources from the Delhi Police to suggest links with the Islamic State. In the language this media group has become famous for, the report maintained that the Delhi Police had now found---four and a half months after the boy disappeared---evidence that he had been looking for information on the IS.

And to drive this further home, the TOI report,”Delhi Police has claimed that Najeeb was watching a video of the speech of an IS leader on the night of October 14, just before he had a scuffle with ABVP members when they knocked on his door. He went missing the next morning before being caught on CCTV boarding an autorickshaw.”

Times Now carried on the dissemination of news that the police chief has since denied, with the anchor stating, “He used to browse websites whose contents were communal or inflammatory in nature”...emphasis on communal in a squeaky tone and then bringing on the reporter to take the story forward. By journalistic standards all that the scribe did was blabber, he had no facts, he had no identifiable sources from the police, he had no details what were these great websites that Najeeb Ahmed had been looking at, he only felt that this “psycho profiling was very helpful” whatever that meant.

It was bad journalism again on display by the television channel, violating every tenet of responsible and ethical journalism. More so as it was denied by the Delhi Police spokesperson in an official statement, “Any association with ISIS has not come up in Delhi Police’s investigation.”

The report that was of course picked up by other television channels as all follow a herd mentality, was replete with insinuations, linking the missing student to Islamic State on the basis of some browsing history . The report attributed the information to “Delhi Police” without even mentioning whether the leak had come from sources, the spokesperson, an official, a constable or what. In journalism when charges are made against an individual of a derogatory nature the source has to be named. This is to ensure that the person making the charge is made accountable for it, and the person targeted has a chance to defend him or herself.

In this report by the big media house there is no evidence from the cops to substantiate the insinuations that clearly come across as one, Najeeb was a radical; two, he had established links with the IS; and three, his disappearance could arise from the fact that he had joined the terror group. The media is in place to question such ‘leaks’, to ensure verification, and to place both sides of the story especially when a young student is being attacked in this manner.

Najeeb Ahmed’s distraught mother who has been camping in Delhi, refusing to return home lest there is some news of her boy, was in tears after this media attack on her. She held a press conference the next day, being placed in the dock by unscrupulous journalism, to defend her son, to insist he had no such links, that he was a young student wanting to move forward. Breaking into tears she said she was waiting for good news, and now after seeing this kind of news on mainstream channels she was fast losing hope. “I thought the media would help me find my son, and now they are doing the opposite, why?” she cried.

Why Indeed? Perhaps the Times Group would like to explain.