The Indian Express, in what may be a first for the legacy media organisation, issued an apology style clarification for an advertorial titled 'Transforming Uttar Pradesh under Yogi Adityanath' that carried a collage of images from Kolkata, passing them off as achievements of the Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh Government! The biggest photo of the collage was that of the Chief Minister himself, and the smallest one was of the iconic yellow kolkata ambassador taxicab. The flyover being passed off as something Adityanath built was identified as the Maa Flyover bridge in Kolkata.
An identical image used in the UP Govt advertorial is incidentally available on the Trinamool Congress website since 2018, accompanying an announcement that the “Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has decided to set up a few foot overbridges on Kazi Nazrul Islam Sarani and Eastern Metropolitan Bypass for faster movement of traffic and safety of the pedestrians. An underpass and a pedestrian footbridge will come up at Ruby intersection. The underpass will come up on the Mukundapur side while the foot overbridge will be constructed near the station of Garia-Airport Metro route.”
The image incidentally is also available for purchase as a stock image on alamy.com. All the user needs to do is seek a flyover photo "at sunrise with moody sky and city scape" and it shows up, complete with a price list depending on usage. And that is what perhaps the designer of this poster did, ignorantly put up a few stock images, and passed it off as an attractive collage showcasing achievement of the UP government. The collage is most likely to have been screened, proofread, and passed through layers of designers and editors before it made it to the ‘front page’ of the Indian Express along with the newspaper's Masthead, or name. It was only in the second page of the advertisement did it say that it was an ‘advertorial’. To the lay reader, it was a strange sight on Sunday morning to see Indian Express, which prides itself of critical reporting, especially of speaking truth to power, showcase such a large photo of the CM and list 'achievements’, of a state government.
An advertorial, for the uninitiated, is simply a paid advertisement dressed up to look like a news report, or an editorial element. It will not be designed to look like a typical advertisement as such, but great effort is put in to make it look like it is a newspaper’s coverage, even if over the top, in this case of the various infrastructural projects and plans that the Uttar Pradesh government has seemingly claimed as its own.
While the revelations of the goof up, and misinformation presented in the advertorial, was alerted by multiple social media users, the Uttar Pradesh government, remained silent on the issue.
Most advertisements and advertorials come ready made to newspapers and magazines from the advertising agency, or information and publicity departments in case of government bodies. Usually the editorial staff only comes to see the actual advertisement when it is placed in its designated page just before the publication goes to the press. Editors do not usually interfere in the content and mostly have to ensure it is not violating any law of the land and that it should not be offensive, or hurt any sentiments.
Ironically, even then it was the Indian Express whose motto is 'Journalism of Courage' that chose to express its regrets and seemingly owned up to its ‘mistake’. It issued a statement: “A wrong image was inadvertently included in the cover collage of the advertorial on Uttar Pradesh produced by the marketing department of the newspaper. The error is deeply regretted and the image has been removed in all digital editions of the paper.” The advertisement had read, "Before 2017, UP was not taken seriously with regard to investment, but in his four-and-a-half-year rule, that negative perception has been broken and in 2020, it has emerged as the second largest economy in the country."
However, the advertisement has of course fed the TMC-BJP war of words. The Trinamool Congress has spoken up against Uttar Pradesh government advertisements using images from Kolkata. Abhishek Banerjee, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) and National General Secretary, All India Trinamool Congress accused the UP government of “stealing images from infrastructure seen in Bengal”
The Samajwadi Party too chimed in, saying “till now, the BJP government of UP was falsely propagating the works of the SP government, but now it has reached the limit of falsehood when it is telling the picture of Kolkata as the picture of its development.”
CM Adityanath was busy making ‘abba jaan’ comments
CM Adityanath seemed ‘unaware’ of the goof up, or perhaps he was too busy making public speeches in Kushinagar, laced with potentially volatile statements such as, “Under PM Modi leadership, there is no place for appeasement politics....Before 2017 was everyone able to get ration?....Earlier only those who used to say 'Abba Jaan' were digesting the ration”. He also added that “the people of the state should not tolerate the pro-Taliban casteist-dynastic mentality that shoots at Ram devotees. Remember! Wherever the scorpion is, it will bite.”
The taunt apparently directed at the UP’s previous Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party governments accusing them of appeasing Muslims. Adityanath also alluded that the Congress the “mother of terrorism” and the Samajwadi Party a “bichhu” scorpion or without naming it. He reportedly said, "Congress gives only diseases, insults the faith of Lord Rama and encourages the mafia. But the BJP makes the people healthy, paves the way for the building of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and sends the mafia to their rightful place", shortly after inaugurating the district prison in Sant Kabir Nagar built at the cost of Rs 126 crore, reported Deccan Herald. He accused the previous governments of making UP a symbol of “dynastic politics, nepotism, appeasement, dacoity, hooliganism and riots”.