“Misleading headlines can leave lasting impressions…”

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by Dr. Bhargavi D Hemmige 14 May 2019

“Home Ministry Cancels Registration Of Infosys Foundation – NDTV.com, Infosys Foundation’s FCRA license canceled -The Hindu, Govt Cancels Registration of Infosys Foundation for Violating Norms on Foreign Grants – https://www.news18.com, Ministry cancels FCRA registration of Infosys Foundation-The News Minutehttps://www.thenewsminute.com , Home Ministry cancels registration of Infosys Foundation over FCRA violation – https://www.businesstoday.in , Home Ministry cancels registration of Infosys Foundation – The Economic Times” – The above headlines on supposed violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act(FCRA) by Infosys Foundation from these established media houses sourced by Press Trust of India, two days ago raised many eyebrows.

“The articles by all these credible media houses further said ‘The Home Ministry had last year served show cause notice to Infosys Foundation for failing to submit annual income and expenditure statement on foreign funding for up to six years despite repeated reminders, officials said. The registration was canceled as Infosys Foundation allegedly did not file income and expenditure statement on foreign funding for the past few years…”

Even though these media houses carried a clarification from the foundation which stated that “The Foundation was registered under the FCRA Act in January 2016, in May 2016, the Government amended the FCRA Act in the Finance Bill with retrospective effect from 2010 as a result of which the Foundation no longer fell under the purview of the FCRA Act. The Foundation thereafter applied for its de-registration from FCRA with an additional request to cancel the FCRA registration in June 2016, and received acknowledgment from the FCRA wing in the same month, and the Foundation has submitted its annual returns for financial years 2016, 2017 and 2018, though it did not fall under the purview of Act following its amendment.” “Additionally, the Foundation has also submitted the necessary paperwork to the Government in July 2018, to showcase that the Foundation has not received any foreign funding. The Foundation has not received any notice to file returns about FCRA after April 2018,” its statement said.

The website of Infosys Foundation clearly says that this is a non-profit organization, established in 1996, based in Karnataka, India, to support the underprivileged sections of society. The foundation supports programs in the areas of education, rural development, healthcare, arts and culture, and destitute care. And it is supported by Infosys Limited, an Indian multinational corporation that provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services, with an employee base of ‎225,501 (2018), total assets of ‎US$12.25 billion (2018) and a e total equity of US$9.96 billion (2018).

These headlines are self-contradictory and are misleading the average reader who is in a hurry and may not have the patience and time to read through the article. This is a clear case of misreporting as it is clear that as per the clarification issued by the foundation it has itself chosen to de-register from FCRA ‘on own request’ and not as sectionalized in the headlines. Presenting the news factually to the unsuspecting reader is the primary duty of any media house. Studies show that people still trust mainstream media for its credibility in this era of social media where fake news is rampant. Print media giving provocative headlines to news items to attract clicks and TRPs is disturbing. A study done by Psychologist Ullrich K. H. Ecker of the University of Western Australia while documenting the extensive and lingering effects of media misinformation concludes “Misleading headlines can leave lasting impressions, even if you read the article.”

Surprisingly there is an attempt to correct from The Economic Times in a follow-up story with the headline “Infosys Foundation de-registered from FCRA on own request” this makes one optimistic. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde.

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