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French media published early reports claiming a man died fighting a thief, like Parisien's above. Later reports revealed a different side of the story, but TIME and Reuters say the media isn't correcting its earlier folk hero tales. (Credit: Parisien, screeenshot)

French media erred in its reporting on the Sept. 29 death of an Indian man named Rajinder Singh, Time magazine reported.

According to Time, the media turned Singh’s (nicknamed “Babu”) death in Paris into a feat of heroism.  Indian news outlets, including IndianExpress.com praised Singh as well.   “According to press reports in the wake of his death, Babu was killed after being pushed on an electrified Metro rail when he sought to stop a thief stealing a young woman’s iPhone,” Time explained.  The impact of the heroic stories prompted the Paris Metro to promise it would pay for Singh’s body to be transported to India for burial, according to Time.

But, Oct. 4 media reports revealed that Singh actually “provoked and pursued the clash that led to his deadly push to the rails—and without any attempted theft preceding it.”

As evidence, Time cited statements by the man who pushed Singh and security footage.  Reuters’ Oct. 13 article supported Time‘s evidence that both “video surveillance footage” and “a judicial source” indicated that Singh wasn’t the “folk hero” the media and public made him out to be.

Time argued that the “problem” with the much-reported claims of Singh’s heroism is “around two weeks of enduring, quasi-orchestral hyping and dramatizing of the saga for rather cynical ends.”

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Also, according to Time, the French media hasn’t equally reported on the facts of the crime. Instead, most reports still portray Singh as a hero and have given “decidedly less coverage” to the facts.  Further, even the outlets that reported on the video footage of the incident, “buried coverage to relatively brief, inside items.”  Time questioned the lack of mass corrections, clarifications, or apologies for the sensationalized heroic tale.  Reuters noted that Singh was labeled “Babu the fake hero” on a French radio station.

Time pointed to Marianne2.fr magazine, which did break down the errors in reporting in an Oct. 11 story on the “media frenzy.”   The magazine explained that the Parisian first identified Singh and in its early October story, described Singh as ascetic, from a poor family and providing money for his family back in India.  Le Parisien also broke the story of the incident in late September using unnamed sources to vaguely describe the incident. In an Oct. 10 story about a “tribute” to Singh, Le Parisien noted that the hero “thesis” is “now being undermined.”

iMediaEthics has written to Le Parisien asking if it will correct or clarifiy its earlier stories about Singh. We also asked why Le Parisien based its Sept. 30 report on the incident on entirely anonymous sources. We will update with any response.

iMediaEthics has also written to Paris Metro to confirm that it promised to pay for Singh’s body to be returned to India. We have also asked if Paris Metro will uphold  that promise in light of the new information that Singh was not acting heroically. We will update with any response.

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Early French Media Reports Claim Rajinder Singh a Hero, Doesn’t Correct when Evidence Suggests Otherwise?

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