Who controls the Indian media? – Gautam Sen

Indian Newspapers

Gautam SenThe alleged oppression of minorities is the political bridgehead that modern evangelical organisations have entrenched in the public consciousness, relentlessly distorting its reality and using it ruthlessly to fuel discontent within India. – Dr Gautam Sen

India happens to be one of the very few major countries in the world whose dominant media is controlled directly or indirectly by foreigners. The usurpation of control has actually been by Americans, much of it through surrogates of evangelical organisations that are in fact quasi-government agencies [i.e. World Vision]. Paradoxically, Leftist Indian political parties supposedly hostile to a US presence in India have been subdued with alacrity by these quasi-state religious agencies, which have been operating effectively in other parts of the world as well. In Latin America, where liberation theology offered succour to the poor, the very same neo-fascist, American evangelical organisations, working in conjunction with the US State Department and intelligence services, ousted them. In India, most English-language media outlets, are, in effect, vying with each other to accelerate the fragmentation of India in consonance with Anglo-American goals.

Viceroys to India in the decade before independence, Linlithgow, Wavell and Mountbatten are destined to prove prescient about its innate fractiousness. The alleged oppression of minorities is the political bridgehead that modern evangelical organisations have entrenched in the public consciousness, relentlessly distorting its reality and using it ruthlessly to fuel discontent within India. By deliberately misrepresenting the Godhra communal riots as genocide, though both communities suffered, the media has gleefully incited Islamic terrorist attacks against Hindus and harsh international condemnation of India. As a corollary, the rise of the BJP inspired them to equate mundane nationalist aspirations with the oxymoron of Hindu extremism. Yet, there is resounding silence on the role of the minority community in providing succour to Islamic terrorism through vote bank politics and concealment from attention. India-Forum: Strategic Security of India, 11 November 2010

» Dr Gautam Sen formerly taught at the London School of Economics.

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(This popular Internet list has been completely discredited!)

Allegedly funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain. Supports Communism.  Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because the Pakistan president has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan.  Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother of Prakash Karat, General-Secretary of the Communist Party of India.

Allegedly funded solely by the Southern Baptist Church in the USA. It has branches in all countries of the world with headquarters in the US. The Church annually allocates 800 million dollars for promotion of this channel. Its Indian head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

Allegedly Times Group is owned by Bennet & Coleman. Eighty per cent of funding is done by the World Christian Council. The balance  of twenty per cent is equally shared by an Englishman and an Italian. The Italian Roberto Mindo is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi.

Allegedly it is run by the Australian Rupert Murdoch who is supported by St. Peters Pontifical Church in Melbourne, Australia.

Allegedly owned by the Birla Group, but hands have changed since Shobana Bhartiya took over. Presently it is working in collaboration with Times Group.

Allegedly an  English daily started over 125 years by a Sri Vaishnava Hindu family.  It has been recently taken over by the Joshua Society in Berne, Switzerland. Edited by Communist Sinophile N. Ram. He also edits the newspaper’s fortnightly Marxist magazine FRONTLINE. THE HINDU is known in Chennai (Madras) variously as “The Sapper” (because it supported the British during the struggle for Indian independence) and “The Old Widow of Mount Road” (because of its lugubrious, cliche-ridden style of writing and incomprehensible editorials). More recently it has acquired the sobriquet “The Chindu” (because it is “China’s National Newspaper In India”).

Allegedly it is divided into two groups. THE INDIAN EXPRESS in North India and THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS in South India. Founded by the Hindu freedom fighter Ramnath Goenka. Controlled by Acts Ministries who has a major stake in the INDIAN EXPRESS. THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS is still with its North Indian counterpart.

Allegedly to date this Hyderabad newspaper is still controlled by an Indian named Ramoji Rao. It is under concerted attack by the Christian Church, the Andhra Pradesh Christian chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy and the Congress Party.

Allegedly the Muslim Party of Hyderabad known as MIM along with a Congress minister has purchased this Telugu daily very recently.

Allegedly it is controlled by Communist Party of India.

Allegedly it is controlled by Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Allegedly leaders of the Muslim League and  some Communist Party members have major investments in the newspaper.

Allegedly these popular newspapers  are owned by a Saudi Arabian company. Its chief editor was M.J. Akbar until early 2008. New chief editor unknown. These newspapers are aggressively pro-Christian (Roman Catholic), anti-Hindu newspapers. The Deccan Chronicle was the first South Indian newspaper to carry H1 banner headlines declaring ‘Hindu Terror’.

Allegedly India’s national TV network broadcasting in all corners of the country. Since Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party has come to power, all DOORDARSHAN stations carry Christian missionary programmes dubbed into the regional languages. – Intellibriefs,  23 December 2006 

Must read article Hinduphobic media in bed with politicians by K.A. Krishna Rao


How the media conspires to work against India – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

The Indian Express

Rakesh Krishnan SimhaJournalists such as Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Prannoy Roy, who had ganged up to attack the A. B. Vajpayee government, ignoring all its positive contributions, are now doing exactly the same to Narendra Modi. Strangely, they do not even do a token attack on the Gandhi family. Despite the mountain of corruption charges against it, the dynasty is always spared by these so-called journalists. – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Recently, Arnab Goswami managed, within just four minutes, to focus the attention of the entire nation on the compromised and unethical journalism practiced by certain journalists, who continue to peddle an anti-Indian narrative. Often it is hard to know whether such compromised journalists are working for India or Pakistan. For instance, on the Kashmir issue, even the Pakistani media does not attack India as much as these left-liberal “Indian” journalists do.

Goswami rightly said: “Pseudo-liberals should ask themselves, whether they have a right to comment, to speak or to write one word on the Kargil bravehearts….”

He continued: “Vested interests in some parts of the media have been openly and shockingly trying to echo the Pakistani line. In the guise of backing Kashmiris, these sections—including sections of the media—are doing everything possible to support Pakistan, sitting here in India…. Directly or indirectly, they are supporting the ISI, supporting Rawalpindi, they are supporting Hafiz Saeed.”

Journalists such as Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Prannoy Roy, who had ganged up to attack the A. B. Vajpayee government, ignoring all its positive contributions, are now doing exactly the same to Narendra Modi. Strangely, they do not even do a token attack on the Gandhi family. Despite the mountain of corruption charges against it, the dynasty is always spared by these so-called journalists, who are in reality influence peddlers and brokers—or to use a more appropriate Hindi word, dalals.

You may have wondered how these shady individuals operate. Well, here’s a peek at what goes on behind the scenes in the nation’s newsrooms.

Communal News ReportingCase Study 1: Fuelling the communal cauldron

One of my earliest encounters with such unethical journalists happened during the 2002 Gujarat riots. I was the chief copy editor at a leading Delhi-based national daily, and what you’re about to read is straight from the trenches.

The daily had a Gujarat bureau with an experienced and well-connected local reporter, but for some inexplicable reason, it dispatched a crime reporter based in New Delhi to cover such a major communal clash. From reporting on court matters, this 20-something reporter, whom I’ll call Vinod, suddenly found himself in the middle of a riot.

One of the stories that Vinod filed and which made it to the paper’s front page was an incendiary—and unsubstantiated—piece about a “Muslim cyclist”, who was “passing through a Hindu majority residential area” and got lynched by a “Gujarati mob”. The mob, he claimed, grabbed “loose concrete blocks from the footpath to crack open his skull, resulting in his brains spilling on the ground”.

The shocking thing was that we were just two hours from publishing this rabble-rousing report—not backed up by any official statement—on the front page. At a sensitive time, when the media needed to be extremely cautious about what it published, the reporter and the editors were dumping more fuel into the communal cauldron.

Now at this daily—which in 2002 had a print run of 900,000 copies—speed rather than accuracy was all that mattered. During a presentation before us journalists, the printing division’s head had told us—perhaps with a bit of an exaggeration—that each half hour delay meant the paper would print 25,000 fewer copies. Minor errors, therefore, did not warrant delays. In fact, if there was a delay of more than 5 minutes past 11.00 pm, the following morning we had to provide a pretty good reason why we overshot the deadline. Needless to say, the heart stopping deadlines had caused frequent burnouts of journalists.

Despite such pressures, I decided to call up the reporter and get the story sorted. Here’s how the phone call went:

Delhi Bureau: Did you see the man being killed?

Vinod: No. But I have reliable sources who did.

Delhi Bureau: So, who is your source?

Vinod: There was a group of people outside this housing society, who showed me the exact spot where the mob killed the man.

Delhi Bureau: How do you know for sure that the man was a Muslim?

Vinod: According to the same group of people, the man had a long beard. In fact, these people wanted to kill me too because they thought I was a Muslim.

Delhi Bureau: What was a Muslim man doing, cycling through a Hindu majority area on the third day of a major Hindu-Muslim riot?

Vinod: Maybe he was lost.

Delhi Bureau: How do you know his brains spilled out?

Vinod: The same group of people showed me bloodstains on the footpath.

Delhi Bureau: And you believe they are telling the truth?

Vinod: Yes.

Delhi Bureau: So, the group that you claimed threatened to kill you is now your authentic source?

Vinod: (Stammering) Look, all of them couldn’t lie.

Despite the winter chill, I could sense Vinod loosening his tie (he often wore ties, even in summer). In all those years at the paper, he was not used to being questioned like this. However, being a glib operator, he thanked me for calling him and said he would try and clear all my doubts.

My biggest worry at that point was that the following day, the graphic details would inflame people in other parts of Gujarat and India and spark more violence.

There was no point appealing to my line editor’s journalistic ethics or his concern—if any—for India’s image. The hole in the story that I had just discovered would not matter, when the deadline trumped everything. Plus, this was a pro-Congress newspaper. So, there was the possibility that Vinod was the management’s hitman, in which case I would be victimised too.

There was only one way out. I told the line editor that such a gory piece could either spark riots in Delhi or would lead to a lawsuit. Personal safety and career being existential matters, he quickly asked me to find a replacement story. A couple of hard-core communist journalists protested, but were overruled.

Unlike NDTV, which was deliberately inciting violence by broadcasting news from the riot-affected areas in a slanted way, the daily probably wasn’t doing it as official policy. It was just a bunch of leftists gone berserk. However, Vinod wasn’t wedded to any ideology. He was just a fake news manufacturer.

Years later, I mentioned the riot story to one of his former bosses, who told me: “Vinod is a complete fraud and I would not for a second doubt, if he himself concocted the Gujarat story. Once under pressure to do a major story for the Sunday magazine, he just didn’t show up and sent a message, saying he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t come to the office.”

Vinod is now a corporate consultant at a Mumbai-based headhunting firm and no doubt peddling snake oil.

Paid NewsCase Study 2: Taking stock

Vinod was not the first news peddler that I encountered. That happened at a Delhi-based reputable business daily, where I did not work. Sometime in 1999, Business World (BW) magazine’s corporate bureau asked me to write about a Gurgaon-based IT firm (let’s call it LMH Systems), which was about to acquire a US-based software company. Here was a pocket-sized Indian company acquiring an American company that was four times bigger. Frankly, it was quite exciting to be able to write about the deal.

Since, I had zero experience in writing a corporate story, the corporate bureau head suggested, I contact Aruna (name changed) a seasoned corporate reporter. Aruna had recently joined BW after quitting her job at the Delhi-based business daily I mentioned above and had written extensively about LMH Systems. She was very nice to me and said I should speak directly to the owner of LMH Systems, who in her opinion was an extremely friendly guy and would provide me any information that I wanted about the deal.

Curiously, she revealed that she owned LMH stock and had made a profit of Rs 60,000, which in 1999 was a tidy amount. She made no effort to hide that it was inside information, which had allowed her to buy the shares, as the company was on the upswing.

But first, Aruna suggested, I read up older stories covered by the business daily’s Mumbai bureau. So I went to the newspaper office and after a couple of hours of manual search (not much on the internet those days) found a bunch of stories that had no bylines, but were datelined Mumbai.

I called the business daily’s Mumbai office and asked them, if they could identify the reporter, who had written those stories. After a few minutes, they came back and told me the stories were written by the Delhi bureau. It was all very confusing to me. If the story was written by the Delhi bureau, then why publish it under a Mumbai dateline?

Having hit a roadblock, I called Aruna, who insisted it was written by the Mumbai bureau. Not being a hard-boiled reporter, I was hesitant about bothering the Mumbai team again. So, I called the newspaper’s Delhi office and told them the whole story. Plus, that I didn’t want to bother the Mumbai bureau again and would really appreciate, if they could tell me who wrote the story from Delhi. This time the person at the other end consulted one of his colleagues and said, “It’s Aruna.”

Not being completely stupid, I now realised what was going on. Since Aruna—or her husband—had acquired shares in the company against the business daily’s policies that no reporter should have a conflict of interest, she had found a neat way of skirting the issue. She was writing stories in LMH’s favour, but publishing them from Mumbai—as a hedge against any investigation.

My suspicions were confirmed a few days later, when I met LMH’s owner at his plush Gurgaon office. He told me that he had met Aruna in the US, where she had a wonderful time travelling all around the country. Perhaps, this disclosure about Aruna’s US trip—most likely a junket—was intended as a signal to me that if I cooperated like her, I too could join the ranks of the jet setters.

P. V. Narasimha RaoCase Study 3: Ganging up against Rao

This case study involves one of India’s finest Prime Ministers. A year after P. V. Narasimha Rao died, one of his sons—I don’t remember which one—visited a close friend of mine at his Greater Kailash office in New Delhi. This friend was a former colleague, who had started his own publishing company.

After Rao’s death, the Congress—or rather the Gandhi dynasty—had started to airbrush Rao’s key role in India’s economic reforms. It was Rao, who had encouraged the unsure and wavering Manmohan Singh to go ahead with liberalisation. Had there been no Rao, we’d still be having waiting list of several years to buy Maruti cars, for example.

But, as the first anniversary of Rao’s death approached, there was a complete blackout by the Congress. To borrow George Orwell’s term from the novel “1984”, Rao was now an “unperson”.

To set right the record, Rao’s son tried to buy a full-page ad in a two of the leading New Delhi newspapers, to showcase the late PM’s contributions to the nation. But, for some reason, his cash wasn’t good enough and neither of the two newspapers would touch the ad.

It was only after he was stonewalled by the media that Rao’s son came to my friend and sought his help in buying ad space. The point is not whether he succeeded or not in getting the space. The point is the Indian media—in this case the owners—ganged up against the legacy of a late prime minister.

See how deep is the rot?

Paid JournalismCase Study 4: The television salesman

This happened during my stint at a leading news magazine, where I was an assistant copy editor. Every year, the magazine had a Diwali special, which had a feel good cover story on the mega deals available for the middle class.

For Diwali 2000, when the nearly 3000-word story landed in my inbox, it didn’t take me long to edit as it was a well-written story by a senior writer. However, one paragraph struck me as rather odd as it mentioned the prices of two flat screen televisions being introduced by a leading company. Not only was the pesky para not germane to the story, it looked like a 200-word thumbs up to the stock market punters. It made the entire article look like a paid advertorial. I deleted the sentences and ran it past the writer, who re-inserted it before sending me the approved copy.

I again got rid of the para and sent it for production. When the layout proofs were sent to the writer, he called me up and asked me to add that paragraph again. I said, maybe he was just being helpful to the reader, but some would look at it as a plug. He hung up and called the copy editor, my boss, demanding that he reintroduce the para.

Finally, a compromise was arrived at. The para was retained, but with some of the more blatant plugs removed. I remember a senior colleague commenting: “Either a brand new TV or a large amount of cash has changed locations in Mumbai.”

They call themselves journalists.

You get the picture. Rajdeep Sardesai, Shobhaa De and Barkha Dutt can rail all they want, but they are no role models.

Dutt was caught on tape scheming with Nira Radia on how she could help broker political deals. During the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, her live telecasts were helping the terrorists move around and target Indian commandos. Last month, she revealed in a tweet that India was rushing forces to Kashmir on Air India flights. What if the terrorists had blown up the aircraft?

Shobhaa De is a soft porn writer; to call her a journalist would be a crime. Rajdeep Sardesai’s shameless provocation of a pro-Modi crowd should be a textbook study on how to get lynched on the sidewalks of New York.

Now check out this list of ‘eminent’ journalists—Dileep Padgaonkar, ex editor of Times of India; Harish Khare, the media adviser to the last prime minister; Ved Bhasin, editor, Kashmir Times; Harinder Baweja, former India Today writer; Praful Bidwai, experienced columnist with communist leanings.

All of them were regular guests of Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was arrested in the US in 2011 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for acting as the front man of Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI). The Pakistani spy was arrested in a suspected influence-peddling scheme to funnel millions of dollars from Pakistan to US lawmakers.

According to the FBI, Fai “took dictation from his masters” in Pakistan. He received at least $4 million to manipulate the Kashmir debate in favour of Pakistan. These Indian liberals and media figures had been attending conclaves and meets organised by Fai, at the ISI’s instance, to oust India from Kashmir. You be the judge. What would you call them for acting against India’s interest?

Don’t get me wrong. Most of us journalists are kosher and just want to do a good job, be acknowledged for our work, and hope that our work will make a difference to the country. Many of us routinely turn down bribes and won’t accept junkets or even a token gift.

I know this senior editor, who in my presence banged down the phone on Mulayam Singh Yadav, because the UP chief minister had dared to invite him for a “cup of tea”. (Unfortunately, he has become a communist apologist today.) There is a Rediff writer who prefers to live in a one-bedroom apartment, because that is preferable to taking bribes from political parties. “Can you imagine how soundly I sleep,” he said with a wink.

There is a close friend, who doesn’t mind that all he has to show after 30 years of journalism is a two-bedroom flat in a DDA enclave in Delhi. He refused to be part of his editor’s plan to blackmail political leaders by using his amazing investigative skills.

In 2002, while working at a leading Delhi-based daily, I turned down a Rs 50,000 bribe from a family friend, who is now a builder. He had said: “All you have to do is get a one column article published in your business pages.” I kept my phone off the hook for a week.

What I did was no big deal. Most of the Indian media is honest and upright. However, there is a tiny co-opted minority of journalists, who are in bed with politicians, foreign agents and corporates, and are a huge problem. In 2014 when General V. K. Singh talked about presstitutes, he was on the money. – IndiaFacts, 2 August 2016

» Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst.

Indian Media

Indian media’s double standards – Balbir Punj

Indian Media

Balbir Punj“Manhandling of a political activist is national news for days together. Hacking to death of an RSS worker hardly finds a place in the media. Why? Is it because the victim of beating in Delhi belonged to the CPI and the one in Kerala to the RSS? The CPI worker was suspected of shouting slogans seeking ‘Bharat Ki Barbadi’ and the RSS man hacked to pieces was guilty of saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’” – Balbir Punj

Bias in the Indian mainstream media.In the last four days, the media went overboard pressing all the juice out of the incidents in JNU and Hyderabad universities. It seemed that the media itself was involved and partisan between the contending forces in the  controversies that have wrecked these institutions in particular and the student communities in general. Look at the media coverage of violence happening on the two sides of the political divide. For instance, in the JNU incidents, we saw media going to great lengths about attacks on Leftist students by the security forces and in the clashes between the two sides among the students.

The reports in the media on the events that happened in the Patiala House courts were extensive, with most publications putting on the front page a BJP MLA beating up a Communist activist. But the highlighted portion was the lawyer who claimed that he was a BJP worker beating up some journalists. There can be no two opinions that journalists covering any event need to be looked at as neutral observers reporting to the people what was happening. Even if some people feel that media persons were partisan in their reports, that is no excuse for them to beat up the Press. The persons dressed as lawyers beating up the media people wholesale is condemnable and need to be acted upon by the police that should have actively intervened to protect the journos.

Well, by that same token, the media also must play by fairness in its reporting. The reports and display should conform to a value system that puts fairness beyond political predilections. Violence is one thing that the media can highlight without preferences as it undermines the very basis of settling differences through discussions and compromises.

RSS Murder VictimBut the role of the media, while covering recent incidents of violence on the part of political activists, has been so unfair, that it can be termed only as disgusting. On Tuesday last, TV channel screens and front pages of most of the ‘national dailies’ were full of details and visuals of a BJP MLA beating up a left activist. There was all round uproar and statements galore condemning the incident. A day earlier, 27-year-old Sujith was hacked to death in front of his parents by about 10 men, alleged to be CPM workers. The gang did not spare even the aged parents of Sujith.

His father Janardhanan and mother Sulochana, both daily wage workers, suffered injuries when they tried to save their son. His elder brother was also injured in the attack. The brutality of the recent attack on Sujith reminds one of the daylight murder of BJP State Yuva Morcha Vice-President K. T. Jayakrishnan, a primary school teacher. He was hacked to death, in front of his students at Panur, near Thalassery on December 1, 1999.

Now see the contrast. Manhandling of a political activist is national news for days together. Hacking to death of an RSS worker hardly finds a place in the media. Why? Is it because the victim of beating in Delhi belonged to the CPI and the one in Kerala to the RSS? The CPI worker was suspected of shouting slogans seeking ‘Bharat Ki Barbadi’ and the RSS man hacked to pieces was guilty of saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.

Marad Murder WeaponsThe killing of a large number of RSS workers and even of Communist leaders opposed to the Marxist party line has been a day-to-day affair in both Kerala and West Bengal for a long time. In several cases, RSS workers have been attacked in their house or even in public places or in school classes in front of students. The rioting in Marad some years ago was a combined operation of both Marxists and Islamists. But the media seemingly does not highlight it. There is clear evidence of a media under leftist influence in the reporting of major violent political events.

It isn’t a mere coincidence that wherever Marxists are using high-handed means in political action, violence is seen as inevitable. In West Bengal when they were ruling continuously for 35 years, the Marxist cadres used widespread violence to threaten not only political opponents but also common people who refused to toe their line or refused to accept diktats of the Marxist district leaders. The runaway success of the Trinamool Congress in 2011 was the result of public reaction to the Marxist violence. In Kerala, particularly in North Malabar region, the Marxists used to rule the roost for decades till the RSS alone dared to challenge their hegemony. History here and across the whole century of Marxist political action is witness to the ‘justification’ of the self-appointed followers of Marx, Lenin and Mao who advocate use of violence as a weapon in their political belt. They now claim to be constitutionalists and believers in parliamentary democracy.

However, those who have to engage with them have had to suffer violence at every step. The pro-Chinese faction among them who are running a parallel state apparatus in eastern India are not the only users of firearms, sabotage and terror in their quest. The other Marxists, despite their public statements of faith in Parliamentary democracy, have left no opportunity to use violence for political purposes. The public revulsion against such violence was largely responsible for their ouster from power in two out of the three states they were in power. This makes them increasingly irrelevant to the national agenda of growth and economic and political justice.

CPI (M) IslamistAs a result, the Left is increasingly leaning towards Islamist ideology with its own cadre of violence perpetrators and loyalty to Islamist movements elsewhere. This alliance between two forces resorting to violent overthrow of the government and the Indian state, is seemingly behind the scale of reaction to the recent events in JNU and Hyderabad university.

The Jadavpur university demonstrations by leftist students supporting JNU groups that have raised pro-Afzal Guru slogans is strong evidence of Marxist cadres seeking to gain sympathy from Islamist cadres in several states like West Bengal, Kerala  and Andhra, the very states where Islamist groups are seeking new recruiters. The Marxist leaders who have come out in favour of the JNU student activists are refusing to condemn the clear pro-Afzal and anti-Indian slogans raised by the student mobs repeatedly. Now, the Jadavpur university-based mobs are also joining them with such sloganeering.

The events of recent days, which the Left took over and turned to its advantage, have praised terrorist Afzal Guru as a martyr and demanded that the Kashmir issue be raised in the proposed India-Pakistan parleys. The emergence of the Marxist-Islamist alliance is a central fact of current perspectives. The bulk of the media, particularly English one, purposely underplays the dangers posed by this alliance. – The New Indian Express, 20 February 2016

» Balbir Punj is a political commentator and Rajya Sabha member. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

RSS Murder Victim

Fascism emanates from India’s newsrooms and television studios – Tufail Ahmad

The Indian Express's "military coup" story!

Tufail Ahmad“The fascism emerging from India’s newsrooms is backed by big businesses and the nation’s dynasty. Corporates and dynastic centres of power pose a threat to democracies in every country. Indian media houses are ideologically configured. Fascism is conveyored by the paid mainstream media, which militates against the unpaid social media. Indian journalists describe every Twitter user who questions them with the power of facts and arguments as a Sanghi. In the West, such truth-tellers are dismissed as Zionists.” – Tufail Ahmad

FascesIn any society fascism emerges from the educated class of people, never from the masses.

In an article in the Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran of October 15, this writer argued:

“India is witnessing the emergence of fascism from newsrooms, a movement of totalitarian ideas that divides us in order to win.”

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, said:

“All men are intellectuals, but not all men have … the function of intellectuals.”

In the Gramscian sense, journalists, activists and Twitterati are intellectuals. The term ‘fascism’ was unique to Italy, but as a movement of totalitarian ideas it is relevant to explaining the Indian condition.

One, in any society fascism emerges from the educated class of people, never from the masses. All journalists and intellectuals howling at the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are highly educated.

Fascism of the educated class fears new ideas. F. A. Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom, wrote:

“It is perhaps the most characteristic feature of the intellectual that he judges new ideas not by their specific merits but by the readiness with which they fit into his general conceptions….”

Since Modi advocates new ideas, journalists and intellectuals feel threatened.

Sudheendra Kulkarni & Khurshid Mahmud KasuriTwo, fascism’s conveyors are alive to the workings of media, the key concern of George Orwell in 1984. Media is fascism’s key ally. Baba Ramdev, the yoga guru, can claim that he tried to escape an ink attacker. But Sudheendra Kulkarni allows Shiv Sena to blacken his face, more thoroughly the better, waits for TV crews and proceeds to host former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in Mumbai. He will not release Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai’s book in her birthplace, Swat. He knows where to host book events, and where not to host.

Three, the fascism emerging from India’s newsrooms is backed by big businesses and the nation’s dynasty. Corporates and dynastic centres of power pose a threat to democracies in every country. Indian media houses are ideologically configured. Fascism is conveyored by the paid mainstream media, which militates against the unpaid social media. Indian journalists describe every Twitter user who questions them with the power of facts and arguments as a Sanghi. In the West, such truth-tellers are dismissed as Zionists.

Four, in the pre-democracy era, fascism had a leader in Benito Mussolini, and marched with his regime and the army. In democracies, it is surviving as a movement of ideas, as the armies now serve the people and are accountable to civilian leaders elected by voters. As a movement of totalitarianism, fascism in India was silent as long as its leaders were in power. Even now, it shields the socialist leaders of Uttar Pradesh for the Dadri killing, or the communist leadership of Kerala despite 250 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers being murdered. Its silence is murder.

Nirupama SubramanianFive, fascism is anti-democratic. It counters the leaders elected by masses if such leaders are not its allies. Since the elected leaders may not be educated, journalists target them to assist the march of fascism in Indian society. Journalist Nirupama Subramanian selected the rustic Haryana chief minister M. L. Khattar to seek his views on beef. She would never choose the more suave Arun Jaitley, or go to any village chowk to seek people’s views on beef because it will not serve fascism’s purpose, which is to undermine the elected government.

Six, fascism describes itself as working for people’s interests. For example, North Korea calls itself as the Democratic Republic; China describes itself as the People’s Republic; Cuba dubs itself a Republic. In fact, they are essentially totalitarian. Fascism does not work for people’s interests. Aided by journalists, it whips up passions in which public sentiment runs counter to public interest. Currently, India’s authoritarian and dynastic Congress party is being defended, note not by its own leaders, but by journalists and intellectuals. The Congress hopes to win by remaining silent.

Seven, journalists pose as moralists as teaching ethics to the government on varied issues such as the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri or the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi. Such stance could be in public interest, but invariably these moralists are silent when Taslima Nasrin is attacked in Hyderabad, or Professor T. J. Joseph’s hand is chopped off and reformist Islamic scholar Chekannur Maulavi is killed by Islamists of Kerala. Fascism disregards the republic’s Rule of Law, loves the anarchism of Arvind Kejriwal.

Eight, the fascism emerging from television studios mushrooms into large-scale intolerance when the voters elect leaders not in ideological compliance with it. It fears vote. On the eve of elections, it searches for new issues that will serve its objective. Fascism hopes to win by dividing us. The lynch mob is at issue only when the victim is a Muslim. In Faridabad, journalists painted the deaths of two kids in fire as an attack on Dalits. ABP news channel described Chhota Rajan as a “Hindu don”. When a Naxalite is arrested, journalists describe Indian laws as ‘draconian’.

Khushwant Singh was Indira Gandhi's court poet!Nine, since the fall of the USSR, fascism is allying with wickedness. Globally, the left-liberal journalists are in bed with jihadists. Indian journalists are silent on the rise of burqa in public life, or about the anti-women Shah Bano law because it came from their party. Fascism is anti-rights, anti-women and anti-democracy. One newspaper reported a non-existent military coup, the editor’s desire. In the Emergency, most journalists licked the boots and Khushwant Singh was lauded. Except ideology, what explains that Salman Rushdie will stand by his tormentors?

Ten, this fascism seeks allies in the enemy camp. It would not like to invite Malala Yousafzai to Mumbai because its allies in Pakistan would not like it. It is more comfortable with the Pakistani state’s representatives, whether Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri or those in the Track II underworld, or even the arch-enemy General Pervez Musharraf. It does not serve Indian Muslims. It serves Islam—or burqa, triple talaq and skullcap. Essentially, it shuns Muslim commentators who call for equality of Muslim women. It is not incidental that TV journalists love maulvis.

Eleven, the Berlin wall in Indian society fell in 2014 when the voters elected new leaders not liked by this class of fascists. Its debris is still clearing as journalists howl and awards are returned by those who benefited from the party, the dynasty, the ideology. Karl Marx said that man makes history but he does so in some given circumstances. Modi emerged victorious because India’s voters noticed that the fascist class of journalists and intellectuals serves its own interests, not the nation’s half-clad daughter begging at the traffic lights for a few coins.

Narendra ModiTwelve, Hayek argued that the intellectuals are “professional second-hand dealers in ideas”. Now that Modi, the first-hand dealer in original ideas, has grasped the Hayekian view that economic freedom is a prerequisite for all other freedoms, Indian intellectuals are unwilling to tolerate the voters’ judgement. Aided by journalists, intellectuals are using television studios to accuse India of being intolerant. As the democracy matures, this class of intellectuals will die. The only path open for this landed fish is to search for a new moral universe. – Hindu Vivek Kendra, 2 November 2015

» Tufail Ahmad is Director of South Asian Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington, D.C. E-mail: tufailelif@yahoo.co.uk.

The Indian Express

Warning sign in New Delhi during Indira Gandhi's emergency dictatorship.

Modi has lost the media plot – Seetha

Narendra Modi

Seetha“Modi … is over-active on Twitter even on inane issues, but goes completely mum when a controversy breaks out. Remaining stubbornly silent and letting party hotheads make provocative statements and making a bland statement after the silence has been widely condemned only makes him look reactive, not pro-active; it gives the impression that it is the other side that is setting the agenda of the discourse.” – Seetha

Pen to SwordThe takeaways from the Bihar election results for Prime Minister Narendra Modi are many – the top one being that he should now devote more bandwidth to bringing back the development focus that swept him to power.

Something else needs equally top billing. Modi and the BJP need to have a public relations and communications strategy in place. This is an area in which the Modi government has completely lost the plot, never mind Arun Shourie’s charge that it is managing the headlines more than the economy.

Yes, Modi is a great marketer, fond of hyping up even piddly achievements with cleverly worded acronyms and dazzling numbers. Yes, some claims are much taller than reality. Yes, there have been stray cases of articles criticising some of his favourite ministers being pulled off news websites. But can anyone seriously assert that his government is managing the media effectively?

The Modi government has significant achievements under its belt, especially on the economic front. And yet, barring the business press and some overtly pro-BJP/Modi media outlets, the impression conveyed by most publications and news channels is that of a clueless government, which is efficient only in pursuing a communal agenda.

This is what happened during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure—every stray communal incident was played up as a sign of the Hidden Agenda. But Vajpayee had not riled the media as much as Modi has, and he was often portrayed as being a helpless victim of Hindutva hardliners. Modi is getting no such sympathy and his barely disguised contempt for the media is not exactly helping matters. Nor is the fact that the party also does not appear to have an effective media team after stalwarts like Arun Jaitley, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Piyush Goyal joined the government. In fact, the party appears to be making things worse, unable to either put out an effective response to controversies or to get loose-tongued party members to keep silent. As a result, the party often ends up taking responsibility (and not just getting blamed) for even actions of lone lunatics who are not associated with it at all.

The media strategy has to happen at both the government and party levels. Both need to take basic communications lessons from the corporate sector, especially when faced with controversies. What gave wind to the allegations by the Modi detractors brigade about growing intolerance? The fact that Modi and party president Amit Shah remained silent on Amit Shahthe murder of writers, church attacks, provocative statements by his ministers, the Dadri lynching incident and the burning of two Dalit children in Haryana.

Arguing that the prime minister cannot be speaking on every issue is downright silly when his opponents are not letting go of any controversy—manufactured or otherwise—to get at him. Chief executives of companies rarely meet the media except in controlled conditions. The corporate communications departments and public relations agencies handle all media queries and outreach. But when a controversy erupts, they immediately make themselves available or at least put out a statement—sometimes even an apology—and flood journalists with information that is favourable to them.

Take the recent controversy over Maggi noodles. The company did not trash the test reports or blame the controversy on its competitors. It withdrew stocks from the market and destroyed them (never mind that its critics said this was an admission of guilt) and moved the courts for redress. Armed with an acquittal from the courts and laboratory clearance for its samples, it is making a comeback.

Several years back, a report about high levels of pesticides in soft drinks set off a scare. Otherwise bitter rivals Coke and Pepsi immediately joined hands and went on a media outreach overdrive, putting out counter reports, holding joint press conferences and making the CEOs available for interviews. Through all that, they did not question anyone’s integrity or impute motives (as the BJP tends to do with its political and ideological rivals; this is something that should be outsourced to credible ideological fellow travellers). Instead the message was simple and clear (as in the case of Maggi)—we will not do anything to harm people’s health. Controversy over, the top officials went back into their impenetrable shells.

Modi appears to do just the opposite. He is over-active on Twitter even on inane issues, but goes completely mum when a controversy breaks out. Remaining stubbornly silent and letting party hotheads make provocative statements and making a bland statement after the silence has been widely condemned only makes him look reactive, not pro-active; it gives the impression that it is the other side that is setting the agenda of the discourse.

When ministers/party members shoot their mouths off, statements need to be put out immediately saying this is not the official view of the government/party. Remaining silent only reinforces his opponents’ charge that these are actually the official views. Calling the errant members later for a stage-managed dressing down after a huge uproar means little, if anything at all.

There is a lesson to be learnt (and drilled into ministers/party members), this time from Bollywood—the effective use of ‘no comment’. Most recent cases of foot-in-the-mouth disease have been the result of people responding to journalists’ pestering questions. Journalists are going to trap people into saying things; we will seek out motormouths; that is our job. ‘No comment’ should be the standard response to such questions, whatever the provocation. Or, ‘the party/Prime Minister/concerned minister has spoken, I have nothing to add’.

National Media Center, New DelhiThe Press Information Bureau (PIB) was once the first point of contact for journalists as well as of putting the government point of view across and damage control. Successive governments have allowed the PIB to atrophy and it has become little more than an agency that sends out invites for press conferences and issue press releases. Ministers have preferred to sidestep PIB officials and develop their own equations with journalists through their personal staff. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except that a minister’s personal staff may not always have media management skills. PIB officials get demotivated and are not effective in countering negative fallouts.

This government has done little to reverse the trend, barring prodding PIB to be active on social media. But this is nothing more than putting out announcements and congratulatory tweets. It is important to use the PIB creatively to highlight the government’s achievements and empower PIB officials to be effective spokespersons, arming them with information and encouraging officials to open up to them. PIB should be made as effective as the internal corporate communications departments of companies, the first line of information and defence. This also takes the pressure off the Prime Minister or individual ministers.

Senior officials must be encouraged to hold regular press conferences to brief journalists and answer queries. The finance ministry has made a start and other ministries need to follow suit. Unfortunately, the message from the top is that this government is not keen on engaging with the media and this has led to officials becoming inaccessible even to journalists who try to get the ministry point of view before running a negative story.

Modi clearly does not like engaging with journalists, preferring to deal with the public through tweets. Even his predecessor did not interact with journalists. But he, like Vajpayee before him, had an official spokesperson in the PMO who would meet journalists regularly, brief them on what was happening, provide information for stories or effectively kill negative stories. Modi has his trusted Jagdish Thakkar as public relations officer but he does not seem to be playing the role that Ashok Tandon did for Vajpayee or Sanjaya Baru and Harish Khare did for Manmohan Singh. Modi may have his reasons for dismantling the earlier system, which undoubtedly encouraged an unhealthy cronyism, but he needs to replace it with a more effective one, given that the English language media is largely hostile to him.

Indian NewspapersEngaging with journalists should absolutely not mean a return to free junkets in the form of overseas trips with the Prime Minister and other ministers, where the government picked up the tab for the airfare and other expenses. This meant that the government of the day could pick and choose the media houses and individual journalists it wanted to patronise; jockeying with the government was a common affair.

But getting journalists to travel with the Prime Minister gave the government an advantage—it could get its point of view across in informal chats and apparently spontaneous briefings and even control stories. Modi has scrapped the old system, but has not replaced it by anything new. Why not let journalists travel with the Prime Minister but not for free, as is done in some western countries? Anybody whose expenses are paid for by his employers can come on board; that will end patronage, lobbying and charges of favouritism. And the government can manage the headlines far more effectively than it is doing now. It might as well live up to the name Shourie has given it. – Swarajya, 11 November 2015

» Seetha is a senior journalist and author.

Modi & Modi

Intellectual Prostitutes – John Swinton

John Swinton

John Swinton (1829–1901) was a Scottish-American journalist, newspaper publisher, and orator. He served as the chief editorial writer of The New York Times. He started a famous American labor newspaper called John Swinton’s Paper, in the 1880s. Reproduced here is part of his speech to a group of fellow newspaper editors at the Twilight Club in the Mills Building, New York City, on April 12, 1883. At the time he was chief of the editorial staff of Charles A. Dana’s New York Sun.

Some Things An Editor Dare Not Discuss

There is no such a thing in America as an independent press, unless it is out in country towns. You are all slaves. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to express an honest opinion. If you expressed it, you would know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid $150 for keeping honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for doing similar things.

If I should allow honest opinions to be printed in one issue of my paper, I would be like Othello before twenty-four hours: my occupation would be gone. The man who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the street hunting for another job.

The business of a New York journalist is to distort the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread, or for what is about the same—his salary. You know this, and I know it; and what foolery to be toasting an “Independent Press”!

We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are jumping-jacks. They pull the string and we dance. Our time, our talents, our lives, our possibilities, are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes. – Wikiquote, 22 September 2015

» Contributed by Veteran Major P. M. Ravindran of Raviforjustice Blog.

Malcolm X

Media and its fatal obsession with the underworld – Jency Jacob

Chhota Shakeel

Jency Jacob“The Mumbai media’s fascination with the underworld has not been properly documented. Knowing a gangster—I will not use the term ‘Don’ or ‘Bhai’ as it is often used with a tone of respect, thanks to its glorification by Bollywood—is a badge of honour that some journalists are proud of. Anecdotal accounts abound of how many have used these connections for reasons far beyond their line of duty to enrich themselves.” – Jency Jacob

Media“The media seeks accountability from politicians. Who is the media accountable to?” This is a question a school friend asked me a few days ago on WhatsApp, referring to the blanket coverage Yakub Memon’s hanging and his burial received in [the July 31st] newspapers. 
Normally, like most other journalists, I must admit that I become defensive when it comes to defending the perceived ills of our profession. It is my firm belief that while readers and viewers have the right to question media coverage, they often analyse editorial decisions simplistically. 
That Memon’s hanging needed coverage cannot be denied even though one might differ on the scope and scale of the coverage. This time, though, the anger was not completely unjustified. Most media houses were running a parallel campaign for abolishment of death penalty using Yakub Memon as a crutch—which was unfortunate because they ended up projecting him as an innocent man paying for his brother’s sins at a time when his offences had been proven in court after court, all the way to the top, the Supreme Court. 

In doing so, the media may have also done irreparable damage by adopting this route to build public opinion against capital punishment. 
But more than the coverage given to Memon’s hanging, what troubles me more is the interview of underworld fugitive and Dawood Ibrahim acolyte Chhota Shakeel that some newspapers and TV channels ran post the hanging. 
Sample some of his quotes: 

Chhota Shakeel: “Woh (consequences) to hoga hi” (Times of India)
Chhota Shakeel: We don’t believe in the court. This is not justice, this is vengeance. Revenge has been taken on this man. (Aaj Tak 

Under normal circumstances, any such warning about ‘consequences’ (read revenge) that clearly indicate provoking violence between religious communities would be self-censored by the media. Editorial checks do mean that we edit out portions that could incite communal violence. 
Media BiasBut providing an open forum for a fugitive who has been on the run for the past two decades to air his inflammatory views without any fear of the law is clearly a sign of the new lows that the profession has hit. 
This is also significant as Dawood Ibrahim—the alleged mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts—has himself been under the radar ever since. This means when we air Shakeel’s views, we end up giving space to a man who has refused to face charges for one of the most dastardly acts of terror modern India has witnessed and still continues to live under the patronage of Pakistan and its intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence or the ISI.   
That he can mock Indian agencies and the law and lecture on morals and ethics does not seem to disturb reporters or their editors who routinely conduct and publish such interviews. 
It is not anyone’s case that the underworld does not need coverage. After all, they are part of the same society that we belong to and are products of the corrupt nexus that exists between politicians, law enforcers and our systemic inability to enforce the law (not to mention a broken state that fails to intervene in a humane way when they are young). Also, the media can’t always become one with the state in holding back information that is in public interest. A journalist often walks that thin line, sometimes passing on information to the police while at other times choosing to publish that information, both in public interest. Chhota Shakeel’s interview threatening of ‘consequences’ does not fall in either category. 
The Mumbai media’s fascination with the underworld has not been properly documented. Knowing a gangster (I will not use the term ‘Don’ or ‘Bhai’ as it is often used with a tone of respect, thanks to its glorification by Bollywood) is a badge of honour that some journalists are proud of. Anecdotal accounts abound of how many have used these connections for reasons far beyond their line of duty to enrich themselves. Factions exist among reporters covering the underworld and many are openly identified as belonging to rival camps depending on who one is closer to—Dawood or Chhota Rajan. So it is not surprising why the interview of a gangster is more about what he wants to say rather than getting him to answer any tough questions. 
Ask any young aspiring journalist and most dream of making a career in crime reporting. It cannot be denied that the fascination of speaking to underworld gangsters and being in their core circle is a big attraction, and newspapers and TV channels who routinely do these interviews that border on PR exercises fuel these ambitions. That honest crime reporting is full of unseen dangers, hard work and long hours of sweat and grime are often lost on such aspiring hacks, thanks to how they see their seniors almost identifying themselves with the gangland. 
Shazi ZamanThere is much to introspect for the Editor’s Guild and Broadcast Editor’s Association (BEA) on the need for the industry to identify and prevent such clear ethical breaches.  A few years earlier, the BEA had arrived at an informal consensus on providing less airtime to gangsters but as happens with every self-regulated industry, someone decides to violate the guidelines and then it degenerates into a free-for-all in the race for scoops and TRPs. 
In a book released in the US in 2011, author Jonathan M. Ladd gives some good insight on Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters. Citing a 1956 study carried out in America that “found 66 percent of Americans thought newspapers were fair,” the situation changed for the worse in 50 years. By 2004, when a similar study was conducted, “only 10 percent of Americans had ‘a great deal’ of confidence in the ‘national news media,’ he writes. 
Public anger against the media in India is rising. Suffice it to say that a similar study in India will show that trust in the media is at an all-time low. Whenever any attempt is made by the government to regulate the media, the industry is up in arms, and rightly so. But when you lose the trust of your readers and viewers, you pave the way for the government to bring in curbs. That most newsrooms, high on the ‘exclusive’ interview with a fugitive living overseas, are not able to perceive this distrust is a reflection of the disconnect today’s media has with reality. That is the saddest face of all. – Business Standard, 3 August 2015

» Jency Jacob is a Senior Editor for the Web at Business Standard in the Mumbai Area.