Sunday, March 7, 2010

** News or propaganda?

Make a distinction between news and propaganda
March 7, 2010

The media can both be the poodle and the watchdog. But of late, it is becoming more of the poodle than the watchdog. The Government of India in a recent advisory to TV channels directed them to avoid giving undue coverage to terrorists and terror groups and cover such events with great responsibility and sensitivity. The advisory, in fact, was long overdue.

Every terror attack has, of late, unfortunately become a kind of veritable celebration and overkill for most channels. So much so that the other day when some news channels telecast the CCTV footage of the German Bakery blast, a special court for the Maharashtra ATS ordered: "No electronic media should publish, display or telecast any footage or coverage of the incident dated February 13, 2010 or those before the incident that has come on the CCTV of German Bakery and Hotel ‘O’, which would lead to the disclosure of identity of witnesses in the case." The media, especially the electronic, has been indiscriminately featuring terrorists, with their family history, interviews and the so-called Karachi plot to destroy India with unbelievable fan-fare and a persistent obstinacy. Of equal concern is the obsessed regularity with which soft stories on the D-Company are telecast on certain channels. All that the terrorists want is publicity and speculation about their motives, missions and methods. That is the way these underground outlaws operate and try to advance their agenda, if they have one.

It is easy to guess the provocation for the channels to devote so much of their news time to those trivia which most reputed media persons have often denounced. The fact however remains that the institutions headed by these personalities do not even make a pretence of playing by the rule.

This brings us to the subject of the business of selling news space. After liberalisation, the corporate interest has come to dominate politics, policy format and media coverage. As a consequence, matter that once used to come to us as press notes, now get splashed on the front pages as exclusive. It is a propaganda that often comes as a breaking news. The adage that news is that somewhere somebody wants to hide, is no more a dictum for the post-globalisation media. In this context, the advice of the Editors Guild of India to the Election Commissioner of India to take a strong action against both politicians and media persons who violate the disclosure norms of election expenditure and publicity failed to generate the desired public interest. Such issues are often buried somewhere inside between advertisements in a single column and go unnoticed. A travesty of profitability becoming the primary concern of information dissemination. The media honchos lose the propriety and restraint and become willing tools in the hands of business lobbies.

The latest example of the controversy over the Environment Minister’s denial of permission to Bt. brinjal illustrates this point very well. A section of the media has gone overboard criticising the decision and denouncing the minister who was so far hailed as a crusader for reform. Overnight, Jairam Ramesh has become anti-reform, anti-science and standing in the way of genetic research and promotion of biotechnology. Conversely, lo and behold, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is being projected a man of great vision, modern mind and who is agitated so much about the damage the non-introduction of GM seeds would do to Indian agriculture.

Pawar is a past master in taking up such MNC causes. Remember Enron? It is not a secret how sometime in the mid-1990s Rebecca Mark, a striking 30-something honey blonde Enron Lady took our politicians for a royal ride. Then Pawar had argued for Enron with the same vehemence as he is now pleading the case of Bt. brinjal. And a section of the Indian media lapped up every word the Enron Lady said to make a grand entry into the Indian power sector. The tax-payer had to shell out billions of dollars for the sovereign guarantee for the so-called fast track power project that he promoted in Maharashtra as Chief Minister.

Now, Pawar, according to reports, wrote to the Prime Minister, "the off-the-cuff nature of the Bt. brinjal decision" threatened to "set the clock back" on agricultural growth by disheartening scientists and companies investing in research and resources in GM technology. What moral indignation! The devil perhaps is in the detail. And a section of the media has taken up this fight. We have been open about our resistance to GM food. And it was the result of persistent and informed campaign by the activists and scientists that the Environment Minister was forced to take a second, hard look at the propaganda and pressure by the Bt. brinjal lobby. The problem is how to separate news from propaganda and create an enlightened public opinion.

Related stories:

** The forgotten 59

The Times Of India

27 February 2010

The forgotten fifty-nine

Tarun Vijay

I stood alone. In that crowd at the railway station. Sabarmati Express, the Indian train connecting Ayodhya, a Hindu pilgrimage centre in UP, with the cosmopolitan urban centre Ahmedabad, passes through it. It had passed that year also and became a horrifying reminder of intolerance, butchery and politics over the dead.

I am least interested in the cases, the lies, the scandalous twists, the influencing of the case makers, the politics and the horrendous behaviour of those who become members of India’s central law-making body, Parliament, by virtue of an adult franchise.

My eyes were searching for an indicator, some information to know what happened to those families whose bread earners, parents, sole supporters and dearest relatives were suddenly brought dead in body bags.

There were little kids like Gayatri Panchal, who lost her two sisters, mother and father in that inferno. Sudha Rawal, an 82-year-old granny, Neelima, Lakhu Bhai, Bhimji Bhai……
Why they have to die a torturous death? And why the stalwarts, the leaders, the conscious keepers of the land never ever tried to approach them to know, how February 27 changed their world view and lives?

The next carnage, equally condemnable and horrifying, never included the dead of February 27. Both were Indians. I thought dead bodies do not have any religious prejudices. But here we saw, dead too can be made victims of the coloured attitudes.

Is there any answer to the question why Godhra is always, necessarily excluded from Gujarat? Why ‘Gujarat’ is simply and essentially a Muslim tragedy? Though one third of the killed were Hindus?

Why can’t we wail and lament for the Indian, whatever the religion, who dies whether in Godhra or ‘Gujarat’? The mental subjugation, the coercive secularism, the aggressive NGO-funded shrill voices, none of them takes into account the human side of the tragedies. Flags, headbands, the famous picture of the tailor with folded hands, half truths and pure lies in the courtyards of justice, nothing could demystify why Godhra occurred. Rather it has been pushed into the blind well of a secular Talibanistic edit that prohibits even an analytical, objective discussion on the February 27 carnage. Which occurred just eight years ago?

When the perpetrators of 1984 still roam free and the protectors are decorated, an Indian analysis and an Indian inference of Godhra may take decades. But it also throws up the same issue of a self-denial, our leaders in media and politics are delving into. Deny that it ever happened. Deny that the hurt was universal.

Indians are targeted today for various reasons — in Kashmir, Jammu, Bastar, Dantewada, Kohima, Pune, Mumbai. The list is growing by the day. Still the missing identity is Indian.

Recently I was in a discussion in Bangalore and the participants, all noble elitist drum beaters of freedom of expression and objectivity, simply focused on communally oriented themes of persecution, backwardness and atrocities. None of them even once spoke of the Indian pain — they would have been forced to talk of inconvenient truths like Kashmiri Hindus’ exile. And of course Godhra.

The exclusion is as painful as was the massacre. An activist, who works among tribals, showed the gathering pictures of dead bodies of people who he claimed were killed by the security forces . He din't show a single picture of the policemen killed by Naxalites or of those more than 10,000 common citizens brutally murdered by the red marauders.

Aren’t the policemen Indians? And those who were targeted by the Naxalites? Why romanticize the brutal murderers and exclude the agony of others? This dishonesty on part of the "secular, peace-loving" tribe is killing and shows off Stalinist traits.

The burning alive of Graham Staines was horrendous. But so was the killing of the octogenarian Swami Lakshmananand. Why exclude Lakshmananand and refuse to look dispassionately at the other side?

Nothing will be discussed and allowed to be printed till the Shahs of the secular Mecca deem it fit to be approved. Why?
Accept Valentine’s day, as if the day is the new constitutional order of the republic, a new national anthem. Otherwise be prepared to be lampooned and declared an uncivilized moron.


The end of dissent and inclusion is also the end of civility.

Related Story: GODHRA :by Nicole Elfi