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#India – Mining mafia silence the media

The sand mafia has enforced ‘no reporting zones’ but the media must not ignore environmental destruction. M Suchitra, attacked for writing on the sand mafia, was interviewed by SAMRAT MUKHERJEE
The sand mafia has attacked journalists and environmental activists across the country for their investigative stories on the ecological damage caused by illegal and indiscriminate sand mining in rivers. In May this year, there were two attacks on journalists who were investigating illegal mining on the Cauvery basin in Tamil Nadu.
M Suchitra, journalist with “Down to Earth’ magazine and Asianet journalist VM Deepa were attacked when they went to cover the sand mining in May this year. Deepa faced another attack a few days later. Here, Suchitra spoke of her experience as well as of the impunity that marked these attacks. The absence of sustained media coverage of the issue has also contributed to the chilling silence on it, she said.
Q : What led you to investigate and report on the issue of sand mining?
A : Mining is one of the focus areas of Down To Earth magazine. I have written a few reports on iron ore mining in Karnataka’s Bellary district and sand mining in Andhra Pradesh. We had done a cover on sand mining in 2012.
Activists in Tamil Nadu asked us to do a detailed report on illegal sand mining mainly in the Cauvery basin, the lifeline of the state. Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu, unlike in other states,  mining is done by the State Public Works Department and ten years after the government took up mining, the situation has worsened and illegalities continue. Activists wanted our magazine to bring the issue to national attention.
Q : What kind of difficulties do you face while reporting on the sand mafia?
A : Reporting on sand mining is very difficult since the mafia involves government officials, politicians, police and even members of local communities. It is often difficult to get data and officials are scared to talk to the media. If at all they talk, it will be on condition of anonymity.
Getting information is difficult even under the Right To Information Act. The mafia can do anything, threaten you, assault you, and even kill you. For local journalists, it is very difficult to report on the sand mafia since they have to continue to live there among those who are engaged in illegalities.
Q : There has been a raise in the number of reported threats and assaults over the years on journalist, revenue officers and activists.  How do the police and the administration react to these reports/complaints?
A : There are honest officials and officials siding with the mafia. More often than not, the assault by the mafia is not followed up. The police may or may not register a case. There are incidents when journalists have registered cases against  assaults on them, those associated with mining also register false cases against the journalists, and police try to compromise between them.
It’s very difficult for the local journalists to work where the mafia is very strong.Local journalists who write against the illegal sand mining and the mafia may become silent after a while. Some of the local journalists are also bought by the mafia. The district administration and the police usually take a stand against those who fight against illegal mining.
Thus, to a certain extent, the sand mafias have made many places in India ‘no-reporting’ zones.
Q : How are the journalists and reporters reacting to this?
A : Journalists are not a single class or group. They belong to different organisations. Many media organisations are funded by or run by political parties. There are incidents of journalists risking their lives and reporting but media organisations are reluctant to follow up the issues after a point. Where it becomes difficult for local journalists to report on the mafia, the national media has to step in and write about it.
Q : Recently,  you and VM Deepa from Asianet  were attacked by the goons of the sand mafia at Kulithalai in Tamil Nadu’s Karur district. Can you please share your experiences of that day.
A : The incident happened on May 22 evening. I was on an assignment on indiscriminate sand mining in the Cauvery basin. V M Deepa is a senior news editor of the Malayalam news channel, Asianet. She  produces a weekly programme Nalla Mannu (Good Earth) based on environment and agriculture.
We were in Kulithalai in Karur district. Kulithalai is midway between Karur town and Tiruchirappalli. The channel’s  camera persons, V B Hiran and P Praveen were also with us. At Kuithalai, there is a bridge across the Cauvery. From the top of this bridge you can get wide view of the river. Here the river flows the widest with its two banks 1.5 km apart. There are a few sand quarries  located  a bit away from the bridge.
The moment we started taking visuals, around 20 men reached the spot on motorbikes and threatened us. They asked us to leave the place immediately and said we needed permission from the authorities to take photos.  We pointed out that it’s a public place and asked why should we need permission to take pictures of the river.
But they were not ready to listen. They tried to snatch away our cameras and forced us to delete the visuals that we took. They slapped a local farmer who had accompanied us on his face. Even after we left the spot, the goons followed us in a Bolero car and on motor bikes for about an hour.  Whenever, we slowed down our car, the goons on bikes would come and bang the windows of our car. As it was getting dark we thought it was not safe being followed like that.
So we went to the nearby police station at Mayanur between Kulithalai and Karur. We narrated the incident. The policemen had a casual attitude. We asked them whether we could file a case but they told us the incident happened at Kulithalai and if we wanted to register a case, it should be done there. It was not safe to go back to Kulithalai. By that time, Deepa’s office had contacted top police officials in Kerala and they in turn had contacted the top police officials in Tamil Nadu.
The policemen in Mayanur were asked to accompany us to the hotel. On the way, the SP of Karur district spoke to us over phone and asked us to leave the state, that night itself. We told him it was not safe for us to travel in the current situation and we had to complete our assignments but he said the police would not  be able to ensure our safety. Finally, we were asked to leave Karur district early morning the following day.  He also said we should have taken a proper permission from the district authorities before taking visuals of the river at Kulithalai.
Next day , Deepa and her team returned to Kerala. I completed my work in the next three days meeting farmers, activists and retired officials but did not take the risk of taking pictures.
A few day later, Deepa and her cameraman Prashant Alber were attacked againat Kulithalai when they were returning from Tiruchirappalli after a shoot. Somebody had informed the sand mafia’s goons that the team would be passing the spot.
Attacks of journalists by the sand mafia goons are not rare, it happens everywhere in the country. In Kulithalai itself journalists have been attacked and had to face murder threats many times.
Q : How does the ‘sand mafia’ work?
A : As I touched upon earlier, it involves officials, politicians, contractors, police and even members of the local communities. The mafia has huge money and muscle power. Their network is very strong and wide. They have informers everywhere. They will try to hurt those who raise their voices against corruption and illegalities by threatening, harassing, making false cases, killing or bribing.  Honest officials will be transferred from their post or suspended.
We know the incident in Uttar Pradesh where an IAS officer Durga Shakti got suspended after taking on politicians involved in sand mining. This is not an isolated incident. In Tamil Nadu some revenue officials and activists have been killed. In the case of local communities, the mafia uses divide and rule tactics. They will lure local youths by giving them employment and high wages. When the community is divided, it becomes more difficult to carry on agitations and movements against illegal mining. The mafia can get favourable judgments too.
Q : But why is this important for the environment? How can the media pay more attention to it?
A : Sand is necessary to sustain virtually all the flora, fauna and other living things that exist in river ecosystems. Along with gravel, it forms an intermediate zone between the surface water of the river and the groundwater beneath. It recharges the ground water table by slowing down the flow of water in the river and allowing percolation. Sand is also a refuge for fish and an incubator for eggs.
Sand mining in our rivers is often destructive and causes erosion of river banks, depletes the ground water table and causes severe drinking water crisis and shortage of water for irrigation. Sand is categorised as a minor mineral and there are norms on mining it. However, these rules and regulations are violated.
There is no media scrutiny of sand auctions or the unholy nexus between government officials, politicians and contractors. There is no discussion on the uncontrolled construction boom in the cities that has led to indiscriminate and illegal sand mining or of ecologically safe, technically sound and cost-effective alternative for sand like green building technologies.
Read mor ehete-

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P-Sainath – How Much Can We Forgo To India Inc ?

To the social subsidy whiners, please check corporate write-offs column

The TV anchor asked eagerly of Arun Jaitley whether he would take hard decisions or, in the case of a bad drought, revert to loan waivers and (obviously wasteful) subsidies. The finance minister replied that it depended on the situation as it unfolded but he hoped he wouldn’t have to return to such steps. “We hope so too,” said the anchor fervently. Which was cute, coming from someone pushing a wish list of the corporate world as hard-hitting journalism. A corporate world which has on average received Rs 7 crore every hour (or Rs 168 crore every day) in write-offs on just direct corporate income tax alone. And that for nine years running. (Longer, but we only have data for those nine years.)

And that’s if we look only at corporate income tax. Cast your gaze across write-offs on customs and excise duties and the amount quadruples. The provisional figure written off for the corporate needy and the and the belly-aching better off is Rs 5,72,923 crore. Or Rs 5.32 lakh-crore if you leave out something like personal income tax, which covers a relatively wider group of people.

It’s close to three times the amount said to have been lost in the 2G scam.  About four times what the oil marketing companies claim to have lost in so-called “under-recoveries” in 2012-13. Almost five times what this year’s budget earmarks for the public distribution system. And over 15 times what’s been allocated for the MNREGS. It’s the biggest giveaway, an unending free lunch that’s renewed every year. Gee, it’s legal, too. It is government policy. It’s in the Union Budget. And it is the largest conceivable transfer of wealth and resources to the wealthy and the corporate world that the media almost never look at.

It’s tucked away at the very rear of the budget document. A seemingly innocuous annexure. It’s title, though, is disarmingly honest. ‘Statement of Revenue Foregone.’ (see: There are those who point out that this should more correctly read ‘forgone’ and not ‘foregone’. The former actually des­cribes the process of relinquishing or abstaining from something. In this case, from collecting taxes that are legitimately due. The  budget document says ‘revenue foregone’. However, the write-offs are anything but semantic.

So it totalled Rs 5.32 lakh-crore in 2013-14. But budgets only started carrying that annexure a few years ago, and we only have the data from 2005-06 to 2013-14. In those nine years, the corporate karza maafi amounted to Rs 36.5 lakh-crore. That, in case you like the sound of the word, is Rs 36.5 trillion. (Okay, so for the record, these were all UPA years. But let’s see next year if the NDA proves even slightly different).


the provisional figure written off for the corporate needy and belly-aching better-offs is Rs 5,72,923 crore.

For those stricken by number-crunchitis: that works out, on average, to Rs 1,110 crore every day—for nine years. That’s one hell of a free lunch. Sure, there are elements that benefit wider groups. Like personal income tax concessions (which is why they’re excluded from the calculations here across those nine years). But do look at some of the big items.

In more than one year since 2005-06, the item hogging the biggest write-offs in customs duty was ‘gold, diamonds & jewellery’. Not quite the province of the aam aadmi or aam aurat. In 2013-14, the amount was Rs 48,635 crore. That was more than the amount written-off on machinery. Greater than what was written off on vegetables, fru­­its, cereals and vegetable oils. In  36 months between 2011-14, duty write-offs on gold, dia­­m­onds and jewellery totalled Rs 1.67 lakh crore.

Yet, the concern is over a one-time loan waiver to  millions and millions of farmers (which never touched the most needy of them). Or ‘food subsidy’ worth less than ten rupees a day per person below the poverty line in the hungriest nation on earth. Not over giveaways to the corporate world and the better off that cross 1,100 crore a day on average in nine years. There is hand-wringing over a rural employment guarantee programme that, at its very best, cannot  give Rs 15,000 in an entire year to a family of five. Not over corporate karza maafi that works out across those nine years to Rs 1.28 lakh per second.

We could have used that Rs 36.5 trillion a bit differently. You see, with that sum, you could:

  • Fund the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for some 105 years, at present levels. That is a hell of a lot more than any agricultural labourer would expect to live. You could, in fact, run the MNREGS on that sum, across the working lives of two generations of such labourers. Current allocation for the scheme is around Rs 34,000 crore.
  • Fund PDS for 31 years (current allocation Rs 1,15,000 crore).

By the way, if these revenues had been realised, around 30 per cent of their value would have devolved to the states. So their fiscal health is affected by the Centre’s massive corporate karza maafi. Even just the amount foregone in 2013-14 can fund the rural jobs scheme for three decades. Or the PDS for four-and-a-half years.

Here’s a media full of market televangelists who preach every night about the need to trim subsidies. Why not start with those above? Well, because so many media outlets are part of corporations locked in the feeding frenzy at the subsidy trough. But to return briefly to the semantics of loot and grab (versus crumbs off the table). Give the poor and hungry assistance worth less than Rs 10 a day to help them have just a tad more food—that’s a subsidy. Give trillions of rupees to the rich—that’s an ‘incentive’ or at best a ‘deduction’. Even the otherwise frank ‘Statement of Revenue Foregone’ titles many giveaways as  ‘incentive/deduction’ or, at best ‘concessions’.

It’s not as if governments or officialdom are unaware of how regressive all this is. The 2009-10 budget said in so many words: “The amount of revenue foregone continues to inc­r­e­ase year after year. As a percentage of aggregate tax collection, revenue foregone remains high and shows an increasing trend as far as corporate income tax is considered for the fin­ancial year 2008-09. In case of indirect taxes, the trend shows a significant increase for the financial years 2009-10 due to a reduction in customs and excise duties. Therefore, to reverse this trend, an expansion in tax base is called for.”

I wrote about this at the time. And the language and tone changed from the next year. No more calls for reversal. I won­der why? Yet, the budget still notes a rising trend in plu­tocrat plunder. Even this year, it notes: “The total revenue foregone from central taxes is showing an upward trend.” Now remember, the same class of ‘subsidy ben­eficiaries’ loot public sector banks of countless thousands of crores. By the time this piece is out, the All-India Bank Employees Ass­o­ciation will have revealed the names of wan­ton defaulters who currently owe the banks tens of tho­u­sands of crores. These are names governments have ref­used to reveal even to Parliament on the plea of the RBI Act and banking secrecy.

Who says industry has been doing badly?  The amounts recorded as written-off in the Statement of Revenue Foregone for 2013-14 are 132 per cent higher than they were in 2005-06. (Even with the budget document gently, sometimes silently, clucking its tongue at the trend). Corporate karza maafi is a growth industry. And an efficient one.

(Magsaysay Award-winner Palagummi Sainath is the country’s foremost chronicler of the travails of farmers. A shorter version of this piece appeared on his blog,

In an earlier version of this article, because of a typo, the years 2005-06 to 2013-14 were referred to as ‘NDA years’. This was corrected online to ‘UPA years.’– Sunday, July 20, 2014.


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Media coverage of Saharanpur Riots – Good rioters and bad rioters


Compare TV coverage of the Saharanpur riot with print’s efforts and for once, the former did a better job. But look carefully at riot coverage in general and you find a double standard emerging, says JYOTI PUNWANI

Posted/Updated Sunday, Aug 03 02:11:32, 2014


Jyoti Punwani


Perhaps for the first time, television news did a better job than print in dissecting a riot. CNN IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey’s programme both in Hindi and English on the Saharanpur riot (July 28, two days after the riot), surely ranks among the best in its genre, standing alongside Sreenivasan Jain’s sensitive Muzaffarnagar series on NDTVlast year. Chaubey’s programme addressed most of the questions thrown up by the riot, and he spoke to all the local players involved.

Remarkably, Chaubey ended by going beyond the usual `detached’ journalist’s role. Having brought along a box of sweets, he asked his interviewees to share them for Ramzan Eid, which had just been declared. Alas, two Sikh leaders and the local BJP leader refused the sweets which were handed out by the young Muslim Samajwadi Party representative. This was seen happening in the background, behind Chaubey’s back, while Chaubey was making his concluding remarks.

The BJP leader’s refusal was typical. The Sikhs’ refusal was disturbing, especially since the seniormost among them had made a conciliatory gesture during the discussion, suggesting that those who had looted (Sikh) property simply leave it on the road to avoid brutal police searches of their homes.

Interestingly, Aaj Tak and ABP News had more coverage of the violence than did the main English channels. So also with the English press. On Sunday, the day after the violence, Dainik Jagran carried interesting reports on the way the curfew had affected the ordinary citizens of Saharanpur. Though The Indian Express and The Telegraphhad longish reports two days after the riot, they failed to give a comprehensive account. Also, surprisingly, the Express’ first report had no Muslim voice in it.

Communal disharmony has been making news over the last two weeks. BJP mobs in Moradabad,  Shiv Sena MPs running riot in Delhi’s Maharashtra Sadan, the Telengana BJP and Sania Mirza, Saharanpur, Goa’s ministers mouthing dreams of a Hindurashtra

As always, the English media has been vociferous in taking on the Hindutvavadis, belying those who keep crying that Modi’s coming means the media has sold out.

The media’s “sell-out’’ to corporate interests was evident in its reaction to the government’s unexpectedly tough stand at the WTO over the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the decision to put GM crop trials on hold after the RSS intervened in the matter. (At least on this issue, those at the other end of the ideological spectrum should have praised the RSS.) But this class bias pre-dates Narendra Modi assuming office. On the question of Hindutva violence, the English media is maintaining its fine tradition of relentless attacks on Hindutva bullies.

However, some questions have been thrown up by the coverage of these events. First, the Moradabad violence. While The Hindu and The Telegraph carried detailed reports of the first confrontation over the dismantling of a loudspeaker from a Dalit temple by the police, and when the police tried to prevent a BJP maha panchayat, somehow, the Moradabad issue did not get the editorial attention it should have.

Make no mistake. This was a major political issue with many complex aspects, in a politically important and sensitive state. The BJP trying to cash in on Dalit resentment; Muslims behaving in a majoritarian manner; a senior policeman blaming the BJP for communalising the situation for votes (this was surely a first); a mob attacking the police so badly that the District Magistrate had to be shifted to Chennai for special treatment for his injured eye…….all of this should have been Page One news.  It was the TV channels, in fact, who did more justice to the story.

There is a second, more troubling issue here. When Muslims attacked the police in Mumbai in August 2012, it made national news. The media outrage was obvious; media persons had also been attacked. But when the BJP cadre attacked policemen in a communally sensitive place like Moradabad, why was it not at the top of Page One?

Of course, in the first case, the attack was sudden and unprovoked, while the second was probable, and provoked by the police’s refusal to let the BJP have its way. In Mumbai, two Muslims died in police firing and yet the Police Commissioner was blamed by the media for being too soft. In Moradabad, only tear gas was resorted to, and the only ones seriously injured were the police. Yet, no outrage in the press. Is that because no journalists were hurt, or because BJP mobs attacking the police isn’t wrong?

The coverage of the Maharashtra Sadan ruckus where Shiv Sena MPs tried to force a canteen supervisor, who turned out to be a Muslim on roza, to eat a roti, also left one feeling uneasy. Was it necessary to continuously telecast Sena MP Rajan Vichare trying to stuff a roti into the canteen supervisor’s mouth? The supervisor must have relived his humiliation every time it was shown. It needed to be shown once during every programme on the incident, but repeating it endlessly throughout every programme was offensive and inflammatory.

Indeed, the media’s role in this incident is curious.  According to, some media personnel had been notified about an impending protest that morning. They saw everything, and one of the channels even telecast it that evening. But there was no outrage from viewers. The reason: they did not mention that the supervisor was a Muslim.

So Marathi viewers, including politicians who must have watched that channel, had no problem with such conduct. Nor apparently, did the media personnel there, else they would have made it big news. Significantly, the complaint filed by the manager of the Sadan said that media personnel were “actively instigating’’ the MPs.

ANI, which feeds news to other channels, decided to “kill the story’’ ( because of its potential to hurt feelings during Ramzan.  After the story broke (a week later, courtesy The Indian Express), why did news channels not exercise the same sensitivity, especially since they were bent upon projecting the incident as an assault by the communal Sena on a Muslim?

Would the Sena MPs not have behaved the same with any supervisor present at that moment? Mumbaikars are familiar with the Shiv Sena’s rough tactics towards those who have offended them, and that includes many known and not-so-well-known Hindus, including journalists. Nidhi Razdan of NDTV was the only one who kept asking, “What if the supervisor had not been a Muslim? Would the act have been any less offensive?”

What if the Saharanpur riot had seen Muslims at the receiving end? Would the English media’s coverage have been less indifferent? One pointer to the situation on the ground is the deafening silence on the riot from Muslim websites such and, who are the first to carry the Muslim point of view on any communal incident.

Here was violence followed by a curfew on the eve of the biggest Muslim festival. Moreover, two of the three killed in police firing were Muslim. That no stories of victimhood emerged – as they invariably do from these websites – is a pointer to who was the aggressor in Saharanpur. Another pointer is the silence of the secular brigade. After the initial “acchey din’’ comments, they had nothing to say.

After covering many communal riots, this columnist has identified one simple indicator to the power equations during a riot. One community is always all praise for the police while the other blames them for inaction, or worse, for targeting it. In Mumbai, it’s always been Hindus who praise the police while Muslims blame them.  But in Bhupendra Chaubey’s programme, the roles were reversed. The Muslims praised the police and the Sikhs accused them of inaction.

However, though Aaj Tak and ABP News had better coverage of the Saharanpur violence than the English channels, they were not too discriminatory about their footage. ABP News simply kept showing the same visual of a burning motorbike, giving the impression that the city was still on fire.

Worse, in its interview of Sikhs, it allowed a remark to be aired that should never have been telecast. Asked what was the way ahead, one Sikh who had, during the discussion, managed to acquire a rifle with which he kept posing,  replied: “We have called Sikhs from all over to come here. They (Muslims) are 20,000, but just 2000 of us will be enough for them. Hum shaheedi dengey aur shaheedi lengey. (We will sacrifice ourselves and them too.)’’

This man may not have realized that we are no longer in the Mughal era, but surely the channel knew better than to allow such a provocative statement to be aired?

Read more here-

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‘Disgustingly Biased’ – The Corporate Media On The Gaza Massacre

Soon after Malaysian Airlines MH17 crashed near Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, killing 298 people, the BBC website quickly, and rightly, set up a ‘LIVE’ feed with rolling reports and commentary on the disaster. This was clearly an important and dramatic event involving horrific loss of life with serious political implications. The public would, of course, be searching for the latest news.

However, since July 8, ten days prior to the crash, Israeli armed forces had been bombarding the trapped civilian population of Gaza with airstrikes, drone strikes and naval shelling. As the massive Israeli assault ramped up on July 9, the World section of the BBC News website had this as itsheadline:

‘Israel under renewed Hamas attack’

By July 18, around 300 people had been killed in Gaza, 80% of them civilians. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key political issue of our time, one that was clearly developing by the minute after July 8. And yet at no point had the BBC set up a ‘LIVE’ feed with rolling news.

That finally changed on July 20 after so many days in which so many Palestinians had been killed. Why July 20? The answer appears to be found in the fourth entry of the live feed under the title ‘Breaking News’:

‘Some 13 Israeli soldiers were killed overnight in Gaza, news agencies, quoting Israeli military sources, say. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the nation shortly.’

Despite this small number of military deaths compared to the Palestinian toll, it seems clear that the killing of the Israeli troops triggered the BBC live feed. It focused intensely on these deaths, with entries of this kind:

‘Ben White, writer tweets: Israel has lost more soldiers in a 3 day old ground offensive than it did during Cast Lead & Pillar of Defense combined (12).’


‘View to the Mid East, a writer in Ashdod, Israel tweets: One of the soldiers who was killed in Gaza tonight prays at the same synagogue I go to. Grew up in the same neighbourhood.’

The feed incorporated no less than five photographs from two funerals of the Israeli soldiers but none from the far more numerous Palestinian funerals (one picture showed Palestinian relatives collecting a body from a morgue), with these captions:

‘Friends and relatives of Israeli Sergeant Adar Barsano mourn during his funeral at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya.’


‘Sagit Greenberg, the wife of Israeli soldier Maj Amotz Greenberg, mourns during his funeral in the central town of Hod Hasharon.’

Obviously, Israeli suffering also merits compassion, but these military deaths were overshadowed by a far higher loss of Palestinian lives, most of them civilian men, women and children. The toll currentlystands at 746 Palestinians killed and 4,640 wounded. Israel has suffered 32 military and two civilian deaths. One foreign worker from Thailand has also been killed.

In the following days (and at time of writing) the live feed was cancelled; a period that has seen hundreds of Palestinian deaths and a handful of Israeli military deaths.

For some time on the morning of July 21, the sole Gaza content on the BBC News home page was ‘Breaking News’ of an ‘Israeli soldier missing in Gaza’.

Remarkably, on the morning of July 23, when 18 Palestinians were killed, the BBC set up a live feed for the wrecked Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, which showed the ship being towed to Genoa. There was no live feed for Gaza.

The BBC has supplied names, ages, pictures and emotive background stories of the Malaysian air crash victims while, with rare exceptions, Palestinian dead have been presented as nameless figures, briefly mentioned, then forgotten.

The level of BBC bias was emphasised by an article headline that placed inverted commas around the siege in Gaza, as if it were a matter for debate: “Palestinian PM says lift Gaza ‘siege’ as part of ceasefire”. The BBC subsequently changed the title, but a tweet promoting the article with the original wording remains.

The BBC has also implied that ‘Rockets fired from Gaza’ are comparable to ‘Gaza targets hit by Israel’. Readers are to understand that attempted attacks by unguided, low-tech rockets are comparable toactual bombings by state of the art bombs, missiles and shells. The BBC’s source? ‘Israel Defence Forces.’

On July 21, BBC News at Ten presenter Huw Edwards asked a colleague live on air:

‘…the Israelis saying they’ll carry on as long as necessary to stop the Hamas rocket attacks. Do you detect any signs at all that there’s a hope of a coming together in the next few days or weeks, or not?’

In other words, BBC News presented Hamas rocket attacks as the stumbling block to peace, exactly conforming to Israeli state propaganda.

In a report on the same edition of News at Ten, the BBC’s world affairs editor, John Fidler-Simpson CBE, asserted that ‘one reason why casualties on the two sides are so out of proportion’ is because ‘Israel has developed the world’s most effective anti-missile defence’.

This suggested a more or less equal fight with Israel simply better able to protect itself. Fidler-Simpson added:

‘The Iron Dome system’s ability to knock Hamas missiles out of the sky has been a remarkable achievement for Israel during this crisis. The success rate is quite phenomenal.’

Back in the real world, weapons experts Ted Postol of MIT and Richard Lloyd of Tesla Laboratory,argue that claims for Iron Dome are wildly exaggerated, estimating a success rate of less than 5 per cent. Peter Coy of BloombergBusinessweek comments:

‘Lloyd e-mailed me a copy of a 28-page analysis that’s the most detailed critique yet of the holes in the Iron Dome system – holes so big that, if he’s right, would justify calling it Iron Sieve.’

BBC bias has also been typified by its downplaying, or complete blanking, of large-scale demonstrations in several UK cities protesting BBC coverage. As activist Jonathon Shafi noted of the BBC’s lack of interest:

‘It is misinformation of the worst, and it is an insult to journalism.’

After the four Palestinian Bakr boys, aged between 9 and 11, were killed by an Israeli shell, the New York Times headline on July 16 read:

‘Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife’

This worked well to obscure the truth that the boys had been killed while playing football on a beach. Artist Amir Schiby produced a wonderful, moving tribute to the Bakr boys.

Even indisputable evidence here and here that Israel had fired on hospitals in Gaza, major war crimes, brought little outrage from politicians and media. Jonathan Whittall, Head of Humanitarian Analysis at Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), reminded the world:

‘Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.’

Despite the unequal battle and high civilian death toll, no high-profile advocates of the West’s‘responsibility to protect’ (‘R2P’) civilians in Iraq, Libya and Syria have been calling for ‘intervention’.

We asked passionate ‘R2Pers’ like David AaronovitchJonathan Freedland and Menzies Campbell if they felt ‘we must do something’. They did not reply. Freedland commented in a BBC interview that the death toll was ‘very lopsided’ – a polite euphemism for a massacre that, according to Unicef, has claimed 10 children per day. E-International Relations website reports:

‘While the conflict has generated near blanket international media coverage it has been strangely ignored by the three most prominent and vociferous organisations established to promote the idea of “The Responsibility to Protect”, namely The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) and the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P)…

‘Since the operation began these groups have published myriad tweets, posts and articles – on issues ranging from the rights of women, the treatment of refugees, mass atrocity cries and the provision of medical aid… Yet, coverage of the crisis in Gaza has been negligible.’

Who Starts The ‘Cycle Of Violence’?

The term ‘cycle of violence’ often occurs in corporate reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict. But who starts the cycle spinning? A study of news performance in 2001 by the Glasgow Media Group notedthat Israelis ‘were six times as likely to be presented as “retaliating” or in some way responding than were the Palestinians’.

The US media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, observed that the current conflict ‘is usually traced back to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank. When their bodies were found on June 30, Israel “retaliated” by attacking Gaza. The July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager, allegedly a revenge murder by Israeli extremists, was reported as further escalating the conflict.’

On the BBC’s News at Ten (July 23), reporter Quentin Sommerville commented (at 14:31):

‘The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, blamed on Hamas, sparked this conflict.’

The Guardian readers’ editor, Chris Elliott – ostensibly the newspaper’s watchdog on bias in language and presentation – echoed Israeli propaganda, describing Israel’s current attack as a ‘counter-offensive’.

NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin supplied a rare example of dissent:

‘But even before the kidnapping of three Israeli-Jewish teenagers and killing of the Palestinian teenager last week, two Palestinians were killed back in May and didn’t trigger the kind of international outcry and international outrage that the killing of the three Israeli teens have.’

Corporate media have generally not identified these deaths as initiating a ‘cycle of violence’.

According to human rights group B’Tselem, 568 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli security forces from January 2009 till the end of May 2014; 84 of those fatalities were children. Over the same time period, 38 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Many expert commentators argue that the deeper cause behind the latest violence is in fact Israel’s opposition to the Palestinian unity government, including Hamas, formed earlier this year which has been recognised even by the US.


No Ceasefire – ‘It’s The Siege, Stupid’

If Palestinians are blamed by corporate media for starting the violence, they are also blamed for refusing to end it. A Guardian article title read:

‘Pressure mounts on Hamas to accept ceasefire as Gaza death toll tops 300 – Hamas left isolated by its refusal to accept a truce as death toll rises and UN chief heads for the region to help broker peace’

Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood commented:

‘But with the Palestinian death toll rising over 300, it is the Hamas leadership that has come under increasing pressure from multiple international sources to accept an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

‘”The objective is to convince all the Palestinian factions to accept the ceasefire,” one western diplomat told the Guardian.’

But a cessation of the current violence would not mean an end to war and suffering for the Palestinians. Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada commented:

‘[T]he two Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have set forth ten conditions for a ceasefire and ten-year truce with Israel.

‘They include an end to all armed hostilities, the end of the siege of Gaza, and the construction of internationally supervised air and seaports.’

Abunimah explained the rationale behind these conditions:

‘It’s the siege, stupid. Talk to virtually anyone in Gaza and they will tell you the same. The siege is living death, slowly crushing the life out of Gaza. It has to end.

‘This is a main reason why Hamas did not accede to the attempt by Israel, through its ally the Egyptian dictatorship, to impose a unilateral “ceasefire” about which Hamas says it was never even consulted, hearing about the initiative only through the media.’

Jerusalem-based journalist Mya Guarnieri described what a return to the status quo actually means:

‘Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community.’

In February 2013, Ben White commented:

‘Three months have passed since the ceasefire that brought an end to Israel’s eight-day attack on the Gaza Strip known as Operation “Pillar of Defence”… Since late November, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have averaged over one a day, every day. These include shootings by troops positioned along the border fence, attacks on fishermen working off the Gaza coast, and incursions by the Israeli army.’

These attacks are mentioned in passing, or ignored, by a corporate media system that is so clearly indifferent to the loss of Palestinian life. Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook observed of the latest conflict:

‘It’s depressingly predictable that the corporate media have swallowed the line of Israel accepting the “ceasefire proposal” and Hamas rejecting it. What Hamas did was reject a US-Israeli diktat to sign away the rights of the people of Gaza to end a siege that cuts them off from the rest of the world.’


Corporate Filtering – ‘A Top-Down Intimidation Campaign’

The bias in failing to report the brutalisation of a trapped, impoverished people under occupation is staggering. Many might wonder why journalists fail to speak out. But several journalists who haveexposed Israeli actions, and media bias favouring Israel, have been punished.

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who witnessed the killing of the four Bakr boys, and whose reporting of the tragedy moved many readers around the world, was subsequently ‘told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately’. Glenn Greenwald reports that NBC executives claimed the decision was motivated by ‘security concerns’ as Israel prepared a ground invasion. But NBC then sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, into Gaza with an American producer.

After a storm of protest on social media, NBC announced it had ‘reversed its decision’. The broadcaster dissembled:

‘As with any news team in conflict zones, deployments are constantly reassessed. We’ve carefully considered our deployment decisions and we will be sending Mohyeldin back to Gaza over the weekend.’

The day after Mohyeldin was pulled out, CNN correspondent Diana Magnay was removed from covering the conflict after she reported Israelis cheering the bombing of Gaza from a hillside overlooking the border. When the people cheering allegedly threatened to destroy Magnay’s car ‘if I say a word wrong’, she described them on Twitter as ‘scum’.

On July 21, journalist and MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal said in an interview on MSNBC of MSNBC:

‘We’re ridiculous. We are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue. Look how many [sic] air time Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others. I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.’

The MSNBC interviewer responded: ‘We have had Palestinian voices on our show.’

Jebreal replied: ‘Maybe for 30 seconds, and then you have 25 minutes for Bibi Netanyahu…’

Max Blumenthal reported on AlterNet:

‘Within hours, all of Jebreal’s future bookings were cancelled and the renewal of her contract was off the table.’

Later that day, Jebreal tweeted:

‘My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled! Is there a link between my expose and the cancellation?’

Jebreal commented:

‘I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians. They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.’

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had told her producers: ‘”we have a serious issue here”. But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship’.

Blumenthal reported that an NBC producer, speaking anonymously, had confirmed the reality of ‘a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip’.

Pressure on the executives responsible for disciplining journalists is also intense. Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, has said Washington often ‘played the terrorist card’ to get stories spiked:

‘Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story… You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security… Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, “you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X” and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility… But you do listen and seriously worry… Editors are Americans too… We don’t want to help terrorists’.

But editors should remember that they are human beings first, Americans second – to behave otherwise risks supporting their own government’s terrorism and that of its allies.

For in truth, biased US-UK journalism is empowering the Israeli government’s effort to terrorise the Palestinian people into accepting gradual genocide as their land and resources are stolen. As we have discussed here (see also Gideon Levy here), the hidden backstory is that this land grab can not be conducted under conditions of peace. It requires Perpetual War; a phoney, one-sided ‘war’ dominated by Israel’s perennial trump card: high-tech military power supplied by that eternal ‘peace broker’, the United States.


DE and DC

Read mor ehere=

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Praveen Swami & P Sainath quit ‘ The Hindu ‘

Both the senior editors have hinted they found it difficult to work under the new set-up. Swami to join Indian Express as National Editor, Strategic & International Affairs

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | July 15, 2014

(Left) Praveen Swami and P Sainath (Right)

(Left) Praveen Swami and P Sainath (Right)

After the changes in the top level management at The Hindu last year, the churning in the paper has not stopped. Now senior editors P Sainath and Praveen Swami have put it their papers. Swami has joined Indian Express as National Editor, Strategic & International Affairs reporting to Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha. Sainath, winner of of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2007, will be working on a few rural projects before taking up any regular assignment.

Both Sainath and Swami hinted they found it difficult to work under the new system which emerged after the shift in power structure in Kasturi and Sons Ltd, the publishers of The Hindu newspaper, in October last year.

An email sent to N Ravi, Editor-in-Chief, by to know company’s response on the allegations remained unanswered.

In his mail written to colleagues at the time of resigning, Swami, The Hindu’s Strategic Affairs Editor & Resident Editor, New Delhi, said, “The last few months have not been pleasant, for reasons all of you are aware of, and I decided it was best to use my energies doing journalism, not fighting battles that serve no purpose for anyone. I owe an apology to the fine young reporters as well as eminent senior colleagues who I could not protect from shabby treatment. Though none of the decisions were mine, they happened on my watch, and for that I owe you an apology.”

When contacted Swami seemed reluctant to divulge details about the ‘decisions’ he wrote in his email, but said, “It began to feel a little bit like working for Pol Pot, and I didn’t want to hang around until I was executed or sent off for re-education”. Swami also ruled out any possibility of political pressure on the newspaper.

Rural Affairs Editor Sainath and a dozen of other senior journalists have also resigned for similar reasons. According to sources, what spurred these resignations was the top management’s “indifferent attitude” towards some of the senior journalists.

“There have also been a number of instances of abusive behaviour – shouting, screaming, personal abuse – which, frankly, anywhere else, would have caused a public scandal. There is no political pressure, but certainly investigative stories are out now – the whole culture is of 200-300 word press release type stories,” a senior journalist at The Hindu, who did not want to be named, said.

The Hindu journalists have levelled serious allegations against the top management and have accused it of transferring journalists from one state to another for no reason. “Recently, Rajasthan correspondent Mohammad Iqbal was transferred out of Rajasthan because the management did not want a Muslim correspondent in a BJP ruled state. Vidya Subrahmanyam, who was unceremoniously shunted out of her cabin despite her long years of service and eminence, and made to sit at a workstation right in front of her cabin. Senior Delhi based journalist K Balchand was posted to Patna despite his wife suffering from a critical ailment, and then denied leave to attend to her treatment,” a staffer said.

Former editor Siddhartha Varadarajan and Executive Editor MK Venu were ousted from their positions unceremoniously last year when family decided to run the paper itself. Since then N Ravi as Editor-in-Chief and Malini Parathasarthy as Editor have been running the show at The Hindu.


Read more here –


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Letter from Islamabad: Inside the Deadly War Against Pakistan Media

By:  | 


Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir took six bullets in an April attack. Credit: The News (Pakistan)

They wanted to kill him but he survived with six bullets in the body. He was not a case of mistaken identity. They knew who they were aiming at. Hamid Mir is arguably the most prominent TV anchor of Geo TV, the biggest network of Pakistan. He was not a stranger to threats. A bomb found planted beneath his car in November 2012 was diffused, to his good luck.

So when he was asked to host a special broadcast at Geo headquarters in Karachi over prospects of peace with the Pakistani Taliban, Mir began to feel restless. Already, he had curtailed movement within his home base, Islamabad, due to death threats. Traveling outside the city would be far more dangerous. While he reluctantly agreed to host the broadcast, Mir thought to trick his enemies so they couldn’t keep track of him. Therefore, instead of booking flight for Karachi, he purchased a ticket for Quetta, only to change it at the eleventh hour.

Nevertheless, the shooters knew when he flew to Karachi from Islamabad on April 19. They were also aware of the route he would use for reaching the studio there. They didn’t care about a security guard and a driver accompanying Mir from the Karachi airport to the Geo TV office. They opened fire at him when the car slowed down for a turn. As the driver geared up to escape the shooters, Mir was struggling to dodge the bullets being fired at him. He received six–in the ribs, thigh, stomach, and across his hand.


Mir in critical condition after the attack. Credit: The News (Pakistan)

News of the near-assassination of Mir spread like wildfire. The staff of the TV network was emotionally charged. I work for the same media house, Jang Group, that owns Geo TV. Mir would frequent our office, situated in the same building where he worked. We would chat for a long time discussing issues ranging from current affairs to the threats against journalists.

He last visited us four days before this attack. Mir then shared concerns regarding threats to his life and the possible culprits. He had recorded a message for his family to release in case of any untoward situation. Geo TV’s top management was also briefed on the threatening messages sent to him time and again.

So when Hamid Mir was struggling for life, unconscious on a hospital bed, his brother Amir Mir, an investigative journalist, went on Geo TV to name the prime suspect in the attack–the chief of the ISI, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency. His statement was in line with the instructions of his injured brother. This turned out to be counterproductive.

No officials stepped forward to determine the veracity of Mir’s allegations and to look into the reasons for his suspicions towards the top spy chief. Instead, an organized campaign started against the victim journalist, his vocal colleagues, and Geo TV. The agency was not facing accusation for the first time. It has been accused in the past of harassing, torturing, and even killing a journalist. Saleem Shahzad, a journalist who was kidnapped in broad day light in May 2011, was later found dead; he had also expressed suspicions through an email.


Mir was Pakistan’s top new anchor. Credit: The News (Pakistan)

While Mir sufffered from multiple injuries, Geo TV was next in the firing line. Running the accusatory statement of an injured employee turned out to be its crime. A complaint by the ISI led the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to shut down the TV network, which was accused of having a history of “anti-state activities,” among other things.

Before the regulatory body would decide, the network was virtually shut down by the cable operators who succumbed to invisible pressure. A senior officer of PEMRA, which oversees the industry, held the operators to account for their illegal closure of Geo TV. He was picked up one night and tortured. The next day, he requested transfer to another position. The regulatory authority finally gave up. Forty-five days later after this near-closure, PEMRA slapped a 15-day suspension on Geo TV for running the allegations against the ISI spy chief. No right of hearing or even response was granted to the network.

The attack on Mir also brought to the surface cracks within the Pakistani media. A general perception about the nation’s lively news media is that they stand united against threats to press freedom. Such solidarity has turned out to be an illusion. Attacks from rival TV networks started accusing Geo TV of maligning the ISI. (As the accusatory statement pointing fingers at the ISI chief was run on TV, his picture was also flashed.) Even the demand for Geo TV’s closure initially came from the rival channels.

Holding Geo TV to task for broadcasting Mir’s allegations might seem odd when the Pakistani media has no qualms about routinely running serious allegations against the Prime Minister and President (the supreme commander of armed forces). The difference here was the allegations on Geo TV were against the spy chief of the most powerful agency in Pakistan.

Instead of discussing the possible attackers of Mir, the debate centered on the accusation and its coverage. Those who tried to highlight the case of a victim-journalist demanding a probe were targeted through talk show hosts close to the military establishment and harassed by different means.

My two colleagues and I received emails from someone identified as “Khaki power,”threatening us of dire consequences if we continued speaking out. Thugs were sent to the hometown of my colleague to resuscitate a police case against him that was quashed 10 years ago. Our female staffers were harassed into quitting the network. Male staffers were assaulted by “anonymous” attackers. The vans carrying newspapers were put on fire and the drivers tortured.

I was also under scrutiny for demanding legislation for the spy agencies. Unlike in many other countries, there is at present no law governing the functions of Pakistan intelligence agencies. They were founded through an executive order but no law was made to formalize their functions. I wrote several articles arguing for the legislation. It turned out to be my crime. I, too, came under fire.

Surveillance on me was intensified. Some anonymous officials went to the village where I was born and raised. They inquired about my reputation and took pictures of my house there. Then they visited the organizations I had collaborated with in different projects. The purpose was to spot some irregularities that could be used to defame me.

The Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, which I founded in 2012, also came under scrutiny.  I was dubbed a rent-a-journalist who works hand-in-glove with foreign interests. At my newspaper, our top management is being pressured to fire six journalists, my name included.

A hate campaign on social media was started to scare my colleagues and I into silence. Being an advocate of free speech, I hardly block anybodyon Twitter, hoping they will learn to improve the quality of argument, but the abusive commentary and naked threats have become a permanent feature.

It is more than two months now since Mir was attacked. A lot has changed. Geo is struggling to stage a come-back. It has officially been restored but is still absent from TV screens in many parts of the country, as the cable operators are still keeping it off the air. While Geo tendered a public apology for “excessive and emotional coverage” of the attack on Mir, it also sent a defamation notice to the ISI demanding an apology or evidence to back up allegations that Geo engaged in anti-state activities. Neither has been done.

Censorship started creeping into the newsroom soon after this crisis started. It is now rapidly advancing. Geo TV, being the biggest channel, is the front line of defense against these attacks on media freedom. It is still fighting, but other networks have surrendered, angling instead for a share of the 60% of Pakistani viewers that Geo has controlled. Those who failed to compete in the marketplace are now conspiring against the network. They are gaining business but losing freedom. Meanwhile, journalism in Pakistan is suffering.

Read more here- 

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Watchdog or Lapdog : How media ‘covers’ Modi


 Guest Post by Subhash Gatade

On completion of 30 days in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that
he had no luxury of ‘honeymoon’ period. Any neutral observer would tend to
disagree and can easily throw light on the great hiatus between Mr Modi’s
claim and actual situation on the ground.

Instances galore which demonstrate how media has been kind to him and how
it has skillfully tried to avoid raising anything discomforting to his well
cultivated image of a ‘doer’. Neither his appointment of N K Mishra as his
principal secretary by promulgating an ordinance amending the Telecom
Regulatory Authority Act 1997 – which was enacted by the earlier Vajpayi
led NDA government itself- to enable this former chairperson of the
regulatory body to take up employment with the government, nor his
government’s ‘crude’ and ‘small minded approach’ to put down a candidate’s
nomination as a judge of the Supreme Court came under its wider scrutiny.
As rightly noted by many analysts the campaign of innuendoes by CBI and
Intelligence Bureau against Gopal Subramanium has indeed left a bad taste
and has definitely dented the image of the government.

Thanks to social media especially Twitter that the world at large came to
know how PM Modi addressed Bhutan as ‘Nepal’ and later Ladakh in his
maiden tour outside India and his speech to the National assembly there
when members of the assembly as well as other dignitaries were listening
with rapt attention. Not very many media outlets even reported this
incident and thus saved him from many embarrassing moments.

Imagine (ex PM) Manmohan Singh’s trip to some neighbouring country and he
committing similar ‘faux pas’ like calling Sri Lanka Pakistan or
‘rectifying’ himself by calling it Kashmir on the floor of their house,
realising bit late his slip of tongue? Media would not have looked at this
gaffe with sympathy but would have definitely chided him for his slip of

While Modi’s mention of Bhutan as Nepal etc can definitely be termed as
slip of tongue unlike his earlier campaign speeches showing his scant
disregard for facts or his ignorance of history then. One still remembers
how he then talked of ‘Nehru not even attending Patel’s funeral’- despite
proof to the contrary or his claims at Patna rally wherein he is reported
to have said that ‘Alexander had come to Bihar and was defeated by Biharis
– despite the obvious fact that Alexander never crossed the Ganges – or
placing Taxila in Bihar although it is in Pakistan’

Remember the treatment meted out to the verdict in the Akshardham terror
attack case which incidentally came on the day when Modi emerged victor in
the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Supreme Court of the country had
nothing but harsh words for the manner in which innocents were lodged in
jail on fabricated charges for around twelve years for no fault of theirs
and the decision taken by the concerned authority ‘without applying mind’
to give a sanction to try them under the draconian POTA act. Modi, PM of
the country happened to be CM of Gujarat then also handled the home
ministry then. Forget demanding prosecution of guilty police officers who
connived with their seniors to concoct the case – for getting some medal –
forget asking for compensation to these innocents, the media – barring few
exceptions – had by and large remained silent.

In a press conference held in the capital after the verdict one of the
‘accused’ who had been honourably acquitted by the courts, told the media
his interaction with B L Singhal, a police officer who was instrumental in
fabricating the case, and was lodged in the same jail for his alleged
involvement in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. According to him
Singhal, who was then passing through a bad patch in life – with his son
having committed suicide not some time ago – had no answer to his query
that why he spoiled his life’s precious years.

The same Singhal, , a quadruple murder accused and the snoopgate
protagonist, was recently reinstated who was out on bail in this case, by
the Gujarat government. Here also the media did not put under scrutiny the
hurried manner in which this decision was taken by the Gujarat government.
It also did not bring forth the fact that, not only a prima facie case
exists against him in this infamous encounter case, but he has also been an
important link in the chain of events which culminated in the killings. Few
months back it was widely reported how he had submitted an audio tape to
the investigating agency providing ‘proof ‘ of the directions he had
received from highest authority in the administration. It was clear what
his mention of ‘safeddadhi’ (white beard) and ‘kali dadhi’ (black beard)
alluded to. (

Perhaps the pinnacle of media’s silence pertained to Mr Modi’s reply to
motion of thanks to the President’s address to the joint session of the
parliament wherein he talked of “1,200 years of slave mentality’. Apart
from other details he said “Barah sau saal ki gulami ki maansikta humein
pareshan kar rahi hai. Bahut baar humse thoda ooncha vyakti mile, to sar
ooncha karke baat karne ki humari taaqat nahin hoti hai (The slave
mentality of 1,200 years is troubling us. Often, when we meet a person of
high stature, we fail to muster strength to speak up).

Till date all of us have grown up on the hard fact of “slavery of 200
years” which refers to the period when we were under colonial rule. And by
expanding this period to 1,200 years – which includes a period in which
many rulers of the country were Muslims – he definitely tried to bring
about a paradigm shift in the way we perceive our history.

It is worth emphasising that this is not for the first time that he has
mentioned this ‘fact’ and has used it in quite a few addresses in previous
years which very well suits with the understanding propagated in the RSS
circles. One can easily note that this understanding disregards the
difference between the British rulers and the earlier Muslim Kings who came
here. The British did not make India their home, whereas the Muslims who
came here, settled in India and contributed to the country’s culture which
gave birth to the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb ( syncretic culture)

Emergency, whose anniversary was recently ‘celebrated’, happened to be one
of the periods in ‘India’s transition to democracy when thousands and
thousands of political workers were put behind bars and there was severe
curtailment of civil liberties and democratic rights. It also happened to
be a period when media happily abandoned its role of a ‘watchdog’ of
democracy and sang paeans to the 20 point and 5 point programmes started by
the mother-son duo of Ms Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, respectively.
Commenting on the behaviour of the media during the infamous period of
emergency, it was said that it ‘decided to crawl when it was asked to bend’.

Today, no such emergency exists but it is evident that the media wants to
demonstrate that it’s behaviour during emergency should not be considered
an exception.

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Why Narendra Modi govt and the BJP stopped talking to media ? #censorship

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 – 8:10am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
Party scans newspapers everyday to keep tabs on who is talking to the media; daily briefing by BJP has been scrapped
  • BJP daily briefing (above, before the polls ) has been scrapped

The Narendra Modi government seems to be running on silence. Key secretaries are mum. There’s no media advisor to the PM. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) has hardly any information. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has scrapped its daily briefing, which was the lifeline of the political beat for many years.

What has stumped hardcore political journalists in Delhi is that the numerous BJP blowhorns like Prakash Javedkar, now I & B minister, Ravi Shakar Prasad, now law minister, and even Arun Jaitley, who sometimes spent the entire day in front of TV cameras patiently answering questions ranging from politics to social propriety and offering advice to the nation, at large, are nowhere to be seen. The byte has gone out of the BJP.

What is even more damning is that the daily briefing in the BJP headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road, which converted the drab morning hours to prime time TV, has been stopped. OB vans no longer line this beautiful boulevard. The once-accessible friendly BJP office-bearers have “gone underground”.

A BJP worker said newspapers are scanned every morning to keep tabs on who in the party and government was talking to the media and on what.

The newly appointed spokesperson M J Akbar is nowhere to be seen and has not briefed the press even once. Subramaniam Swamy, who tweeted endlessly with often bizzare allegations, seems to have developed arthritis of his thumb.

That there is no media adviser to the PM, even after 21 days of Narendra Modi being sworn in, is glaring. Jagdish Thakkar, a Gujarat officer has been appointed as the PRO to the PMO, but according to a Gujarat daily he will be no Sanjay Baru or Pankaj Pachauri and will not be briefing the press.

The 70-year-old official will most probably be pointing out negative reports or bringing some such crucial information to the attention of the PM.

Ministers of the Modi government have been instructed not to speak to the media. That’s the job of the ministry spokesman or of a government spokesman, if a particular ministry does not have a dedicated spokesman. BJP MPs have been warned of the possibility of a Bangaru Laxman-type sting!

The point is, ever since May 26, very few Union ministers have addressed a press conference. Shortly after he was sworn in as prime minister, Narendra Modi called a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party in the Central Hall of Parliament, where he gave them what the Congress has dubbed “10 commandments”. One of them was: “Avoid speaking to the media. There is no need to speak on national issues unnecessarily.”

The MPs were on cue. As they trooped out, they refused to give bytes to the waiting media. Since then, very few ministers have interacted with the press. The council of ministers has had only one meeting and the government’s mind on various issues is only a guess, hazy at best.

Government briefings have stopped. When the UPA was in power, there was a Group of Ministers (GoM) on Media that used to meet everyday at a fixed hour to analyse the events of the day GoM has been scrapped, along with the others.

Journalists who have been covering BJP for years and were on wonderful terms with party leaders are suddenly finding it hard to get through to them. Even when they do breach the wall, wanting to speak on a certain issue, all they get is a “cannot say anything” comment.

The government seems to have no media policy. Scanning government websites is a waste of time. Even the PMO website is more or less moribund. It’s not yet updated. There is mention of ‘Quest for Transparency’ but RTI on officials in the PMO and their service details are not fully transparent.

Even PIB officials say they rely on Twitter to get to know what the government is up to and what and how much of the information should be told to the media. Press statements are drafted, based on tweets posted by the PMO. Narendra Modi has already underlined the importance of social media to interact with the people.

Delhi, where a hot news or a spicy gossip blew in with every gust of wind from the Yamuna, is looking like a parched state, looking for succour. The byte has gone out of the BJP.

Read more here –


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Soft #Censorship Of Media Condemned Globally

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) has strongly condemned “soft censorship” by governments and regulators as a “very serious threat to media independence and the very viability of media companies”. WAN, which is the umbrella organization of newspapers representing more than 18,000 publications and 15,000 online sites in 120 countries around the world, has urgently called for rapid action to stop this blatant repression of media and press freedom.

“Soft censorship” is the practice where governments use financial leverage and regulatory powers -most often stopping advertising– when they find coverage to be “adverse”. The practice is rampant in India as well, with some state governments especially guilty of misusing tax payers’ money to try to pressurize and influence those media entities which criticize them. Some private sector companies also try to intimidate and pressurize the media in this manner and hence try to influence news coverage in their favour.


“Soft censorship is less noticed than direct attacks on press freedom like assaults on journalists,

In fact, the report — ” Soft Censorship, Hard Impact”, released earlier this week — goes into damning detail of the practice, specifying that: “Soft censorship is used to promote positive coverage of—and to punish media outlets that criticize-officials or their actions. It is the practice of influencing news coverage of state bodies and officials and their policies and activities through allocation or withholding of state media spending (subsidies, advertising, and other media contracts or assistance), or selective application of licensing, permits or regulations, to shape the broad media landscape; promote or diminish the economic viability of specific media houses or outlets; and/or reward or punish content produced by individual media workers”.

The report hits the nail on the head, when it points out that the “abusive allocation of government advertising to reward positive coverage and punish critical coverage is doubly pernicious, as taxpayer money and public wealth is used and abused to promote partisan or personal interests”, adding, that “the opaque and purposefully prejudiced use of official advertising subverts both media freedom and public knowledge”.

The report produced by WAN-IFRA and the US-based Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) has urgently called on governments to fully respect principles of transparent and non-discriminatory state advertising, aid and funding for all media outlets, be it for advertising, training, content, or straightforward subsidies.

“Soft censorship is less noticed than direct attacks on press freedom like assaults on journalists, but is even more widespread,” said Larry Kilman, secretary general of WAN-IFRA. “Soft censorship is pervasive, but not yet recognized for its grave and growing threat to media independence and press freedom.”

Mark Nelson, senior director of CIMA, warned: “Soft censorship can all-too-quietly strangle free media,” adding that “a public that is denied accurate and impartial information is unlikely to be aware of its existence and its pernicious impact on the democratic process.”

This report’s recommendations suggest a path forward that proponents of free and independent media can embrace, beginning with greater transparency and impartiality in all government payments and funding for media, be it for advertising, training, content, or straightforward subsidies.

“With reference of Pakistan’s context this report even does not reflects any clear situation around. But it is understood that our governments democratic and dictatorial regimes both violated media liberties and freedom of expression at large. The reasons what violators presented are firstly the undefined National Interest and other is religious respect. No doubt the second one is case sensitive hence this is suggested that to secure the religious respects there should be some clear lines. ”

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organization of the world’s newspapers and news publishers, representing more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), based in Washington, DC, raises the visibility and improves the effectiveness of media development around the world. The Center provides information, builds networks, conducts research, and highlights the indispensable role media play in the creation and development of sustainable democracies.


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