24 December 2008

My two cents on media and jingoism on CNN-IBN

I was on CNN-IBN's Face the Nation show last night with Sagarika Ghose for a discussion on the role of the Indian and Pakistani media in fanning jingoism between the two countries in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The other panelists were Hamid Mir from Geo TV in Pakistan, who spoke a lot of sense, and Tarun Vijay of the BJP and former editor of the RSS rag 'Organiser', who spoke a lot of (non)sense.

My quotable quote from the CNN-IBN account:
The “story” after the Mumbai terror attacks has been harmed because of the lack of professionalism among Indian journalists, said Varadarajan.

“The Government of India accused elements from Pakistan (for the terror attacks). That phrase was chosen because the Government realised it was dealing with multiple Pakistans. When you collapse that Government phrase and use a headline that says ‘Pakistan responsible’ you allow all these Pakistans to merge together and allow the army there to take advantage and rally everyone under its banner. That is what has happened.”
Anyhow, judge the whole thing for yourself. The video links are here, annoyingly split into five parts, and the channel's own account of the exchange can be read here.


Srinivasan Ramani said...


One quick correction. The RSS rag that the hack who came to the show worked for, was "Paanchjanya", the Hindi organ of the RSS. I am not sure if Vijay edited the "Organiser". Not that you would expect sense from Shri R. Balashankar of the Organiser if he was to your right on the show yesterday.

That this channel (and especially *this* anchor) saw it necessary to get a Hindutva blunderbuss to make the contrarian point to yours, tells a story about the mainstream TV media that we have in India -- in two words - a joke.

With representatives of the fourth estate, such as these - who needs the usual warmonging suspects?

Anonymous said...

I found what Tarun Vijay said sensible. He said journalists need not be nationalistic but truthful. As readers, we are interested to know the truth rather than some lessons on war and peace.

It seems even US navy experts have opined that terrorists who attacked Mumbai have all the training necessary for a naval commando. They say it is impossible to hijack a boat and transfer heavy load through turbulent waters unless you have naval training. And it is impossible to have such a training without the knowledge of the Pakistan navy. So even when the US experts doubt the involvement of Pakistan navy, it is funny that Indian govt only talks about "elements in pakistan"/"non-state actors". The job of a journalist is not to hang on to the govt phrase -- "elements from Pakistan" -- but to bring out the truth going beyond the government theory. I don't think that is jingoism.


the same irresponsible rhetoric with unprofessional approach of media (television journalists ) was witnessed during the OBC quota issue. i reckon these journalists create hype out of self frustration .

Sid said...

@ Srinivas -- You are right. I meant Panchjanya!

@Anon - You are probably basing yourself on CNN-IBN's account, which sanitised the rubbish that Vijay said and highlighted his more sensible comments. Watch the video.

As for media not hanging on to a government phrase but bringing the truth out, I have yet to see any such investigation. Opinion writers are free to state what they want as opinion. But I have a problem writing a NEWS item like 'Pakistan army to blame for Mumbai' when I all have is stuff like "obviously, LeT could not have acted without army's approval', etc. In an opinion piece, of course, the sky's the limit.

Sid said...

Press Release

Kathmandu, 24 December 2008

Media must observe restraint: South Asian editors

As journalists from South Asia, we have been deeply saddened by the horrific killings in Mumbai and are also deeply concerned about the fallout of rising India-Pakistan tensions on the entire region.

We call upon all media professionals, especially in the television networks, to observe restraint in reportage and interpretation, and to be careful to avoid imbalance.

Tens of millions of South Asians, and many across the world, have closely followed the news of the recent developments through the print, audio and visual media and the Internet. The media coverage has influenced opinion on crucial issues and impacted on the political stance and policies of the authorities. In the current situation, the media cannot be seen as being partisan or driven by a particular agenda.

Media can exacerbate or ameliorate a situation: we are keenly aware of this, as jouranlists based in the various parts of South Asia who continue to seek a common future in peace.


1. Mahfuz Anam, Daily Star, Dhaka
2. Anuradha Bhasin, Kashmir Times, Jammu
3. Subir Bhaumik, BBC, Kolkata
4. Sumit Chakravarty, Editor, Mainstream, New Delhi
5. Dileep Chandan, Editor, Asom Bani, Guwahati
6. Kanak Mani Dixit, Editor, Himal Southasia, Katmandu
7. HK Dua, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune, Chandigarh
8. Yubaraj Ghimire, Editor, Newsfront, Kathmandu
9. Rehana Hakim, Editor, Newline, Karachi
10. Sanjoy Hazarika, Columnist, New Delhi
11. Nurul Kabir, Editor, The New Age, Dhaka
12. Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor, Loksatta, Indian Express Group, Mumbai
13. Abbas Nasir, Editor, The Dawn/Dawns NewsTV, Karachi
14. Kuldip Nayar, Columnist, New Delhi
15. Mrinal Pande, Editor, Hindustan, New Delhi
16. Pradip Phanjoubam, Editor, Imphal Free Press, Imphal
17. A J Philip, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh
18. Pamela Philipose, Chief Editor, Women's Feature Service, New Delhi
19. Ghazi Salahuddin, Columnist, The News, Karachi
20. Siddharth Varadarajan, Associate Editor, The Hindu, New Delhi
21. BG Verghese, Former Editor, Indian Express/ Hindustan Times, New Delhi
22. Narayan Wagle, Editor, Dainiki, Kathmandu

Contacts: Kanak Mani Dixit, Kathmandu +977-98510-53209

Sanjoy Hazarika, New Delhi +91-9810050526

fleuve-souterrain said...

seemed an informed debate from whoever's point of view. always admired what you have to say or write. wonder if sagarika is at all capable of handling such mature discussions...!

Assertive Nationalist said...

Both Hamid Mir and Tarun Vijay made lot of sense by complementing each other. But varadarajan who belongs to communist sham "The Hindu" which in no way reflects the "Hinduness"(even a new born can sense this :)) did not make (any)sense!
People are smart enough to read through your bullies. The problem with you Secular journalists is you wanna dictate the agenda and define who is a secularist and who is not......absolute BULL ****

Anonymous said...

I am not 100% sure about whats the truth but I can not say the media was creating a "War Hysteria".Yes, it is true that Visual media crossed the line many times. I can appreciate your call for a more proof driven analysis of the issue, but the big question is what will be the outcome of such a time consuming exercise. We have glaring examples (of course if i believe the media) of Dawood Ibrahim who hides in Pakistan , Pakistani soldiers captured in border and so on..

As a layman following the events i have found the international pressure kept on mounting on Pakistan because of all these "rumors" and its very important for us. This was certainly due to the prominent public anger against politicians which forced the Government to act. The media reported the anxiety among people around the world which included potential investors and tourists, the government was forced to act.

Media prominently portrayed the double standards Pakistan had ( i remember some one pointing out difference between Pakistani reactions on death of Daniel pearl and Kasab ). These reports have influenced the public opinion at large but certainly in a positive way. There was some voices which called for surgical strikes i agree but this was not an ugly reaction for sure.

I do not know whether the "non state actors in Pakistan" (a remarkable term discovered by Pak president) are different from military or the civilian government . Even if media used the term "non state actors" public opinion will be the same if you bring back the ghosts of Yesterday. Thankfully we have many - From 1993 Blasts to 26/11- So its apparent that the public will mean "Pakistan". Where was the real "Pakistan" during all these times? These are big questions which public want to ask and which media portrayed and there is no reason why they must be blamed for it. I would have asked all these questions even if there was no media.

I admire the way you approach the issue but my emotion gets better of me when reasoning fails.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Dear Sid,

Very welcome and timely statement by assorted editors and columnists in South Asia. I hope that the television media pays some heed to this message pushing for caution and objectivity.

But from the way things are panning out, this cynic believes that there is an effort made to ratchet up rhetoric as war benefits these TV folks. I suppose even Fox executives would blush at the rhetoric that is being whipped up in some of our networks. Arnab Goswami for e.g. seems to be trying hard to emulate Bill O'Reilly!

--Srini [Who simply avoids Television these days]

Anonymous said...

Well Barkha Dutt seems to be receiving a lot of flak for her coverage including a facebook group - "Barkha Dutt is the worst journalist in the world" with 1500 members as according to CSM -
India's media blasted for sensational coverage of Mumbai attacks

According to the above article there seems to be more media regulation for private channels in the offing.

Anonymous said...

India does not need journalists like Karan Thapar, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and company, and activists like Testa Setalvad.
These english educated individuals with questionable moral standards, who do not have any sense of nationalism must not be allowed to decide what is secular and what is not.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to know how you thought the non-English media in India did, in comparison to the English media. In the Pakistani media, the 'flagship news shows' are in Urdu - Hamid Mir, for example. The fact that the 'flagship' Indian shows are in English tends to give them an upper-class bias, and that then tends to bias the reportage and commentary in subtle and sometimes, obvious ways. Simi Garewal and Suhel Seth could not have had their outbursts in Hindi shows, for example. Also, I've always wanted to know how many people are in the SMS polls that IBNLive keeps reporting.[and also where they're from (big metros, or all over the country) and their income levels too. All of which can be usually gotten in real time with today's technology. Without such information, blithely citing the SMS polls is misleading at best, fraudulent at worst.]

Itsdifferent said...

Apart from all these, why is the Media quiet on MMS running around with a begging bowl to every dick and harry around the world? Saudi of all the people? What next, go to Somali Pirates? Spineless as he is, I would atleast someone restrains him, we dont have any obligation to "Share the evidence" with anyone, if he is convinced, why is he not taking action? Look Israel, after that who gets advised and restrained "Hamas". I think the media should come out of their South Asia shell, look around the world, and hold our pols accountable and be reasonable.
And most important, stop supporting Pakistan, and we dont need normal relations with Pakistan at this cost.

P said...

Dear Varadarajan,

Here you agree that we are dealing with multiple Pakistans. Now, if I am not mistaken, you are a supporter of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. The functioning and security of such a pipeline demand lot of commitment and cooperation from all these different Pakistans. How can we ensure the safety of such a pipeline dealing with multiple Pakistans ? How can we trust these different Pakistans ?

Anonymous said...

Given the sophistication and military precision of Mumbai attacks, some Pakistani official agencies must have supported them
-- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

"There are state actors behind non-state actors in Pakistan," -- Home minister Chidambaram

Now even the govt is openly accepting what many journalists wrote days ago -- Pakistan state is involved.

But you seem to think that accusing pakistan state is jingoism! If you still think it is just an "opinion" and there is not enough proof, if you still doubt what they say, I can only say one thing, please read this!

Anonymous said...

More evidence: Pakistan military has close links with terrorists operating from Pakistan.


The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said the ISI had links with militants on both Pakistan's borders with Afghanistan and India.

I hope at least now you realize how the "elements from pakistan" operate!