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Not a breaking news: Why Indian mainstream media ‘hates’ Hindus

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By Gaurav Sharma

Media occupies a cardinal place in the functioning of any democracy. As a watchdog, it serves a critical role in ensuring the honest working of the government.

The professional essence of this fourth estate is to provide reliable information based on principles of truthfulness and impartiality.

The mainstream Indian media is, however, totally adrift from such a mode of working. Far from making judicious use of the power of information, it highlights every accident, rape and murder as ‘breaking news’ in a desperate attempt to win over TRP’s from its closest competitor.

Apart from such regular cases of motivated sensationalism, the mainstream media, rather the anglicized media, is characterized by a seething alienation towards the majority section of the Indian populace, the Hindus.

While the Hindus have been subjected to rapidly increasing cases of violence, abuse and inhumane treatment both in India and in foreign lands, the Indian media has willfully remained oblivious of their plight.

Deliberately choosing to magnify sporadic and limited cases of minority discrimination, the media has turned a blind eye to more widespread and regular instances of brutality against Hindus.

The Hindu population in neighboring nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka has declined abysmally, a fact which has been either overlooked or subsided by the mainstream media.

In Pakistan, Hindu numbers have declined by a whopping 90 per cent. According to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, as many as 20-25 cases of abduction and forcible conversion of Hindu women are reported every day. Consequently, a majority of the Hindus have been forced to flee Pakistan.

Also, Hindus now constitute less than 10 per cent of the total population in Bangladesh, down from around 20 per cent in 1972. Cases of violence perpetrated against Hindus, restrictions on the practice of their religion along with exercise of discriminatory property rights abound in erstwhile East Pakistan.

The Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka are a victim of even greater atrocities. Their religious and civil rights have been curtailed largely due to a large scale Buddhisization of the northern and eastern part of Lanka.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives, a leading think-tank noted in its March 2013 report, “Access to temples in High Security Zones and areas restricted by the military, military intrusion into religious practices and rituals, Buddhist and other religious symbols being set up in the vicinity of Hindu religious sites, allegations of destruction of kovils (Hindu temples with Dravidian architecture) and shrines, concerns of conversions from Hinduism to other religions, are the major impediments Hindus are facing.”

Similar cases of forced conversion, or at the very least, neglect of Hindus have resulted in the marginalization of Hindus in Fiji, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Malaysia. Majority of them have migrated to USA or UK in search for a better and more respectable life.

The Indian media has remained a mute spectator throughout this religious persecution, a carnage that has engulfed the Hindus right in their own backyard.

The government is equally negligent of the gruesome subversion of Hindus. Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza finds a mention in the Indian Parliament, while a puny utterance of the dismal condition of Hindu refugees seems like a Herculean task for the politicos.

The main reason for such a hypocritical and seemingly biased behaviour, both by the government and the media, stems from a warped interpretation of Secularism.

Secularism means segregation of religious and spiritual matters from governance. However, in India, this entails financial and legal privileges for those belonging to religions other than Hinduism.

Such a narrow perception of secularism is ingrained and embedded in the modus operandi of the mainstream media in the country. For example, while the Godhra riots are castigated as communal violence against Muslims, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits barely finds a mention in the mainstream media discourse.

There is enough evidence to cite that the Godhra riots began as a retribution of the burning of a train which had killed 58 Hindu pilgrims and religious workers.

However, the Indian media chose to showcase the state government under the leadership of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as complicit in the mass killing of Muslims, a charge which the Special Investigation Team (SIT), under the Supreme Court outrightly rejected.

The demolition of Babri Masjid is another case which was widely sensationalised by the media. However, the desecration of a wide number of temples (208) in Kashmir, which followed the fall of Babri Masjid failed to find a place in the media reportage.

More than 75 historic temples in Bangladesh were destroyed in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid tragedy. Similar large scale attacks on Hindu places of worship in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries could not alter the media’s one-pointed, belligerent discourse on Hindutva.

The media failed or chose to remain silent on Allahabad High Court’s crucial observation discrediting the testimonies of historians and archaeologists who appeared on behalf of the Sunni Waqf board.

Another example of the one-sided media approach towards contentious issues is the phenomenalization of the banning of Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. At the same time, the media was mum on author Tasleema Nasreen’s horrendous assailment at the hands of Islamist mobs.

The media became fixated with the ban, which was attained through constitutional means but remained oblivious to Tasleema’s plight, after the criticism of Islam forced her to shift home from Calcutta due to violent protests from MIM leaders.

The media bias does not end here. There has been a furore over mass conversions of Muslims and Christians into Hindus, under the creation of a ‘Ghar-Wapsi’ campaign.

On the other hand, the evangelising and proselytizing of Hindus, which has continued since independence and much before that, through billions of dollars of Church grants, escapes the short-sighted glance of the Indian media.

Such religious apathy inevitably translates into selective presentations and motivated reporting that has now become a vital part of the Indian media functioning. By undermining fairness, truth and objectivity, the basic planks of journalistic ethics, the Indian media is doing a great disservice to the nation.

Introspection holds prime import for the Indian media, if it does not want to lose the tiny shred of credibility that covers its naked body.

 

Next Story

News Organizations in Myanmar Receiving Threatening Messages Over Rakhine Coverage

Thar Lun Zaung Htet, editor-in-chief of Khit Thit Media who has received three threatening messages, said the senders are issuing the threats for specific purposes and that news professionals must be cautious about what may happen after they receive such mail.

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Myanmar journalists of the privately owned Eleven Media Group work in the company's newsroom in Yangon, Oct. 12, 2018. RFA

Prominent news organizations in Myanmar have received threatening messages from unknown senders warning them not to refer to the ethnic military the Arakan Army (AA) currently engaged in hostilities with government troops in western Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state as an “insurgent group.”

Fighting between the AA, which is fighting Myanmar forces for greater autonomy in Rakhine state and is supported by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and Myanmar forces reignited in late 2018 and exploded in early January after Arakan soldiers conducted deadly attacks on police outposts in northern Rakhine.

The Myanmar government has labeled the AA a terrorist group and instructed its forces to crush the fighters.

Since April 1, journalists at Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group, 7Day Daily, Mizzima, The VoiceDemocracy Today, and Khit Thit Media have received the threats via social media messengers and email, warning them that they will face mine attacks if they continue to refer to the AA as insurgent group.

The threatening messages say that the AA is not an insurgent group, but an Arakanese army carrying out a revolution for the “Father Nation.”

“The news media needs to stop portraying the Arakan Army incorrectly to misinform the Rakhine public and other ethnic groups,” the messages say. “Otherwise, the news media organization will see damage and we will blow up your newsroom by mine attacks.”

Khin Saw Wai, a lower house lawmaker from the Arakan National Party (ANP) who represents Rakhine’s Rathedaung constituency, told RFA’s Myanmar Service in an earlier report that the AA had sent envelopes with bullets to village authorities in Rakhine state.

Kyaw Zaw Lin, chief editor of Eleven Media Group, said he reported the incident to the police and other authorities when he received a threat.

“We have never experienced such kinds of threats coming from an armed group,” he said. “We have reported them to the relevant authorities. We alerted international organizations working on press freedom. We also filed a case with the police force.”

Myint Kyaw, joint secretary of the Myanmar Press Council, cautioned journalists to refrain from taking actions that could give more attention to the senders, who remain unknown.

“I agree that we should report this to law enforcement officers such as the police force,” he said. “We should take that kind of action. But these are threats coming from an unidentified source. As a media council, if we take action further than that, it will amplify the source’s message. We might be realizing the source’s real goal if all media and authorities take the threats seriously.”

“As for our media council, as an intermediary between the press and law enforcement authorities, we have a plan to issue alerts on the issue to all parties concerned,” he added.

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“This fake news was intentionally spread to instigate fear among the public,” he said. “Because we have had such experiences in the past, we must question what is happening now. It was not a single incident. It happened multiple times between 2012 and 2014.” Pixabay

Just like in 2012

Kyaw Min Swe, a consultant for the Myanmar journal The Voice who recently received a threat, recalled the allegations of “fake news” that inflamed Buddhist-Muslim communal conflict in religiously and ethnically divided Rakhine in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead and displaced more than 140,000, saying that he is suspicious about the real intention of those who are sending threats to the media.

Religiously-motivated riots that started in Kyauk Ni Maw village quickly led to murder and arson amid widespread public fear that was intensified by the spread of fake news on social media, he said.

“This fake news was intentionally spread to instigate fear among the public,” he said. “Because we have had such experiences in the past, we must question what is happening now. It was not a single incident. It happened multiple times between 2012 and 2014.”

“Given the examples and incidents that occurred in this country in the past, I suspect that it is true with the [current] case too,” he said. “I suspect this is an attempt to instigate a public sensation.”

Thar Lun Zaung Htet, editor-in-chief of Khit Thit Media who has received three threatening messages, said the senders are issuing the threats for specific purposes and that news professionals must be cautious about what may happen after they receive such mail.

“[Those] behind these threats must [belong to] an organization with specific purposes,” he said. “They seem to be very knowledgeable and well organized. I see this as only a first step.”

“We don’t know what the second and third steps will be,” he said. “There could be many possibilities, given the fact that the rule of law is very weak in this country.”

Thar Lun Zaung Htet also said that actual attacks could occur, putting the safety of journalists at risk given current hostile attitudes towards the media by a pro-government public.

“They could be murdered, physically attacked, arrested, or get into trouble anytime,” he said. “I view this threat as the first step of what could be coming. Not long after this, the second or third steps will come. Journalists must be extra cautious about what they are reporting.”

AA spokesman Khine Thukha denied that his outfit had sent these threats to the media and said it would conduct a probe into the matter.

“We strongly denounce the intimidation of the media by sending them threats,” he told RFA. “This is a very cowardly act [by someone] who is using our identity because they are too scared to reveal their own.”

“As an organization, we will conduct an investigation and take necessary actions to track down the [senders],” he added.

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Supporters of the Myanmar military have also sent threats via email to four news organizations, including Radio Free Asia, demanding that they stand with the military. The messages also included death threats for journalists who are seen as siding with the AA. Pixabay

“The AA doesn’t have any reason to send such threats to the news media,” Khine Thukha said. “We want you to know these are not ours.”

Support only the military

Supporters of the Myanmar military have also sent threats via email to four news organizations, including Radio Free Asia, demanding that they stand with the military. The messages also included death threats for journalists who are seen as siding with the AA.

The same message carried in the emails was posted by a Myanmar military supporter group under the name Patriot Soldiers Group.

A message received by RFA tried to influence RFA’s editorial policy, demanding that the media to show support for “the only military” in the country in reporting on the Rakhine conflict and not report with bias favoring the AA.

It also warned that those who failed to comply with the demand would face the same fate as Ko Ni, a prominent human rights attorney and advisor to the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was assassinated in January 2017.

Also Read: Unexpected Deaths of Innocent Civilians: Fearful Villagers in Rakhine Fleeing From Their Homes

Some have speculated that Ko Ni was targeted for being an outspoken critic of anti-Muslim attitudes held by Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalists and the country’s powerful military.

Major General Tun Tun Nyi from the Myanmar military’s committee denied that army officials were behind the threats.

“Sending anonymous emails that contain threats is a criminal offense, and whoever is doing it shouldn’t have done it,” he told RFA. “I think the sender is trying to implicate the military and further complicate issues that are already complicated.” (RFA)