Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Indian Express does a PTI on Chinese ambassador; why be lenient with one and punish the other?

If Press Trust of India (PTI) can fall foul of Modi government for publishing an interview of Sun Weidong, Chinese ambassador to India, who had blamed India for present mess at borders, there is no reason Indian Express could do the same and escape censor, if not punishment.

In today’s edition, Indian Express has quoted Weidong for making the same accusation against India as he had done in the interview to PTI. The only difference: Express has “picked up” Weidong’s interview from an inhouse magazine of the Chinese embassy whereas PTI had done a physical interview.

What’s wrong, you would ask, if PTI or Express, publish somebody’s views? Isn’t this freedom of press? WELL THERE ARE PLENTY OF WRONGS. Did Britain publish any account of the 160 German cities they bombed during the Second World War? Or that Dresden, the cultural capital of Europe, was completely destroyed? Or that hundreds of German women were raped by the allied soldiers? Or that it was against the war convention of bombing cities and killing and raping civilians? Or did The Times and The Guardian publish any interview of Adolf Hitler against their government’s wishes, if not against the national interest?

Freedom of press doesn’t extend to national security. SORRY. We had an incident in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in pre-planned manner by Chinese army with nail-studded clubs, barbed wires and iron rods. This when the convention was to patrol unarmed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by the two sides. This when we know that China, with its money power, is today “buying” US universities to push an academic discourse which suits them. This, when we suspect that World Health Organization (WHO) is a doormat at China’s door. China has “bought” four of United Nations’ four specialized branches for $370 million grant. Haven’t you wondered why Pakistan or most other Islamic states don’t criticize China for its oppression of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang?  Just read this piece to know how China buys influence around the world.  

So, freedom of press? MY FOOT. These paragons of virtues of “free press” could be stooges of big moneybags for all I know. If it puts my country, my people, my army, my society in peril, to hell with such freedom of press.

How do journalists go around pushing an agenda? As a journo of over three decades, give me credit to know a thing or two. First, I would write “alleged.” If nobody has “alleged”, I would put question mark (?) at the end of the headline. If these two are not working, I would say according to sources. If my editor asks me about sources, I would say he didn’t want to be named. If the government is hard on media for pushing enemy’s agenda, I would ask that agenda to be published somewhere for me to quote from the piece, with due credit, what I really wanted to write myself. This is what Indian Express has done.

This is scandalous. I mean how do you get hold of an inhouse magazine? The China-India Review is not in public domain. How do readers know that the magazine was not supplied to Indian Express by the Chinese embassy?

Many still don’t know the full details of PTI’s interview of Sun Weidong. So let me elaborate: (a) It was the PTI reporter who went to Chinese embassy to conduct the interview—and that too when Coronavirus lockdowns were in place and online interviews were the preferred mode; (b) The interview begins with PTI’s gratitude to Chinese ambassador for granting the interview! (c) The PTI interview was then released by Chinese embassy in public; (d) The released transcript shows that only three questions were asked by PTI; (e) There was no counter-question by the PTI reporter when the Chinese ambassador was abusing Indian army and its government from both sides of the mouth.

Did PTI seek clarification from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)? NO.  To me, Indian Express has done the same thing, just that they fired from the shoulders of a benign magazine. This would find space in public domain in different forms. There is no reason for the government, Press Council of India (PCI) or its readers to ignore the blatant anti-India “information” war.

Such news, and freedom of press, weaken the nation’s resolve, cause the enemies and its stooges to quote in India, China and around the world. In due course, resolutions are passed in national assemblies, European Parliament, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), US Congress and the United Nations. Sanctions occur after sustained outrage. We have example it leads to civil war, if not the one at the border. It imperils our civilians, soldiers and the integrity of the country.

Enough is enough. To hell with freedom of press. 

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