[Reader-list] IHT in India

sanjay ghosh definetime at rediffmail.com
Sat Jul 10 13:20:25 IST 2004

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Dear Shivam,

We obviously differ in our views.

Let's consider the facts again. Murdoch's rationale for supporting the Iraq war is not Saddam's abusive dictatorship, it's $20 barrel of oil. When media magnates campaign for daylight robbery, it is alarming.

Besides, Saddam's worst atrocities - using chemical weapons on Kurds and Iranians, were undertaken with funding and technology from the west. In fact if you study the entire western government/media campaign drumming up support prior to the war, Saddam's cruelty was highlighted only when the WMD angle was slighted by Hans Blix. This was the last resort, to justify an already premeditated move.*

Had abusive dictatorships been the real problem, the US wouldn't have propped up General Pinochet after overthrowing the elected Chilean government; killing President Allende and unleashing a genocide. 20th century history is littered with White House supported dictators - Baby Doc, Trujillo, Hernandez Martinez, Suharto, Rios Mont, Reza Pahlevi, Noriega, Karimov ... even Saddam was the apple of their eyes while he was at war with Iran. Half a dozen brutal 'sheikhdoms' in the middle-east are aided and abetted by the US. 

Don't the Abu Ghraib pictures prove that Saddam's abuses had nothing to do with this invasion ? And mind you, those pictures didn't see the light of the day without a fight. There are thousands of more pictures which were viewed by US senators behind closed doors but deemed unfit for 'public consumption'**. So much for the 'free market of words, ideas and pictures' in the west.

The net differs a lot from the print media . Apart from journalists and media observers, people tend to read just one newspaper regularly. When you're fed a bunch of lies on a regular basis, the results are as Dr Joseph Goebbels prescribed in the 1930s. 

Wide internet penetration is still a projection. The net also has a certain fluidity which lends itself to appreciation of diversity. The google news page for instance would often put NYT's interpretation next to Xinhua's. I find it difficult to compare this with a regular newspaper's impact. Only a small fraction of the newspaper reading public goes to the news-stand to 'chose' a paper.  

Had the indian media been dominated by 'all the leftists' - the 'india shining' nonsense wouldn't have been forced down our throats. Vajpayee's party did win 138 seats, just 7 less than the Congress tally. Sadly (for you) the left performed better than expected. In my view indian newspapers opposed the Iraq war not because of 'all the leftists' but because unlike first world countries - we identify ourselves as possible future victims of such unilateral aggression. 

Iraq war was bad because it had no UN approval and therefore illegal. There was no unique provocation for launching an attack on a sovereign country. As far as your personal views on this matter are concerned - ten years is a long time, right now more than 11 thousand Iraqis are already dead. 

You have quite correctly pointed out that popularity is no guarantee for quality (as with Times of India). And I'm not questioning the popularity of publications. I'm questioning the concentration of ownership and it's 'dictatorial' shadow on the media culture. I hate censorship and that's the very reason I favour blocking foreign media in India. It (foreign media) comes with a baggage of lopsided ownership pattern, with serious implications on whatever little independence of opinion there is in our media. 

Blocking newspapers can't be equated with censorship because Indian newspapers already carry sizable chunks of foreign news and editorial material. If you check sources of international news (whether here or abroad) they lead you back to the same pool of a dozen odd news agencies. One is not advocating blocking news per say but the propaganda potential of a big bad corporate owned newspaper. I'm not saying indian newspapers are great; I acknowledge the courage and insight of the indian public in fending itself from the media. My point is - why give the public two snakes to fend itself from, isn't one enough.

Leaving aside a handful of publications, western media's influence on their 'liberal democracies' has been less than edifying. One watergate can't wash away every sin. For years together western media sat on it's fat ass while western governments propped up abusive dictatorships, apartheid - and aided genocides. In recent times media role in inciting racial hatred in the UK has often been highlighted. Hari Kunzru declined the John Llewellyn Rhys award on precisely this issue. 

I'd love to see a 'free market' myself but I'm afraid it's just another neo-con illusion fed to us by the western media mafia. While western countries advocate opening up of third world markets, their own markets remain tight shut through a complex web of preferential tariffs. Thanks to your 'free western media' the whole issue of G8's $300 billion agriculture subsidy or the enormous tariff barriers for third world exports, rarely get any coverage.

In the world we live in, ideas and practice don't always coincide.




PS - In case you miss 'Murdoch papers' in India, The Statesman carries sizable chunks from the Times, London. Besides you might enjoy the venomous anti-left tirade carried by The Statesman.  

On Fri, 09 Jul 2004 Shivam Vij wrote :
>Dear Sanjay,
>Let's take the IHT example, I'll later come to the foreign media as a
>whole. What's wrong with the IHT being published from India? I already
>have access to its site; those who don't will be able to read the
>paper. Shouldn't there be greater democratisation of the media? I
>firmly believe that all media are not mutually exclusive but intrinsic
>parts of our urban experience. With increasing net density in India,
>all of the foreign media will be accessible to millions of Indians;
>the reach will be far greater than print can ever have. This is the
>future we are looking at.
>Yes, as of now print dominates public opinion in India. Or does TV
>dominate public opinion in India? Or do the media affect 'public
>opinion'? If they did, Vajpayee wouldn't have lost his job.
>As for the Iraq war, I think it is a shame that the Indian media was
>biased against the war and never gave space to arguments in favour of
>the war. My personal view about the Iraq 'war' is that all of the Bush
>administration's sins notwithstanding, the invasion will have been
>worth it ten ears from now *if* the average Iraqi is happier than he
>was under Saddam.
>Now that's my view, but the Indian media never gave space to such a
>view. All the leftists, the impassionate anti-Americanists dominated.
>It is sad that we don't believe in objectivity anymore. My paper
>should have told me both sides of the argument about Iraq. It just
>told me how bad the war was, and then why it was bad.
>If I had access to one of Murdoch's papers on the newsstand near my
>house, if I could pick up and read the foreign papers, perhaps I could
>have been able to arrive at a more sober, crtical assesment of the
>Iraq 'war'.
>But the Government of India never gave me that choice.
>As for the Italian PM's control of the Italian media, I wish I was
>more aware of the intricacies of the Italian situation. But I wonder
>if you noticed an article in the Hindu when Sonia Gandhi almost became
>our PM. The article wrote how a cartoon in an Italian paper owned by
>the Italian PM, showed an Italian saying to an Indian: "Now you also
>an Italian PM and I have an Italian PM. Only that yours is better than
>Now I know why 90% Italians pay heed to media owned by their PM.
>In other words, in all your arguments, you are neglecting the role of
>public opinion. A media enterprise can be commercially successful obly
>when people buy it. And people will buy it only if it makes sense to
>them. The obscene Times of India is India's largest selling English
>daily because people buy it.
>If we were to go by your arguments, then the logical conclusion would
>be to support Internet censorship, because as PC density increases...
>And if we can survive the Indian media with all its biases, we can
>also survive biases of the foreign press. We can still understand that
>the Iraq 'war' is really about oil or whatever damage Americans did to
>Iraq. Because we have Al Jazeera, which was some time ago denied
>permission b the Indian government to open a bureau in India!
>The leftist mobilisation of opinion against the Iraq war all over the
>world - Arundhati Roy's essays included - was an example of how
>alternative media is so mainstream now.
>And remember it was the same American media that exposed Abu Ghraib.
>Remember also that the IHT in India is being published by MJ Akbar,
>whose name also appears as the editor responsible for the contents of
>the paper under the PRB Act. That should make us less paranoid about
>the IHT?
>In a free market of words, ideas and pictures, what are we afraid of?
>If we extend your arguments to their logical conclusions - blocking
>all media that is held by monopolies - then we will also have to ban
>Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala, two Hindi papers of north India which
>sell more than Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu and the
>Indian Express put together! Ujala and Jagran are papers whose role in
>the rise of Hindutva is well known, and continues till today:
>IHT is less objectionable to me.
>I poured reason in two wine glasses
>Raised one above my head
>And poured it into my life

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