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Confessions to the Parish of the People: The Print seems to be apologizing by proxy for its obsessive China coverage

The Print has seemingly lapsed into its old habits of creating news out of nothing. In a summary piece published, The Print’s ‘Editorial Staff’ has published nothing short of a calumny when it claims that PM Modi is unhappy over how the Indian media has been praising China’s response despite the pandemic originating there.

In the Christian church denominations of the Catholic orders, there is a tradition of confessing anonymously to a parish member for sins that the confessor commits. Scenes of mafia killers confessing were made popular in the popular TV show The Sopranos and countless movies linked to the Italian origin mafia. One media outlet it seems has just done that in a tacit manner, while trying to hide the intentions and the origins of the confession. The Print has seemingly lapsed into its old habits of creating news out of nothing. In a summary piece published the ‘Editorial Staff’ of The Print, it has published nothing short of a calumny when it claims that the Prime Minister Modi is unhappy over how the Indian media has been praising China response despite the pandemic originating there. 

What makes it quite ironic is the fact that the story quotes a press release on the Prime Minister’s interaction with the media of the print industry, and fail to mention an even more important part completely missing from the Print’s coverage to say the least. Quoting the press release:

“He said that newspapers carry tremendous credibility and the local page of a region is widely read by people. It is therefore imperative that awareness about coronavirus is spread through articles published in this page. It is essential to inform people about where the testing centres are, who should get tested, whom to contact to get tested and follow home isolation protocols. This information should be shared in newspapers and web portals of the paper, the Prime Minister said. He also suggested that information like location of availability of essential items during lockdown can also be shared in the regional pages.”

Conveniently though the Print seems to ignore the fact that this was not the sole interaction with media. Prime Minister Modi had also interacted with the electronic media and the radio fraternity, and pretty much echoed the same message with them. For instance, with the radio fraternity, the PM had exhorted the Radio Jockeys to disseminate positive stories and case studies, particularly of those patients that have fully recovered from coronavirus infection, and also  inter-play such stories in different parts of the country, thus bringing the entire country together. To the news channels, the PM had suggested the need to counter pessimism and panic through positive communication, highlighting the necessity to keep the doctors and health care workers motivated since they are at the forefront of this fight. 

Read: Here are 5 other deadly diseases apart from the Wuhan Coronavirus that originated from China

However, all that we have seen from The Print so far is obsessively sceptical coverage, questioning of official figures, and rumour mongering and panic creation by continuous harping on the underreporting and undertesting. Further, it even castigated the need for a lockdown, citing examples of countries only to end up with egg on its face subsequently on every occasion.

Article by The Print
Article by The Print
Article by The Print

This mainstream media habit by The Print of discovering ‘sources’ and quoting to tell the readers that ‘the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unhappy’ reads straight out of the UPA Era, when a certain National Advisory Council chairperson would often be unhappy about the government’s decisions rather frequently. Be that as it may, the piece seems to read more and more like a confession statement to church parish done anonymously, the difference being that the parish here is the reader of the Print. While other media houses have covered China, the so-called praise has been conspicuous by its absence in most of the media coverage barring the confessor. 

Picture in Contrast: Is The Print reading more and more like the new mouthpiece of China in India?

The man behind the organization, Shekhar Gupta of the coup theory infamy, and his team at The Print have been caught with his literal pants down for reporting fake news. However, a cursory glance through the ‘news’ belted out by the site on the COVID-19 issue makes one wonder – is the team at The Print being more than an apologia for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in India? The question arises as one goes through their coverage of China and the stark contrast with the coverage of India’s response – it is not only premised on fake news, but also reeks of malevolence to a degree of fault. 

While coverage of the Chinese response to the COVID-19 pandemic is perfectly legitimate – many other organizations have also done the same – the sheer volume of webspace, time, energy and resource expended in painting a rosy picture of China flies in the face of public perception and anger not just within India but across the world. The gung-ho coverage of how China has gone about the pandemic crisis seems as if all is well is baffling to say the least. But for the print logo, one could be mistaken to see it as the coverage provided by Xinhua, China Cable Television (CCTV) CCTV Global Television Network (CGTN) or the Global Times or People’s Daily, all of which are essentially mouthpieces of the CCP and will always toe the line of the government, come what may. 

Article by The Print
Article by The Print
Article by The Print
Article by The Print

Compare it with the kind of tweets the propaganda machinery of China has been putting out on the subject, and the eery similarity of the tone cannot be missed by even the most uninformed person.

Article by China mouthpiece
Article by China mouthpiece
Tweet by China mouthpiece
Article by China mouthpiece

During the horrific era of China’s Cultural Revolution, people were forced to indulge in self-criticism and self-denunciation as a form of repentance. Media outlets controlled by the government would regularly publish lists of petty bourgeoise who were worthy of public condemnation, and many tragically died as a result. Propaganda has since only become stronger and more sophisticated for the CCP, as it continues to pay outlets to publish large paid advertisements across the world in an almost newspaper like fashion; only that bit is conveniently not told. 

Many people have always believed that there exists a famous media house in Chennai that often acts as the unofficial Chinese consulate in that city. One would be compelled to believe, going by the coverage, that another media outlet, this time based in Delhi has seemingly joined the bandwagon. 

And while on the surface it seems harmless, putting it in context makes you raise questions of credibility on the organization and the journalism it chooses to print. The only request one could make in such a scenario is to at least not create fake news or belittle efforts of a resource constrained country like India doing all within its reach to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus did come from China, and the sooner the facts get ‘print’ed, the better it would be for your own conscience, judging by your tacit confessions.

(This article has been written by Rohit Pathania)

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