Journalism, which Thomas Carlyle referred to as the “fourth pillar of democracy” in his book Heroes and Hero-Worship, is more relevant than ever in the current situation when the entire world is more democratic than ever before. The democratic system holds an advantage over any other system is because the freedom to express is the special attribute of this system. In today’s society, when information is everywhere and waiting to be disseminated to the general public, the role of the media has become more important.
Furthermore, the globalized world is significantly more linked, with every piece of information capable of defining numerous aspects in any other area of the world. Especially India, which is the largest democracy and the fastest growing economy, has enough activity happening at any point in time. Different conditions arise in a country that is very active and on the verge of drastic transformation, and these situations might have diverse implications for people and countries all over the world. This is the reason why India has attracted the interest of international journalists and media houses.
Indian metropolitan elite, including prominent columnists, academics, and political analysts, has repeatedly criticized the manner of foreign media’s coverage of India’s political and social dynamics.
According to a research paper published in the Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s Journal Communicator titled “An Analysis of Global Coverage of Events in India,” the global media has produced news that is fully prejudiced and biased to gain from the market while at the same time pushing their agendas.
Amol Parth, a journalist, and media analyst authored the paper, which attempts to explain the purported unreasonable worldwide media coverage of India’s socio-political dynamics using facts and data. The research cites scientific publications, industry experts, and professionals working in conjunction with big Western media outlets to illustrate why there’s a natural propensity to choose clickbait content in an attempt to acquire more audiences, which allows them to gain revenues.
Amol has offered five case studies that clearly illustrate the hypocrisy of the western media, which has resorted to content and coverage manipulation in order to get more reader or viewer engagement.
In the first case, he cites the BBC’s duplicity in a report titled “India coronavirus: Round-the-clock mass cremations.” When lakhs of people succumbed to the Covid in the first wave of COVID-19 in the US, UK, and Europe in 2020, there was no such coverage in the Western media. There were no cries in the headlines to highlight how many people died in these countries at an alarming rate.
The second instance focuses on a New York Times piece that characterized the Modi resolve to promote the indigenous textile sector as an impediment to the country’s prosperity. As Amol puts it, “It’s ignorance to attack the promotion of local industries of Saree, which has been women’s attire in the Indian subcontinent since Indus valley civilization and continues to be so today as well.” To bolster its argument, the New York Times deceptively claims that people’s wardrobe choices are being imposed on them. The article was written by Asgar Qadri.
While concluding, he states that “The government’s aim certainly has been to produce a popular fashion aesthetic that matches the broader political program of Hindu nationalism. But the world is more open to cultural change than it ever has been before, so will that effort ultimately succeed?”
However, NYT got befitting replies from Indians shattering its false and non-sensical claims.
Hello @nytimes, whether or not there is communalism in the saree, I think we can all agree, there is plenty in you editorial policy.— नेहा श्रीवास्तव (Nehā S) (@neha_aks) November 14, 2017
Hijab: Asserting a Muslim Fashion Identity https://t.co/1fTeLCV6Pa
Saree: Fashion has become a nationalist cause https://t.co/WF8EbhrEZz pic.twitter.com/t1X9xpzBUy
Simply shocked that @nytimes now thinks that wearing our tradition clothes is some sort of bigotry. Next up – eating Dosa, biryani or chaat instead of hotdogs is unacceptable. Sickening attack on our way of life:https://t.co/pkw9CiUqQ7— Sanjeev Sanyal (@sanjeevsanyal) November 14, 2017
The third scenario mentioned by Amol is an accident that occurred in Manhattan in 2017 in which a truck drove over people, which was dubbed the deadliest terror assault, but the attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama, which claimed the lives of 40 security personnel, was labelled an “Explosion.” This was even after the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack.
The fourth case study is about the New York Times making fun of the Indian Mission to Mars. It ran a cartoon titled “India’s Budget Mission to Mars.” This was an attempt to downplay India’s achievement of being the first country in Asia to reach Mars and the first country in the world to do it in the first attempt, with a budget one-tenth the cost of any NASA mission.
In the final case, The New York Times published an editorial On December 19, 2013, praising the detention of Devyani Khobragade, then-deputy India’s consul-general in New York, despite her diplomatic immunity. The New York Times editorial headlined “India’s Misplaced Outrage” in response to Indian protests, adopting the moral high ground regarding upholding American rules and hence the non-applicability of diplomatic immunity. Within a day of killing a father of three whose widow was six months pregnant; an American ambassador and his family were taken away from Kenya by the US embassy. The New York Times did not print an editorial about obeying Kenyan laws.
A very important question that anyone would ask is why such a thing is being observed in Indian cases only? Or why India is only being targeted as such? The answer to this question is straightforward but nuanced. The solution is already hinted at in the first few paragraphs, however, it can be summed up under three distinct subheadings.
Huge English readership
After the United States, India has the largest number of individuals who can read and write English. In India, the number of individuals who speak English is approximately double that of the whole population of the United Kingdom and nearly half that of the United States.
Exponentially growing Economy
The Indian economy is one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world. This is what piques the interest of all the world’s leading corporations from all industries whether it is Media or social media. The amount of profit that can be made in India is comparably higher to any other market economy in the world which has liberalized its economy and holds the tenets of free speech and expression sacred.
India on road to massive transformation
India is on its way to establishing a solid foothold in the international arena, thanks to its growing economy and a significant democratic dividend. This is the cause of the country’s social and political turbulence. It is an extremely populous country with the most diversified people, languages, beliefs, and geography. This is what makes it a tremendously complicated country with various potential fault points that anybody may leverage to their advantage.
The varying trends in International Media consumption
Data on audience growth over a two-year period underscores how big media companies have cleverly used the stated factors to thrive in India. For the study by Amol, data was obtained from ComScore, an American media measurement and analytics company.
New York Times grew in India
In India, the New York Times had a 22 percent increase in reading, while its global circulation fell by 8%. In March 2019, India’s percentage share in The New York Times’ total global growth was 2.38%. By March 2021, India’s quota increased to 3.17 percent.
The Wall Street Journal expanded faster in India than it did globally.
Between March 2019 and March 2021, the Wall Street Journal expanded twice as rapidly in India as it did internationally.
TIME witnessed a rise in India and collapse globally
In the two years between March 2019 and March 2021, TIME grew at a pace of over 50% in India, while losing 31% of its global market.
Washington Post remained almost stagnant
The Washington Post saw no change between March 2019 and March 2021, with a 7% fall in India and a 3% worldwide growth.
BBC’s growth in India was five times that of the rest of the world.
BBC expanded 173 percent in India between March 2019 and March 2021, about five times its global growth rate of 35 percent.
High growth during CAA protests and unrest
It can be correlated evidently that the audience of these international media houses in India exploded in December 2019, when the CAA protests began and continued to rise until March 2020, when the protests began to wane. This clearly exposes how these companies leveraged the upheaval in Indian society to their benefit.
The statistical data clearly demonstrates how excessive and distorted coverage of events in India enabled them to benefit significantly. Cow, Hindu, Muslim, Fear, Violence, Mob, Protest, Hate, Kashmir, Mob were the ten most often used keywords in the headlines of articles published by the mainstream western media. The use of these keywords caught the eye of Indian readers, and these newspapers were able to simply sell the story.
Present status of western media covering India
The research conducted by Amol Parth covers the period from March 2019 to March 2021. The present state of the west’s coverage is similar to that of the past. Despite the fact that we lack the necessary data to display the latest numbers, the position remains the same.
The coverage of these publications still continues to be biased significantly. In November 2021, when India was running the largest successful vaccination campaign, The New York Times published a report titled “India Eased Its Covid-19 Disaster. Fears of Complacency Remain.” This shows their resolve to keep India always in bad books.
Howsoever complacent they say, India still leads the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus and has sailed well through all waves of the infection way better than any country in the west.
In another report by The Washington Post, a report got published in December 2021 titled “In India, as the virus abates, a hunger crisis persists”.
This report was skewed since it forgot to include the aid that the Indian government offered to its citizens. According to a UN estimate, India has brought a record 271 million people out of poverty in the last ten years. Unfortunately, TWP never used this as a headline.
Recently Rana Ayyub, a TWP columnist who is accused of financial fraud and is being probed by Indian authorities, has received support in the publication, claiming that she has been the focus of misleading investigations and receives threats of assault and death.
This support for a person accused of serious financial fraud underscores the commitment of western media to portray the Indian state in a bad light. Using words such as death, assault, threat, and prejudice, these publications are laying bricks to manufacture dissent in India and then leverage that for their own benefit.
Analyzing the reporting of these foreign news organizations, it is clear that they are attempting to capitalize on India’s perceived schisms, looking for disputes and politically heated aspects. Furthermore, this not only generates civil instability in the country but also tarnishes India’s international image, putting India’s diplomatic relationships and commercial interests in jeopardy.
Despite such a distorted portrayal of India in the international community, the country continues to function with complete independence and more diligence to its citizens. As the External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar rightly pointed out during an interview, “They don’t say that not because they don’t know that, they don’t say that because that doesn’t suit them to say that. My reputation is not decided by a newspaper in New York.”
“My reputation is not decided by a newspaper in New York” pic.twitter.com/LwrucFQK2E— Manoj 🇮🇳 (@pattaazhy) February 20, 2022
At last, putting it directly so that everyone knows what Amol has concluded from the report, “The study highlights a multitude of doomsday prophecies on India by Global Media–Suggestive of using cynicism and fear to grow in India. Global media’s limited understanding of India is partly by ignorance and partly driven by their business model. Their ignorance is because of their arm-chair journalism as they report on complex issues/developments in India while sitting in New York/London/Mumbai/Delhi! Rest is all about making money, which they do while riding on the back of their deep-seated prejudice against India. Readership data analysis confirms the pattern of using human tragedies as business opportunities. To sum it up, their choice of words, issues and prejudiced views in almost every other article on India under the garb of freedom of expression is a result of their desperate need to expand their footprint among the huge English-speaking population of India. Hence, driven by revenue, market share, editorial prejudice and limited understanding of Indian democracy, diversity, demography and governance structure, most of the global media’s news reports and opinion columns on India are at best half-truths.”