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As the NewsClick scandal becomes bigger, read what UK Parliamentary Report reveals and how The Hindu’s China connections need to be urgently probed too

Given that NewsClick was paid to whitewash China's handling of COVID and The Hindu too ran an advertorial which praised China as the saviour amid the COVID crisis, it is imperative that authorities investigate The Hindu along with NewsClick.

A New York Time article has now reinforced what the Enforcement Directorate knew all along – Sections of the Indian media are funded by China to spread pro-China and anti-India propaganda in India which is almost always contrary to national interest. The Enforcement Directorate discovered more than two years ago after conducting a probe that NewsClick had received approximately Rs 38 crores in funds from abroad. The agency was able to follow the money trail to American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, who reportedly has extensive ties to the Communist Party of China’s publicity department.

Now, an investigation by the New York Times has recently uncovered an ecosystem of activist organisations, non-profits, shell corporations, and their intimate ties to China and Chinese propaganda. Notably, Neville Roy Singham is at the heart of this network. The article read, “What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide.”

It was highlighted that he has been successful in spreading talking points from the communist administration in nations including India, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States under the guise of progressive advocacy. The report pointed out, “In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points.”

Through this global ecosystem of activists and non-governmental organisations, China, which has been attempting to assert its economic and global might for quite some time, has created a system that covertly promotes the Chinese people and reiterates the official line. It showed how the country has been able to deflect criticism of its violations of human rights from around the world and how its position on global issues is woven into international discourses owing to this network.

In 2021, OpIndia had done a detailed investigation about the links of NewsClick and uncovered how it was linked to several individuals who regularly spew venom against India – from Urban Naxals to those like Teesta Setalvad, Abhisar Sharma and several others. That investigation by OpIndia can be read here.

While the conversation has been limited to NewsClick, it should essentially be taken for granted that it is not the only media house which gets extensively funded by China to run its propaganda.

The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee said in a wide-ranging report released recently that the intelligence threat posed by China is compounded by a ‘whole-of-state’ approach with the use of state and non-state players for spying. Commissioned in 2019, the inquiry by the ISC examines China’s threat across academia, industry, technology and importantly, the media. The report reveals that China aims to acquire information and intellectual property by influencing elites and decision-makers.

The report delves extensively into how China is using the media to further its propaganda and undermine national interest. One specific part of the report reads:

The Chinese government looks to use the UK’s own media to its advantage. The Telegraph was reportedly paid £750,000 p.a. to carry the China Daily newspaper supplement (effectively a CCP mouthpiece), and it has been noted that since 2016 The Telegraph has carried twice the number of signed articles by the Chinese ambassador to the UK than the Daily Mail, The Guardian and the Financial Times put together.184 In April 2020, content from the China Daily disappeared from The Telegraph website: when Buzzfeed and The Guardian asked The Telegraph to comment on its removal, The Telegraph refused to do so.185 When we asked the JIC Chair whether he was concerned that the China Daily supplement was widely available in the UK, he told us that he was not convinced that it posed a significant threat:

The Chinese state, and individuals within it, are under quite a lot of pressure to show that they are doing things to advance the historical inevitability of the rise of China, and it is important that they can do things and report them, and they will report them as a great success. They will say that Daily Telegraph readers, a newspaper which is read by influential people in the United Kingdom, is now getting Chinese input. We might see it as being rather different but I am sure that is how they will be reporting it to Beijing and Beijing may well consider it money well spent.

This part of the report makes an interesting revelation – The Telegraph took copious amounts of money to run CCP propaganda and insert China’s supplement in their paper. In 2020, when The Telegraph took down its CCP propaganda, OpIndia covered the news extensively. Articles deleted by the Daily Telegraph had headlines such as: “Why are some framing China’s heroic efforts to stop coronavirus as inhumane?”, “Traditional Chinese medicine ‘helps fight coronavirus’” and “Coronavirus outbreak is not an opportunity to score points against China”.

The report essentially reveals that China infiltrates media outlets by meeting them and paying them to run their agenda which is often not in the national interest of the country where the media outlet functions. If one thinks about it, this is a smart strategy to subvert a democracy since any such allegation of a news media outlet being funded by China often draws a cacophony of an ‘attack on freedom of the press’, as we have repeatedly seen in India.

Given these revelations in the report, it becomes imperative to analyse which mainstream legacy media house in India has been doing exactly what the Telegraph was doing in the UK.

In 2020, while the world was battling the Chinese Virus and India was planting its feet firmly against the aggression by China, The Hindu ran extensive Chinese propaganda in their papers.

On the 1st of October 2020, The Hindu ran a full page advertorial paid for and planted by China. The paid content appeared on the 3rd page of the paper.

Interestingly, the paid content by China that has been published by The Hindu on Page 3 today does not appear on the digital website of The Hindu. The beauty of the paid content is that to an untrained eye, the full-page article would seem like just that – a feature on how the world is wrong about mighty China and how, on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, it is time to re-evaluate what “bhakt media” is saying about the country and look towards all its achievements. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the full-page feature was content paid for by China. The advertorial (paid for by China) essentially painted China as a saviour of the world amid the Chinese virus pandemic and also spoke glowingly about itself, taking the high moral ground against India in the standoff that India and China were engaged in at the time.

OpIndia’s detailed report on The Hindu’s Chinese advertorial can be read here.

What is interesting to note here is that according to recent revelations, even in the NewsClick saga, Prabir Purkayastha and NewsClick team were introduced to Chinese handlers by Neville Roy Singham for defending China’s handling of COVID-19.

The email exchanges dated March 30, 2020, on China’s handling of COVID-19 between Prabir and Singham were shared by Zee News journalist Sudhir Chaudhary, days after New York Times investigation said that Singham was using its network of nonprofits and media organisations spread across the world to propagate Chinese propaganda.

In the email exchanges shared by Sudhir Chaudhary, Roy is seen introducing the NewsClick team to the Chinese handlers based out of China to provide information that would help them in showing China in a positive light in handling the coronavirus outbreak.

Among Indians introduced by Neville Roy Singham to his larger team, who worked with Tricontinental, one of the nonprofits that the New York Times said was involved in pushing Chinese talking points, were Prabir Purkayastha, Srujana, Prasanth, and Vijay Prashad. 

Given that NewsClick was paid to whitewash China’s handling of COVID and The Hindu too ran an advertorial which praised China as the saviour amid the COVID crisis, it is imperative that authorities investigate The Hindu along with NewsClick.

Pertinently, in June 2022, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong who is on a two-day visit to the state of Tamil Nadu paid a visit to the headquarters of the left-wing outlet The Hindu and held face-to-face talks with its Editor Suresh Nambath and other staff members. “Visited the headquarters of The Hindu. Face-to-face communication leads to mutual understanding and trust. Welcome you all to explore and know more about a real, objective, and 3-dimensional China”, said Ambassador Sun Weidong posting a video of his visit to the media outlet.

It was only a month later, in July 2022, that The Hindu published another advertorial. On July 1 2022, the Hindu had published a full-page advertorial paid for and planted by China on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of the Communist Party of China. The paid content appeared on the third page of the paper.

The details about the The Hindu team meeting the Chinese Ambassador can be read here.

It is, therefore, evident that The Hindu has not even particularly hidden the fact that they are funded by the Chinese and have ran propaganda almost identical to what NewsClick has run in the past after taking money from China. The reportage is often against the interest of India and any media outlet which is funded by a hostile nation to subvert domestic interests needs to be probed.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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