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Media Bias & Credibility Issues
in New World Order
|by Dr. Jaipal Singh|
The press and electronic media are often addressed together as the Fourth Estate in the democratic countries because of its explicit and implicit potential and capacity to put forth issues before masses in a forceful manner as also its ability to frame strong public opinion about the subject particularly in the social and political matters. The term has been probably derived from the traditional Western concept of the three estates of the realm, namely the nobility, clergy and commoners. However, this even more suitably fits into a democratic state as the fourth influential organ besides the traditional three organs, namely the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Although media has no formal recognition as an organ of any political system, it yields enormous potential and power to influence the socio-political system of any country in the modern age. Conversely, the life has dramatically changed worldwide and the chief reason for this could be ascribed to the media spread and technology.
Although this is a worldwide trend including the US and Europe but there has been a massive growth, rather explosion, in the Indian media due to its socio-political complexity and huge population that provides enormous opportunity for such growth. The chief aim and objectives of the media could perhaps be summarized as educating the society, raising voice about social evils and wrongs committed, and transmission of accurate and fair news about events and occurrences. But what we increasingly notice about the media is the lack of quality and diversity in sincere and faithful reporting leading to increasing disconnect and polarization of the people with socio-political rifts and conflicts. More over the media has undergone tremendous changes with the advent of electronic social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and so on, which now politicians, citizens and media persons opt for their preferred mode of communication, side-lining the traditional and age-old local news outlets. Media itself appears to have divided into Left, Centre-left and Right ideologies, thereby compromising its objective and impartial reporting.
Media bias is the bias of the news producers and journalists in the selection of events and stories in the overall gamut of their reporting. Although they are expected to be free and fair in reporting without any reservations, fear and favour but, on the contrary, many of them become selective, discerning and discriminatory in their approach and selection. In a nutshell, such a bias implies a pervasive or widespread negative approach contravening the standards of journalism due to social, political, or even selfish reasons, by an individual journalist or the media group as a whole. The nature of such bias could be in terms of total coverage itself, or selective bias by selecting or deselecting stories or issues, or presentation bias when the same visible things are slanted and sometimes given altogether a different version or twist. The Western media has often been found to adopt double standards in reporting the events and stories at home vis-à-vis similar happening in rest of the world (Asia, Africa, Latin America or even Eastern Europe), more particularly in the context of the fast-developing countries India and Brazil.
Such media bias has been reported on social, political and economic matters, and for worse, even the religion has not been spared. For instance, India had been predominantly a Hindu country for the last several millennia and the Indian culture and religion have always been tolerant, receptive and accommodative towards all other cultures, yet it constantly suffered under the Islamic invaders during the last millennium, some of them even settled here and ruled for almost five hundred years; and later under the British colonial rule too for over two hundred years. This foreign dominance led to a large scale conversion of vulnerable Hindus, destruction of their religious places and exodus to escape persecution from Kashmir Valley and other places. Notwithstanding these well-known historical facts, if a corrective action such as the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, a law passed by the Parliament for the rehabilitation of persecuted communities, or the disputed land of a temple is restored by the Supreme Court, a large section of the mainstream Western and Arab media as also some domestic media groups criticize Hindus and Hinduism, and try to portray the event as if Muslims of the country are being persecuted in India.
With the advent of many social media platforms, on one hand instances of such coloured and, at times, even hateful media reporting has gone up, simultaneously exposing the hypocrisy of the biased media. In the current piece, the author has essentially focused on such media reporting in the context of India mainly. The foreign electronic and print media cited in this piece are mainstream and well-established media houses/groups which are expected to be responsible and truthful in their reporting. Nonetheless, the ill-conceived and lopsided news items/articles, and at times even fake news, published by them about India’s affairs smacks of their biased approach and attitude and, at the same time, inadequate and poor knowledge and understanding about the country as well. Undoubtedly, their double-standards in reporting with one set of norms for own people and country, and the another for foreign people and countries, undeniably shakes faith and trust of conscientious people globally. Such an approach does not auger well to their recognized stature in international journalism and their continued yellow journalism may only further erode their credibility and acceptability as an independent source of news reporting in future. To illustrate the aforesaid averments and also how narratives are built, the author would like to cite the story of the reporting of the Covid-19 pandemic in two important states of India.
How Narratives Are Built: Kerala & Uttar Pradesh - A Case Study
Those who are watchful or monitoring the Covid-19 cases on day-to-day basis in India would already be aware of facts elucidated in this section. It is well known that for over six months now Kerala, a small state in South India with barely about 34 million people, has been consistently reporting around twelve thousand and above new cases on daily basis which is more than many fairly large countries in the neighbourhood as well as in other parts of the globe. While even courts are intervening to restrain celebration of the Hindu religious festivals and events, the Communist government of Kerala removed ongoing restrictions on gathering and movement of people to enable Muslims to celebrate Bakr Eid during July 2021. Ever since the daily occurrence of new cases have gone up to around twenty-two thousand and above reporting a peak of 23,676 on 3 August 2021, which is more than fifty percent (55.54%) of the total cases of 42,625 reported on that day in India.
As against Kerala, the Uttar Pradesh is the 4th largest in area and the most populous state in India with a population of nearly 240 million, which is more than the most of the countries in the world except the China, US and Indonesia. However, in terms of the total number of the corona positive cases, it occupies 6th rank after Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the same order. In terms of the number of deaths on account of Covid-19 disease, it occupies fifth position (22771) after Maharashtra (133,717), Karnataka (36,741), Tamil Nadu (34,260) and Delhi (25,065) as on date, with Kerala (17,515) currently closing fast with its daily rather large tally. Currently, Uttar Pradesh has only about six hundred active cases and at least twenty-one other states have active cases more than this state with Kerala having maximum numbers of 178,203 as on 7 August 2021. The aforesaid figures itself fairly speak of the status of Uttar Pradesh vis-à-vis other Indian states and the World Health Organization (WHO) has twice lauded it efforts in last one year to contain coronavirus and tackle Covid-19 disease in the state.
India had registered first Covid-19 case of a medical student from Thrissur district of Kerala on 30 January 2020, who returned from Wuhan, China, which was the epicentre of the disease before it spread and escalated in other countries of the world. During the next few days, two more cases were reported from Alappuzha and Kasargod towns of Kerala and the victims were medical students again returned from Wuhan in the past few days. Thereafter, the number of cases rose steadily and rapidly in about half-a-dozen other states including the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Thane, reporting more cases than the Progenitor state Kerala. During the next few weeks, a large section of the Indian electronic and print media had all praise and appreciation for Kerala citing its effective handling and control of the pandemic, more particularly the name of the lady health minister of the state took rounds on social media for her alleged professional approach and leadership worthiness.
Around mid-February 2021, when the 1st Covid-19 wave had almost waned out in most of the provinces of India, Kerala and Maharashtra were still reporting a significant number of new corona positive cases on daily basis. The total national daily count around this time had come down to less than 10 thousand cases and of this 70-75% cases belonged to the aforesaid two states causing apprehensions in many Indian minds that the mismanagement of pandemic in these two states might now become a cause for a potential second corona wave. These fears were not unfounded as the number of cases soon started a rising trend through March in other parts, crossed one lakh daily mark on 5th April, above two lakhs during the next 10 days, and crossed four lakhs on a single day mark on 1st May 2021. This was the time when the country also faced shortage of life saving medicines, oxygen supply and hospital beds in almost all states including Kerala for the next few weeks till emergency steps were taken by the government at war-footing to augment supplies from the inland and abroad sources.
As already mentioned, currently more than 50% new corona positive cases are being daily reported from Kerala alone with no foreseeable respite apparent in near future and apprehensions for a potential 3rd wave coming across the country soon. However, the mainstream Western media source the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has recently published a story strongly defending Kerala Covid-19 position. According to this report, the state did excellent management during the first corona wave with minimum casualties. The report justifies the higher numbers in Kerala due to testing of more people - more than double the people per million compared to the rest of the country; that Kerala has done admirable good job in controlling the spread of coronavirus unlike the rest of India; that despite rising numbers, hospitals have not been overwhelmed, fatality rate is very low and under-reporting of death cases is lowest. In a nutshell, the state is testing widely, reporting cases honestly, vaccinating quickly and ensuring that hospitals are not overwhelmed.
Citing an eminent virologist in Christian Medical College, Vellore, the BBC report made another fantastic claim in an endeavour to justify Kerala Covid-19 position that Kerala is capturing one out of every two infections compared to other states which are catching one out of 30-odd infections. The data or sample source for this revelation has not been divulged with, but somewhat similar favourable reports can be found about Kerala from some other Indian electronic and print media sources such as NDTV and India Today. The states of Kerala and Maharashtra are known for a better healthcare infrastructure compared to many other Indian states but during the peak of the second corona wave, Kerala too had faced shortages of life saving drugs, oxygen supply and hospital beds as can be seen from following brief excerpts:
The Deccan Herald wrote on 12 May 2021 –
The Hindu Reported on 12 May 2021 -
Therefore, the report of the BBC seems to be misleading to that extent. While a large section of the national and international media either did not cover at all or some largely gave a favourable footage of the Covid-19 position in Kerala during the first and second corona waves, on the other hand, the same media left no stone unturned to portray that the central government in Delhi led by Mr Narendra Modi and the Uttar Pradesh government led by Mr Adityanath Yogi had completely failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly during the second wave from March to July 2021 at the national and state levels, respectively. The aforesaid position has been analysed by the author in his recent articles, namely “International Media Blitz and Yellow Journalism in Covid Times” and “Pandemic: Media Vultures on Rampage Seeking Flesh of The Dead”.
It is true that during the peak of the second corona wave in India, shortages of many essential drugs, hospital beds and oxygen supply was felt in several states for few weeks in late April and May 2021, and Uttar Pradesh too faced this situation. UK based international news agency Reuters shot a drone footage around mid-May depicting numerous dead bodies buried in the sand graves on the banks of River Ganges and promptly flashed a news linking it to the unaccounted and ill-managed Covid deaths. The footage was promptly converted into a hot story by the international media depicting it as insensitivity and mismanagement of Covid-19 patients, living and dead, in Uttar Pradesh by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Various media groups such as The Washington Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The BBC Network, The Sky News, The Telegraph, The Dawn, Al Jazeera, Los Angeles Times, and so on, as also many Indian newspapers and TV networks published graphic and gory details on the subject. In their bizarre description, some of the foreign media sources even outrightly declared (northern) India as the graveyard of the Covid-19 victims.
Some of these reports had cited the place as the outskirts of the city of Prayagraj while others narrated the story citing it as Sangam, the holy place of confluence of three rivers namely Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Sarasvati. According to the foreign media, the hospitals and crematoriums were full and struggling amid the deadly second Covid-19 wave and were unable to cop up with the disposal of the large number of dead; hence the river was seen as a viable and convenient alternative for the funeral rites by the people. The shocking footage shot by various television and newspaper groups show numerous graves separated by bamboo sticks and covered with the saffron cloth buried along the banks of Ganga in Prayagraj criticising the state government and chief minister for the apathy and mismanagement of the Covid-19 dead. Some reports also suggested that the Prayagraj municipal corporation had deployed a team in Sangam area to cover up the bodies and hush up the matter.
Some of the overzealous media reports, such as one from Al Jazeera, suggested that there was no enough space in the local crematorium and that the people could not afford to buy wood to make funeral pyres, hence they were disposing large numbers of the Covid dead in shallow sand graves. According to the Western media sources, such graves were thousands in numbers with dead bodies hurriedly disposed off. Barkha Dutt, an Indian journalist and regular Modi and Yogi basher in her opinion piece in The Washington Times, wrote that India failed to save the living from covid-19 and now it won’t count the dead when Covid is devastating rural India with hundreds of bodies abandoned in mass shallow graves in different northern towns. Her fellow journalist and another star opinion maker in the same newspaper, Rana Ayyub attacked ruling Bhartiya Janta Party leaders with even more scathing remarks alleging that instead of working to control Covid-19, they are engaged in cover up of their incompetence.
While this outrage was going on, a few reporters of the vernacular media actually visited the site and truth was revealed by the local credible sources. The place turned out to be Shringaverpur, a village about 45 Km from the Prayagraj city, where nearly one kilometre’s stretch on the banks of the River Ganga is traditionally used as the cremation ghat by the Hindus and Buddhists by cremation as well as burial. People from the nearby districts regularly take their dead to this place due to religious belief. The Hindus and Buddhists use cremation as standard method prescribed in the Texts for the disposal of the dead bodies but in certain eventualities they are also buried or immersed in the river (flowing water). Ordinarily, burial is done in cases of the death of a child, an unmarried person and saint/sanyasi, or a person died of leprosy, white stains disease, snake-bite or certain epidemics, etc. Besides, in a multi-layered Hindu society, certain castes and traditions also opt for burial by choice. For instance, the followers of Shaiva tradition in the area too prefer burial of dead over the cremation.
At any given point, one could find numerous graves at the site belonging to the current and previous years. One Hindi TV news channel even displayed nearly similar images of the site from the recent time and one from 2018. It's quite obvious that when India and CM Yogi Adityanath bashers and trolls started circulating pictures and stories of the dead bodies on the internet linking it to Covid deaths, none of them had bothered to check the place and bodies whether they were buried now or existed there for many years with only few fresh arrivals. What was even more shocking that the mainstream foreign media as also some such domestic news agencies reported the shocking details of the alleged sand graves of the Covid-19 dead without checking the background history and properly identifying the place as some referred to it as Sangam while others merely called it Prayag, and so on. The author’s question is: Can these media groups afford similar irresponsible behaviour while reporting it domestically? Afterall, one could find recent images floating on the internet of umpteen graveyards cluttered with the Covid dead in locations of US and many other countries.
It is true that the second Covid-19 wave had been severe in India, and administration and hospitals indeed faced many problems in management of patients and even dead for few weeks in various parts of the country. But even during this period, the state of Uttar Pradesh had followed a standard Covid protocol for the disposal of the bodies at state expense. Even WHO had lauded Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his administration in November 2020 citing the UP government's strategic response to COVID-19 by stepping up contact tracing efforts as exemplary and worth emulating by other states. In May 2021, the WHO has again lauded the Uttar Pradesh model of door-to-door Covid surveillance on its website and social media pages saying that the state is going to the last mile to stop COVID. In an article dated 7 May 2021 on its website under the heading “UTTAR PRADESH Going the last mile to stop COVID-19”, the WHO wrote how the Uttar Pradesh state government has initiated house-to-house active case finding of COVID-19 in rural areas by detailing 141,610 teams and 21,242 supervisors from the state health department to contain transmission by testing people with symptoms for rapid isolation, disease management and contact tracing.
Each monitoring team has two members, who visited homes in villages and remote hamlets to test everyone willing with symptoms of COVID-19 using Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) kits. Those who tested positive were isolated and given a medicine kit with suitable advice on disease management. All the contacts of those who tested positive were also quarantined and tested at home by a rapid response team. According to the WHO report, this exercise was started from 5 May and on the inaugural day itself WHO field officers monitored over 2,000 government teams and visited at least 10,000 households. Besides, the Primary and Community Health Centres in each Block within a district were engaged with routine sample collection, testing and treatment of people with symptoms in the rural areas. All cases requiring specialized medical care were taken to the District hospital and other earmarked Covid care facilities. All such measures have left only a little over 600 active cases in Uttar Pradesh with about 240 million population on date compared to Kerala with about 178,200 cases with only a little over 34 million people.
Why Media Ignores to See Truth?
The Covid story mentioned in the foregoing section is factual and comparative position of the two Indian states is lucid and clear. The author does not want to dwell upon the analysis or the merit of rather ill-conceived claim made apparently based on premise and supposition that Kerala is capturing one out of every two infections and other states only one out of 30-odd infections. Again, the arguments that Kerala is testing widely or the state authorities are more honest in reporting smacks bias and do not auger well in the light of facts. This is like casting aspersions of the integrity of the Indians living outside Kerala. Any country or state does not outrightly go to test every citizen indiscriminately. Its only when a person has some symptoms that he or she would undergo a Covid test. Hence testing facilities should be suffice and reliable rather than the count of numbers per se. However, even on numbers of tests, Kerala with such a high infection rate has recorded 28 million tests while Utter Pradesh has carried out 67 million testing on date. Then it is not merely Covid-19 pandemic, the mainstream Western and Arab media along with several domestic media houses constantly find faults with the present Indian government and adopt biased approach towards BJP ruled state governments in many other socio-political and religious issues.
So, the reasons for this discrimination are clearly political. The central government in India is ruled by the BJP and its allies led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The state government of Uttar Pradesh is also ruled by the BJP while Kerala is governed by the Marxists led Left (Communist) parties. If the same media house and its journalists find everything right with a communist regime and everything wrong with BJP rule, considered to be a nationalist and right-wing political party, then clearly it a matter of ideology-based biased outlook of the concerned media. Their bias and political leanings are amply clear and this is what is happening around the world these days. Most of the media houses do not qualify or fulfil the journalistic requirements or the objectives of journalism; instead, induced by their ideological and other interests, they try to see things across the world and report the occurrences with their coloured vision. Apart from the political philosophy, apparently such media groups and individual journalists are also driven by pecuniary interests in a significant way in their reporting.
The PEW Research Centre had carried out a study in 2014 on the American media with a view to ideological placement of each source’s audience on a 10-point scale (political values questions) of ideological consistency of those who got news from each source in a given period. The study had graded the media sources on the degree of audience being consistently more liberal or conservative which actually tantamount to indicate their left or right leanings, respectively. The results of study suggested that the majority of US media sources were left-leaning while only few of them are having a rightist-inclination. For instance, the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo News were more left-centric compared to CNN and NBC News while New York Times, The Guardian and Al Jazeera America were more left leaning compared to Washington Post, BBC, The Economist and Huffington Post. On the other hand, the more popular Fox News was found right-leaning while relatively less popular The Blaze and few others were more rightist in approach.
This appears to be the basic global trend now. With the advent and expansion of the electronic media, which is amply utilized by the print media too, the reach of media has shown phenomenal increase in the recent years. Mediamen, politicians, celebrities and common people are geared up to fully exploit it to their advantage worldwide. Consequently, the most part of the media has remained no more fair and neutral, and barring stray and exceptional cases, it is ideologically divided which, as so rightly explained by PEW Research with American case study, can be divided as left and right or liberal and conservative on a varying scale. People try to exploit media and, in turn, media exploits them in its own way, and it has acquired necessary potential and power even to determine or dictate the fate of the group of people or even governments.
How Truth is Determined!
Recently on 25 May 2021, The New York Times published their Covid story about the positive cases and death toll in India under three scenarios; a conservative scenario, a more likely scenario, and a worse scenario. According to the conservative estimates, the total number of cases on date would be 404.2 million and deaths 600,000 while a more likely scenario had 539.0 million total cases with 1.6 million deaths. Then their media wizards also visualized the worse-case scenario, where the total number of Covid patients were 700.7 million with total deaths 4.2 million. Obviously, the New York Times had trashed Indian web-based accounting and monitoring system and the corresponding official figures in doing this. What was more fantastic, with a view to adding credibility to the report, the media group has computed it to decimal place merely based on assumptions and conjectures. This situation reminds the author an old fable from the ancient Hindu text “Panchatantra”, how a group of three thugs had looted the sattvic Brahmana of his valued possession of a calf gifted by the householder through sheer bluff.
India is now a sort of global software superpower in tapping information technology for uses in personal and public domains, even better than US and some other Western countries in select areas. Every single Covid-test is captured with its result district-wise and state-wise and consolidated in the national portal on day-to-day basis to give the holistic and accurate status of the Covid patients. We all know that the Covid-19 and seasonal flu or cold have many common symptoms. Be it India or US or any other country of the world, the government can motivate and encourage people but it cannot force any individual to undergo the Covid test and, accordingly, people do it as per their health needs and convenience. In such a scenario, there is a likelihood that some patients with mild symptoms may not undergo test and, therefore, not captured in the databank of the national portal. But this eventuality would equally be true and hold good in respect of all countries, including the US and Western Europe. In such case, if a mainstream media acts on premise and assumptions to derive conclusions about other nations, any sane and rational person would consider it an ill-conceived and irresponsible act. By and large, this is the attitude and approach of several international media groups. As such incendiary and preposterous reports suit the political motives and interests of some Indian politicians, domestic media and pseudo-liberals, the story is promptly picked up by them for domestic consumption and for serving own interests.
Let’s take yet another case of opinion columnist appointed by another mainstream US newspaper, the Washington Post. In the modern Indian history, the country has seen many terrible communal riots such as Moplah riots in Malabar region in 1921, Calcutta riots in 1946, Noakhali riots in undivided Bengal in 1946, Bengal (East Pakistan) riots in 1950 and 1971, Bhiwandi riots in 1984, Gujarat riots in 2002, just naming a few. The characteristic and common features of all these riots, barring exception of Gujarat in 2002, were large scale arson, violence, rape and killings mostly of Hindus. The precursor of Gujarat (Ahmedabad) riots was the burning of two train bogies with 58 Hindu karsevaks including women and children by a mob of Muslim rioters. In the backlash that ensued, Hindu-Muslim riots started leading to the death of over one thousand people with many more injured. The death casualty figures this time were in the ratio of about 1 to 2.5 among Hindus and Muslims, respectively. The Western media and some Indian political parties named it as "Gujarat Pogrom" and accused Mr Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat of partisan ways and extreme bias against Muslims. Later, the Nanavati-Shah Commission and Special Investigation Team under direct supervision of the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to Mr Modi. However, a non-descript woman named Rana Ayyub of a family with a background of journalism did some dubious investigation under a fake identity and wrote a book holding the then Gujarat administration including Mr Modi responsible for the alleged excesses against Muslims during the riot. The book was received well by Indian leftist and left-centric politicians and liberals, but the Supreme Court of India dismissed her book citing "it is based upon surmises, conjectures, and suppositions and has no evidentiary value” in a criminal case. With her background, the Washington Post has found her worthy enough for reporting on India and she is now the star opinion columnist of the said newspaper.
Some of the left-leaning media groups of the Western and Arab world such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reuters, Ai Jazeera, and so on, are well known for their enduring biases and coloured reporting on India under the current (nationalist!) government. Rama Lakshmi, the Ex-correspondent of Washington Post for many years justifies their reporting as “factual reporting” but should this factual reporting be of the category of the New York Times or Reuters way mentioned in the earlier paragraphs? In the aforesaid context, the author would simply quote one recent instance of the New York Times's advertisement for the recruitment of a South Asia business correspondent based in India. The text of the advertisement published by the media group itself smacks of their bias but the author leaves to the audience to derive their own conclusions.
“India’s future now stands at a crossroads. Mr. Modi is advocating a self-sufficient, muscular nationalism centered on the country’s Hindu majority. That vision puts him at odds with the interfaith, multicultural goals of modern India’s founders. The government's growing efforts to police online speech and media discourse have raised difficult questions about balancing issues of security and privacy with free speech. Technology is both a help and a hindrance…”
The aforesaid text implies that the candidate must be anti-Modi and anti-establishment before claiming his/her candidature for the job in The New York Times.
Influence of PRC Over Global Media
It is nearly settled that in a bipolar world, it is difficult for the electronic and print media to remain independent, unbiased or neutral. One important reason for this could be the fact that most of the electronic and print media are owned and run by the big corporates, who have their own socio-political leanings and economic interests, and accordingly, try to shape opinion worldwide. Besides, during the past two decades or so, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has invested in the foreign media, educational and research institutions and political establishments a big way to tell their own story and shine image worldwide. Even some in the Indian mainstream media were recently noticed carrying out the propaganda articles by the Chinese mouthpieces to further the Chinese agenda on contentious issues. Besides, China is training up foreign journalists, buying up space in overseas media, and expanding their state-owned or controlled networks at an unprecedented scale. In a systematic manner, they have flooded and captured the world market with cheap consumer and other goods, and have a huge stockpile of over three trillion-dollar reserve to fiddle with other nationalities at sweet will. It is not surprising that the erstwhile liberal and conservative media is now more appropriately addressed and recognized as the leftist, left-centric and rightist media, respectively.
Also this is no more a secret that China is pumping millions into the foreign media outlets annually to create a new world order favourable to them through China Global Television Network (CGTN) and other state-controlled media/agencies like Xinhua, China Daily and Global Times. Much of the major US media groups are controlled by the entertainment-media corporations and it’s the entertainment sector that gives the Chinese Communist Party sufficient leverage. To learn about media’s vulnerabilities, one needs to learn who owns what because that ultimately determines the opinion building. For instance, the US NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC are reportedly owned by Comcast that also owns Universal Pictures, a minority partner to five Chinese state-owned companies in the Universal Beijing. Similarly, the ABC News is owned by the Walt Disney Company that also owns Walt Disney Studios and is partner with the Shanghai Disney Resort, where it’s about 43% partner to three Chinese companies controlled by the Shanghai city government. There are credible reports in public domain that many mainstream US media groups including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have received millions during the last few years in the name of advertisement from The China Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. These illustrations are perhaps only a tip of the iceberg of such fundings and pilferages. It is not surprising that China along with the leftist or left-leaning media and institutions is found pitted against the interests of the US and India, the first one as only superpower and the second one as only country with a potential to challenge the Chinese hegemony and supremacy over the world.
The aforesaid reasons are sufficed to explain why the large section of the US media has not been aggressive, in contrast to the Donald Trump led US administration, about the suspicious role of Beijing during the Covid-19 pandemic; instead, some of these left-leaning media groups have cooperated by repeating uncritically Beijing’s reports that it bears no responsibility for the spread of Covid-19. In turn, the CGTN and other Chinese state-controlled media have used the US media reporting as part of its internal propaganda campaign. In a sharp contrast, the same mainstream US media groups have left no stones unturned to embarrass India and its leadership during the Covid time. Besides, they have been constantly attacking Modi government in India on almost every development so often addressing it as “the Hindu Nationalist Government” with implied contempt and aversion. Their double standard is also evident when they spare own government and people on the Covid mismanagement but constantly target other democratic countries like India and Brazil with so obnoxious and preposterous reporting.
In common parlance, the aforesaid biased and partisan media reporting shall be condemned as yellow journalism and outrightly rejected by every sane and conscientious person. There shall be no two opinions that the mainstream and established media shall act in a more responsible and truthful way in their reporting in domestic as well as foreign matters. But it is also true that this unethical and so often fake reporting generates the kind of sensation and virtuosity that is very enticing for the masses to resist in capturing a vast readership/viewership, and in turn the business for the corporate group. Also, too much freedom in the democratic countries allow free hand for the evil foreign powers and operatives to try their hands with own selfish agenda. This certainly underlines the need for a more systematic and vigorous media reforms in the democratic countries especially in the US, Western Europe and India to safeguard their sovereignty, integrity and inherent values in the changing new world order.
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