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Western media’s colonial gaze

Global coverage of the pandemic in India has been insensitive and sensationalist

May 28, 2021 9:16:19 pm
Pune news, Pune city news, Pune Covid-19 news, PMC Pune staff covid-19, PMC pune jobs, Pune city news Pune covid cases news, pune today news, pune local news, new pune news, pune covid 19 cases, covid, pune today news, latest pune newsAt a Covid-19 care centre in Pune. (File)

Written by Syed Zafar Islam

Capitalism’s Conscience: 200 Years of the Guardian is a collection of essays launched recently to coincide with 200 years of existence of the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Some of the write-ups confirm what the world already knows, the West’s vice-like grip over the flow of information since the beginning of modern journalism. Their complete dominance through the media, films, books and theatre, has shaped our worldview in the countries which are the recipients of the flow of information. The Iraqi Kurds thought Saddam Hussein was a bad guy but the Western media portrayed him as a modern, non-religious, loveable dictator because he had waged a war against the more dangerous Islamic Iran. He was romanticised in the Western press until he invaded Kuwait. Then they called him a bad guy who was rightly deposed. Their portrayal of Saddam as a villain lingers on.

Indian media barons have never made an attempt to compete with the Western media. This lack of farsightedness is hurting our national security.

The coverage of the sudden onset of the second wave of Covid in India by a section of the Western media has been sensationalist to say the least. One got the impression that the burning pyres in crematoriums and the fragility of the healthcare system were put on repeat mode. They kept hopping from one city to another and even though their first story was no different from their next, they kept reporting on the funerals and cries of relatives in callous disregard of the privacy of the relatives. They were ruthless and insensitive, as if the ones suffering and dying were sheer numbers for them.

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We are all devastated by the deaths and sufferings of our countrymen. I have lost many friends and relatives to Covid. I was severely affected by coronavirus complications last year and spent nearly two weeks in hospital, swinging between hope and despair. So I know the suffering. I am not aware of a family which has not been affected by the deadly second wave. One may have a view that most state governments seemed not fully prepared to deal with the Covid’s fury this time. Nevertheless it is our pain. It is India’s pain. We shall collectively overcome.

But the vulture-like behaviour of some global media outlets betrayed their class and quality of journalism. They may gloat over our collective pains but we Indians would like to tell them we do not trust you. We would like to tell you emphatically you have no birth rights over free press and democracy. I do not hold any brief for Indian journalism but we have enough of our own pen pushers who keep the government on the straight and narrow.

So, please do not be sanctimonious. We are aware of your dubious roles during the invasion of Iraq by your masters. You did not have the courage to ask questions of President George W Bush and his lackey, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Today you are pouncing on our nation and our Prime Minister for what you perceive as a mishandling of what is nature’s fury. Your chest is puffed up, you even seem to have a swagger in your steps. But where was your moral high ground when you had a colossal failure in your duty to question the existence of WMD in Iraq? I know what you were up to. You sat in the laps of American and British soldiers and pretended to be doing impartial journalism. Let me tell you what my Iraqi friends think of you — you are phoney journalists. It took a rookie TV channel to expose your nefarious hobnobbing with the Allied Forces. You called it embedded journalism while doing the bidding for your imperial masters.

Do not teach us how we should run our democracy and our government. The days of colonial manoeuvrings and manipulations are over. Your obsession with truth and impartiality is only to help your masters maintain their dominance over their former colonies.

We are following your coverage of the ongoing deadly and inhuman assault of the Israeli forces in Gaza. We notice the absence of your noble responsibility to hold power to account. President Biden is dithering. The West is wavering. And all you are doing is body counts. You stand exposed.

We Indians cannot forget your dubious coverage of Kashmir since August 5, 2019. You think India is not a first world country so you can get away with your sensationalism. Replace Netanyahu’s forces with Modi’s. Replace Gaza with Kashmir. And tell the truth, would you have covered that situation in the same lacklustre way? Truth is our government believes Kashmiris are our own people and we will never ever imagine the naked display of forces against them. But your coverage of Kashmir made us think doomsday is around the corner. Even the undemocratic China is rubbing your nose in the sand for giving a free hand to Israel while pouncing on China for its human rights violations in Xinjiang.

I often hear that my Indophile friends in the West have quaint complaints about modern India. They seem to miss the old world charm of India which had made them fall in love with the country. Their nostalgia for the snake charmers of Rajasthan, sadhus of the Himalayas and missionaries’ zeal in looking after India’s underprivileged is frankly quite absurd.

I understand why Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire won eight Academy awards. The majority of Indians were not amused and not without a reason. It was the height of conceit to show India’s underbelly and ignore its rapid progress. Many parachuted Western journalists often look for Dharavi and other poverty-stricken places as a background for their stories. After all it fits with their image of India of old and not the New India being built under the strong leadership of PM Modi.

You are welcome to report and hold us accountable for our actions because the media in India is independent. But please overcome your hypocrisy and be honest to your profession.

The writer is BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, national spokesperson of the BJP, and former Managing Director, Deutsche Bank, India. Views are personal

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