Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Hindu - Lo and behold, India's only Chinese newspaper!

Image of protests in Lhasa from NYT
I stopped subscribing to The Hindu long ago, mainly because of its dull headlines and prose that put you back to bed. I had another reason to do so given the paper's unabashedly biased coverage of China and CPI (M) (notably, the party's role in Nandigram). So every now and then I revisit the paper to reinforce my decision. Today was no different. I picked up a copy to see how the paper had reported the protests in Tibet. (In fact, it's a delight to pick up papers when they report with their gloves off. Editions of The Pioneer during the Ram Setu controversy and The Hindu during Nandigram should be essential reading for journalism school students on how to introduce bias into reports or, hopefully, avoid them.)

Anyway, back to The Hindu and Tibet. The Delhi edition today had a brief pointer on page one (by PTI) that led the reader to page 14 for more details. Interestingly, the paper had used PTI's report that was more or less impartial, even though incomplete, as a veil for the Chinese government's version in the inside page. The report here was filed by Xinhua (who else?). Xinhua, in case you don't know, is the Chinese government's mouthpiece. (To give you an idea of the extent of censorship in China: CCTV, another government blabber horn, is a media outlet where computer screens have pop-ups telling their employees what not to report! Just like a morning dose of chai, the Chinese journalists get their morning's share of censorship.)

And I cannot think of any other paper in India that uses releases from Xinhua so liberally, more so on events concerning Tibet. Xinhua's despatch was headlined "Shops torched in Lhasa" (probably, The Hindu wants us to believe it was a case of electrical malfunction that resulted in the fire?). Nowhere does the report mention that these protests are the most serious the Chinese government has faced in the last 20 years, something that The New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC highlight in their opening paragraphs. Instead we are fed innocuous details of arson in Lhasa. Not a mention of why the protests have erupted. Neither a word about the march by Tibetan refugees in India or their protests here, as reported by all other Indian papers. Nor a quote from the protesters in India or those opposed to China's rule in Tibet. Too bad Tianamen hasn' t reenacted itself in Lhasa yet!

The Xinhua report goes on to quote the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, who terms the protests by "some monks" as a plot to "wreck the harmonious life of the Tibetan people". "We are resolutely opposed to any plot attempting to separate Tibet from China," Qin Gang regurgitates. And so does The Hindu. But it is the last line of the report that beats all. It should also be seen as the last nail in The Hindu's coffin of its editorial intergrity. It reads: "Relevant Chinese departments will handle the issue"! Point made: that it's an internal Chinese affair and the Chinese are capable of suppressing this revolt. Which newspaper, but for a deferential rag like The Hindu, would print something like that?

As a dirge for the paper, I reproduce a link to a brilliant letter that Tenzing Sonam, a Tibetan filmmaker, wrote to N. Ram, the paper's editor, after his series (an article here) glorifying China's role in Tibet.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting to you The Hindu with a new punchline: China's national newspaper since 2008!


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