Media manipulations

Our foreign correspondents must move from one country to another so that they retain their objectivity in reporting to India. 

Much of the public opinion in India about events abroad is formed from Indian media reports which often are quoting from western (British and American) media reporting. Most of us also accept versions about foreign affairs given by our government spokespersons.

Thus we are tacitly supporting the destabilisation of Syria by people armed and financed by the USA and Europe. There is probably also a role for Israel but we do not have the information. We are taken in by western reports duly published by our media about the dictatorial actions of president Assad, fighting to keep his country together and not be taken over by foreign powers.

Europe is heavily dependent on oil and gas supplies from the Middle East and Russia. British oil and gas supplies from the North Sea fields are heavily depleted and Britain increasingly depends on imports.

In earlier years, Britain handled this dependence by good old imperialism and was helped by the Americans and Europeans. Mohammed Mosadeq became prime minister of Iran in 1951. Among his many reforms was the nationalisation of Iranian oil and gas fields. This infuriated the British who took the help of the Americans to have him removed. Our protests were faint. Perhaps we had not been free long enough to realise the implications.

The British, French and Israel invaded Egypt when Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the waterway for Middle East oil and gas. Western media in both instances depicted these interventions as necessary for democracy and against dictatorship. Nehru did protest but to little avail. It was the Americans who in their own interest, not wanting Europe to control the Middle East, intervened to stop the invasion of Egypt.

In recent years we have had similar stories about Iraq, Libya, Syria and even Russia.
Tony Blair supported the invasion of Iraq and joined George Bush in the falsehood that Iraq had nuclear and chemical ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that Saddam Hussein might use at any time. He expected the invasion of Iraq and the dethronement of Saddam Hussein to be quick. The USA would then be in control of Iraq and of its huge oil and gas reserves. Britain could share that control especially since two of the largest oil companies in the world are British-Shell and BP (Shell also has Dutch ownership). That Iraq was primarily a Muslim country gave the ‘moral cover’ (after September 11) of a war against terrorism. Today Iraq is a wrecked nation and western powers exploit it.

Progressive Muslim country

India had a good friend in Saddam. Iraq was a very progressive Muslim country. Indeed, lawyers quoted the progressive Iraqi laws on women when the Shah Bano case for alimony to a divorced wife was being heard in courts. Iraq was also a major customer and supplier. But we meekly accepted media reports about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and that Saddam was evil. All our information was from western media. I do not think that we had even one person on the ground. Saddam was murdered but there was officially no protest from India.

Libya was another example of the new imperialism and our tame acceptance of western media reports. Whatever Gadaffi might have been, he was a benevolent despot in Libya. Low fuel prices, marriage bonuses, housing, education scholarships abroad, there were many sops for his people. Another dictatorship (Saudi Arabia) is favoured by western powers. Unlike Saddam or Gadaffi, it is an exporter of militant Islam and 9/11 terrorists. Western media does not excoriate Saudi Arabia. Libya was not particularly helpful to India with other Muslim countries. But we did buy oil and many thousands of Indians worked there and helped our balance of payments.

The latest target is Syria, more for geo political reasons to help Israel than for Syria’s resources. Syria has the support of Iran and will presumably go to Iran’s help if that country is invaded. We buy all the reports about how the Assads have been vile dictators. But it is not the job of western powers or any other country to bring about regime change in Syria. If there has to be a change, there are other countries who need it more.

Putin in Russia was criticised for jailing ‘punk rockers’, an amateur group who desecrated the premises of a church. That was never reported, nor their vile outpourings. Another example of biased western reporting that our media also bought. 

Qatar has financed the first news channel in ‘Al Jazeera’ that is not under western influence but has its own ‘boots on the ground’ when it sends in reports.

Our correspondents abroad are more or less settled there. It would be useful to find out the number of years’ of tenure of Indian foreign correspondents in western countries. If they are posted to hardship stations like the Middle East they probably spend much less time there. Our system has to change and correspondents must move from one country to another so that they retain their objectivity in reporting to India.     

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