Indian media accused of not demanding for evidence
“They are overcommitted to projecting India as a success story”
ISLAMABAD: The escalating tensions between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks have led to the declaration of hostilities in unexpected quarters – Pakistani media has declared a virtual war on Indian media for its “knee-jerk” finger-pointing across the border, and its unquestioning acceptance of the Indian government’s “Pakistan-link” theory.
Most Pakistanis are angry and upset about the Indian allegations, which they believe are “unsubstantiated”. Even the Indian government, whose highest officials have made the allegation in unambiguous terms, have not come in for as much flak as the messenger, the assumption being that governments will say what they have to, but it is the duty of the media to question.
Leading the charge against the India media are the Pakistani television channels, with panel discussions shows devoted exclusively to the coverage of the Mumbai attacks by the Indian media.
Even on talk shows about the impact of the attacks on the relations between the two countries, among the first questions that anchors are shooting off are: “Do you think the India media should have pointed a finger at Pakistan within such a short time, and without any evidence? Why do we see this knee-jerk response every time some terrorist incident takes place in India?”
One of the big successes of the peace process since 2004 was the greater understanding and camaraderie between the media of the two countries, thanks to frequent interactions. But the smoke and gunfire of Mumbai has overshadowed even that.
Top Pakistani journalists are asking why the Indian media, more specifically the electronic media, have been so willing to accept the government theory that the attackers came from Pakistan. Top Pakistani journalists are asking why the Indian media, more specifically the electronic media, have been so willing to accept the government theory that the attackers came from Pakistan.
They are dismissive of reports in the Indian press that the terrorists had links with Lashkar-e-Taiba, or that they landed in Mumbai in a boat from Karachi. Instead, they are asking why these reports are not demanding the government for evidence of these allegations.
On Dawn News, three top guns of the Pakistani media – anchors Hamid Mir, Talat Hussain and Nasim Zehra – dissected the coverage in an hour-long programme that was aired both on Saturday and Sunday.
Their scathing conclusion – Indian media are “too nationalistic”, “smug”, they told “lies” or at best “half-truths”, “did not ask questions”, resorted to “clichés” and have perfected the art of projecting Pakistan as the enemy.
A similar programme aired on Geo TV on Sunday. The feeling is widespread in the Pakistan journalistic community that the Indian media are responsible for the current tensions between the two countries and for pushing the Indian government to take on its neighbour even if it means launching a military strike. The India media have been accused of not even looking at other possibilities, such as the involvement of an Indian group in the attacks.
The new evidence in the Samjhauta Express firebombings pointing a finger at a Hindutva militant group has come up repeatedly as one reason why the Indian media should have been less “hasty” in arriving at its conclusions.
On the whole, Pakistanis — as evident from public phone-ins to talk shows — are even questioning if the entire ghastly episode was not all engineered by Indian intelligence agencies working in connivance with the U.S. to “defame” Pakistan with the intention of dismembering it.
“[The] Indian media is overcommitted to projecting India as a success story. They are not used to reporting state failures. They are used to reporting India as a country where nothing bad happens, its Army as the best thing in the world. It projects its heroes as supermen, taller than the Himlayas…So the gap between what the Indian media are committed to reporting, and the crass state failure they had to do report [in Mumbai], they ended up filling it with lies,” Mr. Hussain, a top-rated anchor with Aaj TV, told Dawn News.
On the same programme, Mr. Mir, who anchors Geo’s flagship show Capital Talk, asked why the Indian media were not asking hard questions of the Indian government.
“When Pakistani forces say they have killed five Al-Qaeda, when they say Rashid Rauf has been killed in a drone attack, Pakistani media are asking them questions — show us the bodies. But Indian media are not asking important questions.
“There are 500 nautical miles between Karachi and Gujarat, and the Indian media are saying the terrorists came in boats from Karachi. Why are they not questioning the failure of their intelligence agencies?”
Mr. Mir said the Indian media had to take responsibility of the sharp downslide in the relations between the two countries.
At a press conference, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi too accused the Indian media of “irresponsible” conduct.
Giving himself credit for having stayed on in India for three days after the Mumbai incidents began, he said he had “engaged with their political leadership, engaged their intelligentsia, faced their media,” to explain Pakistan’s point of view.
In response to his appeal for “national unity” and his declaration that the country must “hope for the best and plan for the worst”, at least one Punjabi television channel started playing national songs from the 1965 and 1971 wars, including Noorjehan’s famous song dedicated to soldiers, “Merey watan key sajheeley jawanon”.