An Open Letter to The Hindu
A friend asked me to look at the last page of the Hindu today (July 4th, 2009). At a first look, it appeared as though there were a lot of advertisements on the page. After a closer observation, I found out that I was not far from the truth. The lead article “Visiting the Vavuniya IDP camps: an uplifting experience” is nothing short of an advertisement for the Lankan government. The article flows like a good corporate ad – the (non-existent) virtues of the Lankan state have been overstated while its miserable failures have been understated.
I’ve been associated with the media enough to know how the Hindu functions, what are its holy cows, and its perception of “ethics.” I understand ‘Manufacturing Consent’ well enough to know how your dependence on being in the good books of the government and the corporates influences your paper’s stance. But what I don’t understand is your paper’s belief that your reader will accept your stories as gospel truth – this reflects in the quality of quite some your articles which are ideal cases of pamphleteering. And today’s article by Mr N. Ram takes the Oscar.
I fail to understand how a visit to any refugee camp can be an ‘uplifting experience,’ as Mr. Ram describes it. Every refugee is a tale of tragedy, a product of unfavourable circumstances beyond her/his control. And in Sri Lanka, they are products of an ethnic war, the roots of which lie in decades of state sponsored discrimination against the Tamils. Do you seriously think that all of your readers would fall for those pictures of all smiles and no tears? Do you think that we would believe that the Tamils would be happy in camps set up by a government that massacred their people by the thousands to apprehend a handful of so-called “terrorists”?
Never would the Hindu publish a story that is even mildly in praise of Israel. Never would the Hindu miss an opportunity to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. But different standards for genuine movements in India, Sri Lanka and China. But then, you have no interests worthy of concern in Israel. The Israeli govt doesn’t give your journalists free access like Sri Lanka or China. You don’t ruffle feathers in the Indian govt by adopting a pro-Palestinian stance but you might lose your precious government ads by being pro-Tamil or even mildly supportive of those brave tribals of Lal Garh. And let us not forget the Sri Lanka Ratna conferred on your Editor-in-chief by the Lankan state. Thus, the mistakes of the Lankan govt and the misery of the Tamil people – they don’t exist for the Hindu.
You try to portray a picture of being an “ethical” newspaper but your selective morality stands exposed in your coverage of people’s movements in and around India. You are no where near radical – you want to play it safe, be on the good side of the establishment. And your leftist stance? A farce, that will dropped at the first instance of trouble. I am willing to bet that if the Maoists target your interests tomorrow, you will sing paeans to the Salwa Judum. Even pro-right media orgs are better than you. At least they are honest about their stance.
PS I know that this letter will not be published. Truth hurts, and a paper like yours that lives in a world of constructed falsehoods wouldn’t want to face it. This exercise was to let you know that your readers are not fooled by your stories. That there are quite some who know the Hindu for what it is – a pro-establishment, bordering on the reactionary newspaper. There are others who are willing to wage an ideological war against such forces of reaction – through written letters, e-mails and blogs. Of course, we do not have a media mafia to back us, only the truth. And our conscience which we haven’t sold for some Ratna.
I wrote this letter as a response to the article “Visiting the Vavuniya IDP camps: an uplifting experience,” by N. Ram in the Hindu, Saturday, July 4th, 2009. A reliable contact within the Hindu told me that it was highly unlikely that my letter would get published. It was expected. My intention was to get the point across to the paper that there is resistance to their propoganda.