Warmongering Chinese media a mirror image of Indian counterparts
"Trespassing," "kicked out" or reminding of the other country of losses suffered in previous wars, are just some of the words out of many used by the Chinese media in relation to the current stand-off between India and China at the tri-junction between Bhutan and the two countries in the Doklam region since last month.
While no one from the field of journalism would in any way label editorials and such line of reporting as conforming to ethics of the profession, such blatant disregard for them, along with calls for military action by the Army of its country against that of another gives a chance to look at how their Indian counterparts have acted not in just the present case, but previously too, when it came to India's other neighbour, Pakistan.
The reporting by various media publication in China has clearly gone far away from journalism, but the reality is if the names of countries are changed or switched in such reports, they could very reflect the reality of Indian journalism, at least in the English Television segment.
And the complaining by this very segment and calling such statements in the Chinese sphere as inflammatory and as calls for war, reek of heavy irony if compared to the treatment of similar issues, especially related to Pakistan, by those conducting prime time debates in India.
Those supporting the inciting nature of news being reported on Indian television sets would try to point out that acts against Pakistan, which requires retaliation unlike the situation on the Chinese front. In all honesty, all that has happened this time is that the roles have been reversed.
In the case of Pakistan, India is the big brother which does not need to focus on what the Pakistani media reports seriously and can even call former officers of their Army on air and lambast them for their country's actions.
The dynamics when it comes to China are just not the same, and this fact though difficult to digest for many who claim to be the voice of the nation, will have to be accepted nonetheless, even if it comes with a pinch of salt.
Private Indian Channels vs Chinese state media
This has brought out not only the fault of the coverage of serious issues on most India news channels but also laid bare the reason behind why these networks do what they do. The reality is behind the veil of 'Nationalism' that such media houses claim to stand for, lies the search for high TRP ratings for which, what seem to be a million channels, are apparently fighting for. That is what warmongering gets these channels, especially when it comes to a country like Pakistan or even China with which India has a checkered history.
Warmongering, that is, encouraging or advocacy of aggression against other countries or groups, is exactly how the reporting of Indian media (TV in particular) both in the past (Against Pakistan) and the present (Against both Pakistan and China), and that in China itself, needs to be labelled as.
The fact is that the propaganda related to the country is expected to be reported by the government owned media houses or publications around the world. As is done in the case of China where the state media or the private ones (read all others) which are directly or indirectly owned by senior, past or present, officials of the country pick up this mantle.
The surprising fact when it comes to India is, while the state-controlled channels such as those run by Prasar Bharati like DD News have shown restraint and maintained semblance of ethical reporting and not given way to sensationalism, the private news channels seem to have taken it upon themselves to take on the Chinese media as well as the whole of Pakistan by themselves.
Rhetoric helped by rash statements from those in power
The eyes of the entire world, at least of the public and the media from both of the countries were on the meeting between the heads of state of both India and China at the recently held G20 summit in Germany.
And though the media of both would have loved Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping to have given them more material by having a confrontation of some sort, they managed to not only keep the meeting co-cordial, they also praised each other's contribution in other areas such as BRICS etc.
Though the Chinese media and the various spokesperson of its government have continued to make statements that may rub their Indian counterparts the wrong way. The meeting in Hamburg seems to have given the cue to other leaders, at least on the Indian side, to tone down the rhetoric when it came to the present stand-off between the two countries.
This is the reason that in the past week or so, none of the top leadership on the Indian side has made inciting statements on the issue. A marked difference from earlier comments made such as those by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat about the Army being prepared for a two-and-a-half front war or Defence Minister Arun Jaitley reminding China that India is not the same as that of 1962.
Media is not doing anyone any favours
The situation at the tri-junction is complicated and tense enough without the media of both countries adding fuel to fire. As instead of helping with bringing out facts related to the issue, the focus has now shifted in justifying aggression from both forces.
While this might be helpful for in the search for TRP's, it is not doing anyone any favours, especially the Army of both countries. Though it is being done so under the garb of showing support to the armed forces, it should be remembered that calls for war is easily made sitting in air-conditioned studios and newsrooms, far away from the reality that soldiers who take part in them die and nations, irrespective of a victory or defeat, lose considerably in terms of human and economic loss.
Instead of questioning the false bravado of the leaders of their country by checking and double checking tall claims made by them, the channels have turned into a propagandist machinery selling an agenda. This while understandable in terms of the state media in China is almost disastrous in the case of private channels in India.
The risk can be seen by not only the 1962 war between the countries where missteps by the government of the time created the circumstances which led to the brief yet damaging war for India. The steps have been blamed by observers of the events of the time on the country's leaders trying to pacify the media and the public of the country which wanted the government to take action against the Chinese.
Such risks hold true not only related to the Indian media but also of foreign countries. A recent example being the flawed reporting from American journalist on the threat posed by Iraq which was misreported, intentionally or unintentionally, to possess weapons of mass destruction. This created an environment where the public supported the US government's decision to got to war. Ramifications of which are still being faced by the world.
An ideal opportunity to correct past wrongs
The idea and action of course correction is an extremely difficult task, especially when not provided with a mechanism to make the mistakes being made visible. The working of the Chinese media and reporting done by it is exactly such a tool for the Indian media.
This comes not only as a view in the mirror of the flaws in reporting in terms of the happenings in the border with China but also in the case of Pakistan. Along with the overall mode that the majority of channels in India seem to have taken, of not questioning the narrative put out by those in power through a neutral journalistic lens. Instead, they are serving to the watching public exactly what those in the government would want the nation to know for its own benefits. This is not journalism, even if it might be paraded as that.
So if it is felt in India that the media in China is wrong and is not performing its duties, a logical corollary to it is that the India television media is guilty of the same. And it would do well to learn from the past and recent history, so as to not repeat the mistakes that could end up causing damages to those on the front, whether that along with China or Pakistan.