Ranjona Banerji: Propaganda UnLtd

14 Nov,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The EU Disinfo Lab is an NGO that works on “researching and tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU, its member states, core institutions and core values”. Following the controversial visit of a set of rightwing Members of the European Parliament to Kashmir, the EU Disinfo Lab researched and discovered over 250 fake media outlets which serve what they call “Indian interests”. However looking through their research it is evident that these fake media outlets actually serve BJP interests.

A trail of shady ownership patterns of these fake sites leads to the opaque and elusive Srivastava Group, which owns the organisation which “invited” those 27 MEPs to Kashmir at a time when Indian non-BJP politicians and the media are not allowed into Kashmir or allowed with restricted access. Kashmir journalists are barely allowed to function and Reporters without Borders have done a damning report on this.

Uncovered: 265 coordinated fake local media outlets serving Indian interests

? India Alert : 8 million people cut off from the outside world !: https://mailchi.mp/rsf.org/ils-vont-passer-les-ftes-en-prison-496331

What we are looking at is BJP propaganda on the scale discussed during the Trump election or during Brexit. The Indian media is culpable in this because these sites and their actions encourage Islamophobia and the Indian media has actively played a role in promoting this propaganda. Let’s take the Times of India as an example, or rather the Bennett Coleman group. The visit of those 27 MEPs was hailed as a major triumph by sections of the Indian media including Times Now. That the visit was not official, and organised by an unknown lobbyist of questionable origins was not investigated by TV channels and other outlets. They just went along with the government. The fact that the Ministry of External Affairs was not in the loop did not come to light from the hard work of Times Now.

Then were was Aarti Tikoo Singh, employed with The Times of India, who went in an unspecified capacity, to depose before a United States Congress committee on human rights, to defend the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir. This is a journalist mind you. Not showing any solidarity with the terrible condition of journalists in Kashmir but supporting a government that has created their problems.

And now Rahul Shivshanker some biggest wig in Times Now writes this edit page piece. That is a clear degradation of an organisation that once commanded some little respect and is filled with journalists who work hard but are vilified by such actions and/or decisions.

Times Now is just one example of extreme media culpability.

Meanwhile, the tragedy of India continues to be played out in pieces. Because the media will write on the economic disaster facing us and then play up the news that the fascist President of Brazil has agreed to be chief guest at the next Republic Day as if some great honour has been bestowed on India. What can one feel but disgust at such media culpability?

Do we remember the collective outrage against the UPA after the Niira Radia revelations? Or when some scholars and activists attended seminars in the US by a Kashmiri academic of some dubious reputation? And do you hear the almost deathly silence when we have similar and worse scenarios being played out in India today?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and columnist. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

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