Foreign Correspondents in India

Searching for information on foreign correspondents in India has proven to be very difficult. I did happen to find a very interesting article from the American Journalism Review. It mentioned that there are several news publications that have foreign bureaus in India:

  • Christian Science Monitor: New Delhi bureau
  • Associated Press: New Delhi bureau
  • Los Angeles Times: New Delhi bureau
  • New York Times: New Delhi and Mumbai bureaus
  • Wall Street Journal: New Delhi and Mumbai bureaus
  • Washington Post: New Delhi bureaus

In general, India is safe to travel to for a tourist, but there still are issues for travelers. I went to India this past summer for six weeks and never felt unsafe, but that isn’t always the case for some female travelers. It’s not easy to travel in India as a woman compared to the experiences of a male tourist. It’s also not exactly easy for native Indian women in their own country, so it’s definitely not going to be easy for tourists coming to the country.

An article by US Today highlighted a lot of the fears women have about going to the country for touristic reasons. The survey they cited said that traffic from western countries, like the US and Canada decreased by 35% after the media’s reports on India’s prevalent rape accusations.

For a foreigner reporting in the country, things are a little different.

An article by First Post, an online news publication that is run by Indians who mostly reside in India, shared a survey that said India is more dangerous for journalists than Pakistan. The survey was done by the International News Safety Group (INSG) and it explained how there were 40 journalists and support staff killed in the first half of 2013 in India, over half (21) were killed in peacetime as opposed to warfare.

I found a very interesting article that explained the day-to-day life of a foreign journalist in India written by an Indian writer on his blog. The most interesting piece of information from that reading is that foreign correspondents in India usually get 100,000 rupees a month for their salary, which is basically $1,568.

There is also a really interesting article by the Huffington Post that discusses in great detail on how foreign reporters inaccurately report on the country in comparison to local journalists. He says that there was a time when foreign reporters went “native.” What he means by that is reporters used to extensively immerse themselves in India’s culture, history and language. He explains how that truly added to foreigner reporter’s work and that’s been lost throughout the years. He also says when foreign correspondents arrive in India’s big cities, they limit their social and professional circles to other foreign correspondents. He says poignantly: “The native view that they reflect is usually the view of the elites they are familiar with.”

The Huffington Post article also notes that on the flip side of this issue, the objectivity and unfamiliarity with India could be invaluable by providing a different perspective than most local journalists can provide. However, a reporter’s lack of knowledge of a country that is so often exorcized and seen as a weird oddity can end up misinforming instead of informing their audience.

India: Dangers

There is some really interesting data reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that expands on the severity of danger journalists face in India. Thirty-four journalists have been killed in India since 1992 whose motives of death have been confirmed.

As CPJ detailed, reporters on the political beat suffered the most deaths with 41% of the journalists who died since 1992 were reporting on politics. This matches according to the global statistics that political beats produce the highest quantity of deaths for journalists. Corruption beat comes in second with 29% and third is a tie between business and culture beats, both 24%.

As with the global trends, different likelihoods of death occur for different media platforms based off of CPJ’s research and data. Of the 34 journalists who died after 1992 in India, 41% were print reporters/writers. This differs from the global trend of broadcast being the most dangerous media platform. This makes sense for India because as we discussed in class, newspapers have such a heavy influence in the country (there is basically zero digital competition) and since there are more print newspapers than any other form of media, there will be more reporters working for print. Therefore, the likelihood for print reporters to die increases as the pool of print journalists increases. Camera operator comes in second with 21% and editor comes in at third with 18%.

CPJ separated “job” and “medium,” which show the same statistics. Journalists working for print media suffered from more deaths with 68% of journalists who died having worked for the print medium. Television came in second with 32% and radio with 3%.

The type of death for journalists in India fall into one of two categories: 62% of journalists were murdered and 38% were on dangerous assignment.

The gender differences in danger for journalists in India are interesting. Although 97% of the journalists who died between 1992 and 2015 were male and 3% were female, women are suffering from different issues unique to them.

As one might expect, women have to take even more extreme cautions than their male counterparts because, simply, they are women. Female journalist Nivedita Mookerji explained in an article recently that journalists who are female face a different set up problems than men. She says that female journalists must try not to walk the streets alone at night, but she does point out that that is almost unavoidable for many working women who finish their day of work around 10 p.m. and midnight.

“It’s not as if we would all be attacked and raped, but such incidents occur time and again,” she said in the DW article. “We know that women are not safe in cities such as Delhi, especially in busses. The subway is safer as there is more security personnel and better surveillance. There are hence fewer cases of sexual harassment in the Delhi Metro.”

India: Comparative Coverage

As I mentioned before in a prior blog post, India’s constitution, Article 19(1)(a), says: “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.” The Freedom House Organization elaborates a lot further on the intricacies of the levels of freedom available to reporters in the country.

According to Freedom House, India had the greatest amount of press freedom of all South Asian countries in 2013 but the national elections of 2014 brought many restriction issues to the surface.

Copyright free image.
Copyright free image.

Some of the issues of press freedom included:

  • Interference by media owners in editorial content
  • An expansion of censorship and surveillance of digital platforms
  • An increase in journalist killings
  • Continuing legal actions against journalists
  • Temporary suspension of all television, print, and internet services in Kashmir

Despite India’s constitution including a similar equivalent of the United State’s First Amendment, there are other laws in the country that hinder press freedom and exploit Article 19 (1)(a)’s ambiguity.

I found a very fascinating video on Youtube about what random people on the streets of Mumbai think about freedom of speech in their country. It is my opinion that the West has this notion in their minds that people in developing countries do not care about political, economic and cultural issues. This video proves that assumption wrong and illustrates completely that Indians care about freedom of speech in their country (they always have!) and they want a government that allows for their voices to be heard.

For my comparisons of coverage, I focused on three articles: One from the Times of India, one from Aljazeera America and the other from Fox News. All three articles reported on the bodies found in the India’s Ganga River in mid-January of 2014.

The Time of India article’s headline stated that there were 30 bodies found but Aljazeera and Fox both reported about 100 bodies being found. I could not find an article on the Times of India that addressed the number change. I did, however, find a follow-up article that covered the potential perpetrator of the body dumping and the number of bodies mentioned in the lead of that story was “a large number of bodies.” Why would the Times of India want to be so ambiguous when it came to reporting a blatant number of bodies found? The source in that article that gave them that number was the inspector general of police. Could he not want the public to know just how many bodies were actually found?

Aljazeera’s coverage of the event is very culturally sensitive. The reporter sought out sources that could adequately explain the possibility that it may not be associated with criminal activity, but it could actually be a part of a religious ceremony or practice. They reported under a clear context of cultural, societal and religious norms which added to the clarity and sensibility of their reporting.

Fox News’ coverage was very straight to the point and did not have the feature element that Aljazeera’s tone of the coverage had. They informed the reader of the religious practice and left it at that.

The Role of the Media in India

In a Youth Kiawaaz article that discusses the role of the media in contemporary India, the author notes that the youth have a big impact on the media’s role. As the author puts it, “The youth undoubtedly forms a fundamental part of a civilization which is evinced by the fact that more often than not it is the youth that leads a protest against an objectionable act.”

Young people utilize the internet and other forms of media to critique, condemn and question  corruption or other wrong doings. Newspapers also have editorial pages that feature opinions of every day citizens and there are special sections that cater specifically to the thoughts and critiques of young people. Their viewpoint is expressed through these mediums and it gives them a platform upon which to vocalize their personal perspectives that most definitely differ from that of older generations who usually have more opportunities to express their opinions. The author also explains that news channels also extend this opportunity to young people, which they utilize in the same way.

Blogging has also cropped us as a substantially impactful way to assess the current going-ons of India. Once the law was removed recently that would punish anyone posting what the government deemed to be “offensive,” watch dog bloggers could breathe much easier.

In an article about the role of newspapers in Indian society, the author explains that newspapers function as the “vox populi” (the voice of the people) and an education to inform the public on important matters in the country. The author calls it the “people’s university.” Every topic is covered and every topic is considered important, whether it has to do with religion, agriculture, business, etc. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the people of India are illiterate so educating them on important topics through newspapers and other print media is not as effective through this method.

Newspapers are not controlled by the government and work as watch dog reporters to inform the public and keep the government officials accountable. But, as we read in the article “Citizen Jain,” that method of reporting might be changing or at least shifting. Newspaper editors and controllers, like the one profiled in that article, might be trying less ethical methods of reporting news in order to turn a profit. What kind of impact will that have on Indian newspaper’s legacy of reporting on key topics as a means of educating the masses?

The news piece above discusses the controversy surrounding the documentary, “India’s Daughter” that was banned by the Indian government immediately after its release. In this short video, the reporter explains Leslee Udwin’s — the documentary’s creator — belief about why it should not be banned. The ban on the film (at least what the government is saying) is that the trial of the accused has yet to be completed and the sexual assault incident that the documentary covers should not be made public.

Udwin, a native of Britain, believes that the documentary should be available for broadcast because of its value to bring sensitive gender issues to light and to create awareness of the horrific events that took place and continuously take place against women. It’s evident as to how she views her role of reporting and it’s interesting how it conflicts with that of the Indian government’s expectations of what the role of a journalist is.

The news organization that created the video above is called Mango News and they bring up very interesting points in their video report that reflect a lot about the media’s role in India. They analyze the ethics that Udwin and her employer, BBC, utilized to create their documentary. Also, the video criticizes the Indian government and other mainstream media outlets. They are not afraid to hold the government accountable and to push them to be more democratic and progressive. Mango News is an interesting and fascinating news outlet that definitely caters to a more progressive group of the Indian public, most likely young, who want to have a deeper perspective on issues from reporters who aren’t afraid to be critical.

Freedom and Protection of the Press in India

India ranked a very low 140th rank in Reporter’s Without Border’s 2013 Press Freedom Index ranked out of 179 listed countries. In India’s constitution, Article 19(1)(a) says: “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.” What is the reality of the media’s freedom and protection in India?

The Press Council of India
In 1996, the Press Council of India was established as a watchdog to the press and media in the country, making sure that newspapers and publications are practicing ethical journalism. The council is headed by a Chairman, usually a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, consists of twenty-eight other members. Twenty of those members represent the press and are nominated by media organizations, five are nominated from the two houses of Parliament and three represent cultural, literary and legal fields. Their terms last three years and the council is funded by revenue from registered newspapers depending on their circulation.

The council has no power to do anything more than criticize the press for ethical wrong-doings and are unable to punish news organizations or reporters.

Official Secrets Act
This law was created in 1923 to counter espionage during the time of Britain’s colonization of India and clearly refers to any and all acts that involve helping enemy’s of India. Also, it bans anyone from approaching, inspecting or passing over a prohibited government site. The Act details that helping the state could be anything the government deems as a form of communicating a sketch, plan, secret, or password to the enemy. Unfortunately, this has often times come to be applied to journalism and reporting of the news.

The criticism is that the clause stipulating that information from any government office is considered official information can override Right to Information Act 2005 requests. Iftkhar Gilani was arrested in June 2002 for violating this act. The first military report suggested that the information he had was secret  despite being available to the public. The second report contradicted this and said that there was no “official secret.” Gilani was released to avoid having two of the government’s ministries give out conflicting reports. The case of journalist Iftkhar Gilani exemplifies how the government can use this act to abuse their overreach of power.

Information Technology Act (Section 66A)
The act was introduced into law in 2008 and was controversial from the beginning. In Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, those who are found to have posted material online that is considered “grossly offensive, to contain “menacing character” or cause “annoyance or inconvenience” could be jailed for up to three years. Fortunately, in March 2015, the Supreme Court reversed the law and deemed Section 66A unconstitutional.

Country Background: History, Politics, Media and Demographics

India is the world’s second most populous country with about 1.2 billion people, according to The National Bureau of Asian Research. Poverty is very widespread in India, despite the large and rapid amount of growth that has occurred in the past twenty years within the country. Over half the population lives on less than $2 a day.

india-population-pyramid-2014

According to India’s census, there are 940 women for ever 1,000 men. CNN reported in an article that the influx is due to female infanticide because culturally, Indians desire to have sons as opposed to daughters. It makes sense why there are such a high frequency of cases where women are harmed, hurt or assaulted because of how many more men than women. If there is already a societal stigma to being female, then men will more likely to dehumanize them and that can result in cases of violence or harm to women.

India is an ancient country rich with history and change. As detailed in Geographia, once Britain gained complete control of all European trade within India, they imperialized the country after an unsuccessful revolt by India.

During the beginning of the 20th century, India made many attempts to gain self-rule from the British. What also arose from this time period was heated tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the country, which had been developing for quite some time. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims is still alive and applicable in modern times. At the time, Muslims, a minority in India, did not like the possibility of their future India being a Hindu government. This is around the time when Gandhi entered the scene to promote peace and harmony between both groups. On August 15, 1947, the Indian Independence Bill took place.

“India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition.” – Mark Twain

Currently, India has a Federal Republic government. India’s major governmental issues includes corruption, deficits and lack of established spending priorities. The Indian government has also been under fire in recent years for a lack of laws preventing sexual violence against women and lack of laws to adequately prosecute perpetrators. With global and international attention on this issue, India seems to be reacting in a more progressive direction to resolve these issues, but they definitely have a long way to go.

In late March of this year, Aljazeera reported that a law that would have given authorities the power to jail people for publishing offensive posts online was struck down by judges of India’s top court. That is a great development in promoting free speech in India and will hopefully be the catalyst for more positive laws supporting freedom of the press and self-expression within the country. That would indeed benefit both foreign and native journalists reporting in India, as well as those who consume news and commentary.

Journalist Background: India

Unfortunately, I could not find any information that would help me with this blog post in our textbook. I did, however, find some interesting resources online that were able to shed more light on the background of journalists in India.

As one article by the Columbia Journalist Review explained, reporting in India is difficult because it’s not only legal system a journalist needs to worry about, but police and militants as well.

For Indian journalists reporting in India, it’s an uphill battle of trying not to catch the attention of governmental authorities who’s main goal is to censor any criticisms of the government, caste, religion and state.

As well as with foreign journalists, there have to deal with the government denying them entry into their country if they are found to critique the government or other sensitive areas of Indian society and culture.