Media bias in South Asia

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Claims of Media bias in South Asia attract constant attention. The question of bias in South Asian media is also of great interest to people living outside of South Asia. Some accusations of media bias are motivated by a disinterested desire for truth, some are politically motivated. Media bias occurs in television, newspapers, school books and other media.

India[edit]

There are claims of media bias from all opposing camps regarding several issues. The major claims of bias in India are, similar to most nations, along the liberal-conservative line. Each side accuses media houses, journalists and activists of being biased against them.

The liberal-conservative divide in India is closely aligned with the secular-religious divide. As a result, allegations of support for either the 'secular' political parties or one of the religious parties is a common occurrence. Similarly, there are media houses that are alleged to be biased toward/against certain religious communities.

Regional bias (between states) is another major issue. Since Indian states are highly diverse, with neighboring states usually having very different cultures and languages, there is a strong sense of regional identity. More often than not, local media in each state are usually biased in their reporting of dealings with other states. e.g. water sharing disputes or inter-state migration. This is not surprising since regional politics follow similar practices - resorting to stirring up regional passion for political gains. Not going along with the dominant political view in their state would be counterproductive for local media houses.

"Paid news" is a phenomenon which has recently come to light, involving politicians paying newspapers to print favorable articles.

Pakistan[edit]

There are serious demographic issues regarding the minority non-Islam population in Pakistan. The Christian, Hindu, and Sikh populations have gone from 23% to 2% in the period 1947-1997. International rights groups, like the Center for Indian Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, call this ethnic cleansing and accuse the media of not informing the public about these issues [1].

There are also allegations by Amnesty International[unreliable source?] that the local media some times glosses over reports of persecution against the non-Islamic population in Pakistan [2].

Sri Lanka[edit]

The government of Sri Lanka has been accused of controlling the media. Measures like the Public Security Ordinance and the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution have been accused of limiting a reporters freedom.

The Sixth Amendment to Sri Lanka's constitution, inserted as Article 157A, has been accused of threatening civic disability and seizing of property by banning promotion of separatism. The Public Security Ordinance (PSO) law is often applied liberally when the government applies emergency regulations. This is quite often as Sri Lanka has been ruled under Emergency for a cumulative total of over 20 years since it gained independence from the British. The Saturday Review, the English paper published in Jaffna and the Aththa, the Communist Sinhala language daily were banned in the early eighties under the PSO. When the Aththa was banned its press was also sealed. In the seventies, the government sealed the printing press of the Independent Newspapers Ltd. (Davasa Group) by using the emergency regulations.

Under the Emergency Regulations (E.R), all material relating to a subject specified in a gazetted presidential proclamation, has to be submitted for censoring by a 'competent authority.' The 'competent authority' is usually politically favoured civil servant. Recently, the regime made history by appointing a military officer as the government censor. Material censored under such provisions has included comment on the high cost of living, on the dismissal of an employee of a state corporation, allegedly for an article he wrote for his trade union journal, on the marketing problems of passion fruit growers, criticism of a minister's statement in Parliament about a public corporation, and a reference to an alleged assault on two civilians .

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