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.


In its 2019 index, Reporters Sans Frontieres stated that in India it found a large number of coordinated hate campaigns directed on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that disagree Hindutva and other Hindu nationalist ideologies.[1]

During the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots where several thousand Sikh civilians were killed in pogroms directed at the community during the reportage of the 1984 riots, It is argued there was a discrepancy between the press release of data and images and the actual severity of the violence occuring in the streets of New Delhi. This use of selective information by the media resulted in the ambiguous portrayal of Sikhs throughout the nation and failed to bring their plight to light. During this time India had passed the National Security Act (1980), the Punjab Disturbed Areas Ordinance (1983), The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1983) and the Terrorists Affected Areas (Special Courts Act of 1984). These acts provided sweeping powers to the Indian state resulting in skewed coverage of the massacre of Sikhs along with other minorities.[2]

In British India, bias in the media coverage of the Bengal famine of 1943 has been highlighted by historians. Calcutta's two leading English-language newspapers were The Statesman (at that time a British-owned newspaper)[3] and Amrita Bazar Patrika. In the early months of the famine, the government applied pressure on newspapers to "calm public fears about the food supply"[4] and follow the official stance that there was no rice shortage. This effort had some success; The Statesman published editorials asserting that the famine was due solely to speculation and hoarding, while "berating local traders and producers, and praising ministerial efforts."[4] News of the famine was also subject to strict war-time censorship – even use of the word "famine" was prohibited[5] – leading The Statesman later to remark that the UK government "seems virtually to have withheld from the British public knowledge that there was famine in Bengal at all".[6]

Reporters Without Borders condemned the media blackouts regularly imposed in Indian-administered Kashmir during times of unrest the report also stated that journalists were being harassed by local authorities. Furthermore the organization urged Indian government to stop using security and law and order as a pretext for the media blackout.[7]

Arun Shourie and others have criticized "biased Marxist influences" in the media, as well as alleged corruption of Marxist historians, particularly during the time when they controlled the ICHR. These claims include the allegation that the history of the Islamic invasion has been whitewashed and censored in Indian school-books and in other media.[8][9]

Reporters Without Borders said that India is at 133rd of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, due to the number of journalists killed and the impunity for crimes of violence committed against journalists.[10] Many media stations in India provided vast coverage of the Gujarat Riots in 2002 in which a large number of Muslims were murdered but have often failed to report on the persecution of Hindus in Muslim-dominated Jammu & Kashmir. There are also denials of the fact that Indians in general and Hindus in particular are being ethnically cleansed in Kashmir. With regard to the 2002 Gujarat violence, some commentators have pointed out a disregard for factual reporting on the part of what they term "left-liberal" newspapers.[11]

During the Radia tapes controversy there was an attempted blackout orchestrated by many prominent Indian TV channels and newspapers, however, the news gained prominence following sustained pressure on social networking sites Twitter[12][13] and Facebook[14][15][16][17] According to the Washington Post, "Twitter has played an important role in launching what has become an international conversation on the issue, with the Indian diaspora weighing in".[18] Initially, only a handful of the mainstream newspapers in India, like The Deccan Herald,[19] Indian Express[20] had openly written about the tapes. Some newspapers like HT Media, Mint (the business newspaper also owned by HT media)[21] and NDTV said "the authenticity of these transcripts cannot be ascertained".[17][22] CNN-IBN's Sagarika Ghose discussed with a panel of experts, if the corporate lobbying is undermining democracy, on the "Face the Nation" programme on the channel.[23] The Radia tapes is seen to have also made a dent in the image of the media in the country.[15][16][24][25][26][27] "The complete blackout of the Nira Radia tapes by the entire broadcast media and most of the major English newspapers paints a truer picture of corruption in the country," wrote G Sampath, the deputy editor of the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) newspaper.[15][28] After it became an international news, more and more media houses covered the story. The Deccan Chronicle commented, "The 'Radia tapes' may have torn the veil off the nexus between information hungry journalists, lobbyists and industrialists, and opened everyone’s eyes to what has long been suspected — the ability of a small but powerful group to use their connections to influence policy."[29] The largest circulated English newspaper in India and the world, The Times of India finally opened up on 25 November 2010, commenting "The people are showing who the boss is. The weapon in their hands is the internet, ... has seen frantic activism against "power brokering" by journalists in collusion with corporate groups and top government politicians..."[30] OPEN and Outlook reported that journalists Barkha Dutt (editor of NDTV) and Vir Sanghvi (editorial director of the Hindustan Times) knew that corporate lobbyist Nira Radia influenced Raja's appointment as telecom minister,[31] publicising Radia's phone conversations with Dutt and Sanghvi[32][33] when Radia's phone was tapped by the Income Tax Department. According to critics, Dutt and Sanghvi knew about the link between the government and the media industry but delayed reporting the corruption.[31]

"Paid news" is a phenomenon which has recently come to light, involving politicians paying newspapers to print favorable articles. Some groups have criticized paid news including Bloomberg, who claimed that "paid news was rotting India's democracy."[34] The Analytic Monthly Review has also criticized India's media problems to well known problems in the political economy after the adoption of neo-liberal policies.[35] In 2010, a two person panel of the Press Council of India investigated the phenomenon of paid news in India.[36] This resulted in a detailed 72 page report citing names and instances where information that had been paid for had been passed off as genuine news.[37] However, the Press council rejected their findings and published a shorter watered down version of the report.[38]


Using oppressive laws the government has also banned or officially silenced popular television channels. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been used to silence the broadcast media by either suspending licenses or by simply threatening to do so. In many cases these channels were shifted to obscure numbers in channel line-up. In addition, media is also exposed to propaganda from state agencies, pressured by powerful political elements and non-state actors involved in the current conflict.[39] A number of channels have been shut down in the past with the latest such incident involving Geo TV and other channels in the Geo TV network after a Fatwa was issued against it.[40] The shutdown came after the network attempted to air allegations on the involvement of Inter-Services Intelligence in the attempted assassination of its leading anchor Hamid Mir.[41][42][43]

A prevalent culture of self- and state-censorship in the media’s coverage of sensitive issues has also been criticized, particularly in matters related to religion, blasphemy laws, and the Pakistan Army.The urban bias in Pakistani media has been criticized by Amir Rana, director of the Institute for Peace Studies: “There is little space [in our media] not only for alternative ideas or narratives but also for issues of a common citizen ... The narratives that we have seen in the mainstream media in Pakistan are basically controlled by three media centers in Pakistan: Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. There is little space in the mainstream media for views, perspectives, and information from other parts of Pakistan.” [44]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ A. Sen 1977; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 42.
  4. ^ a b Ó Gráda 2015, p. 4.
  5. ^ J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 125.
  6. ^ Ó Gráda 2015,  p. 57, citing "Consequences of Untruth," Statesman, 12 October 1943.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Bryant, E. E. (2014). Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Cary, USA: Oxford University Press, USA.
  9. ^ Shourie, A. (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. HarperCollins
  10. ^
  11. ^ Left-liberal media subverts truth Daily Pioneer - August 7, 2011
  12. ^ "#barkhagate: Protests in 140 characters leave no space for gray areas". DNA. 24 November 2010.
  13. ^ "Twitter world abuzz over Radia-Barkha tapes". Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  14. ^ "Barkhagate". Facebook. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  15. ^ a b c G Sampath (20 November 2010). "When Radia killed the media star". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  16. ^ a b "Those living in glass houses..." The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  17. ^ a b "2G scam: Netizens bark at Barkha, Vir Sanghvi". CIOL. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  18. ^ Emily Wax (22 November 2010). "Indian journalists accused of secretly helping politicians, businesses". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  19. ^ "Anchored in mire : Journalists are only expected to be witnesses.". The Deccan Herald. 23 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  20. ^ Gautam Datt (20 November 2010). "Radia tapes featuring senior scribes create stir". The Indian Express. Express Buzz. Retrieved 23 November 2010.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Sukumar Ranganathan (19 November 2010). "Editor's note: Why we are quiet on the Open magazine story". Mint. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  22. ^ "NDTV on defamatory remarks against Barkha Dutt". NDTV. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  23. ^ "FTN: Is corporate lobbying undermining democracy?". CNN-IBN. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  24. ^ "Outrage as Nira Radia tapes dent image of 4th Estate". India Today. 20 November 2010.
  25. ^ Lahiri, Tripti (23 November 2010). "Q&A: The State of Indian Journalism". The Wall Street Journal.
  26. ^ "Oh what a lovely blackout". The Hoot.
  27. ^ "Companies love to pamper senior journalists". Mail Today. India Today.
  28. ^ Betwa Sharma (20 November 2010). "Indian Media Where Art Thou on Media Scandal". Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  29. ^ Neena Gopal (21 November 2010). "Billions for a few, few for the billions". The Deccan Chronicle.
  30. ^ "2G scam sideshow: Netizens lambast high-profile journalists". The Times of India. 25 November 2010.
  31. ^ a b Sharma, Amol (1 December 2010). "Wait a Minute, What Exactly Is Barkha Dutt Accused of?". IndiaRealTime. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
  32. ^ "Barkha Dutt : 'What Do You Want Me To Tell Them (The Congress)? Tell Me. I'll talk To Them.'". Outlook.
  33. ^ "Vir Singhvi : 'Who Do You Want Congress To Talk To? Karunanidhi? I'll Speak To Ahmed Patel.'". Outlook.
  34. ^ 'Paid News' Is Rotting India's Democracy Bloomberg, 25 October 2011.
  35. ^ "The Reality of Media in India " Analytical Monthly Review, Aug 2013
  36. ^ "Report on paid news (30 July 2010)" (PDF). Press council of India. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  37. ^ Thakurta, P.J.; Sreenivas Reddy, K (8 August 2010). "'Paid News': The Buried Report". Outlook. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  38. ^ India Media Buries Paid News Report India Real Time - WSJ, 18 June 2013.
  39. ^ "Media in Pakistan: Between radicalisation and democratisation in an unfolding conflict" Archived 29 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine, International Media Support, July 2009, 56 pages.
  40. ^ "Cable operators urge PEMRA to shut down Geo", The Express Tribune, 17 May 2014.
  41. ^ "Pakistan's Geo News becomes latest target in blasphemy accusation trend", Jon Boone, The Guardian, 22 May 2014.
  42. ^ "Pakistan Is Asked to Shut Down News Channel", Declan Walsh and Salman Masoodapril, New York Times, 22 April 2014.
  43. ^ "Pakistan’s most popular Geo channels shut down", Ahmad Noorani, The News International, 22 May 2014.
  44. ^ Yusuf, Huma. "Mapping digital media: Pakistan." Open Society Foundations (2013).

Further reading[edit]

  • Ó Gráda, Cormac (2015). "'Sufficiency and Sufficiency and Sufficiency': Revisiting the Great Bengal Famine of 1943–44". Eating People Is Wrong, and Other Essays on Famine, Its Past, and Its Future. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400865819 – via De Gruyter. An earlier and somewhat different version is available in a conference paper available at UCD Centrefor Economic Research (Working Paper Series). Accessed 9 February 2016.
  • Sen, Amartya (1977). "Starvation and exchange entitlements: a general approach and its application to the Great Bengal Famine". Cambridge Journal of Economics. 1 (1): 33–59. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.cje.a035349.
  • Mukherjee, Janam (2015). Hungry Bengal: War, Famine and the End of Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-061306-8.
  • Mubarak Ali. In the Shadow of history, Nigarshat, Lahore; History on Trial, Fiction House, Lahore, 1999; Tareekh Aur Nisabi Kutub, Fiction House, Lahore, 2003.
  • K.K. Aziz. (2004) The Murder of History : A Critique of History Textbooks used in Pakistan. Vanguard. ISBN 969-402-126-X
  • Nayyar, A. H. & Salim, Ahmad. (2003) The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Text-books in Pakistan - Urdu, English, Social Studies and Civics. Sustainable Development Policy Institute. The Subtle Subversion
  • Pervez Hoodbhoy and A. H. Nayyar. Rewriting the history of Pakistan, in Islam, Politics and the state: The Pakistan Experience, Ed. Mohammad Asghar Khan, Zed Books, London, 1985.
  • Pervez Hoodbhoy - What Are They Teaching In Pakistani Schools Today? (International Movement for a Just World) [1]
  • Elst, Koenraad. 2014. Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam ISBN 978-8185990958
  • A. H. Nayyar: Twisted truth: Press and politicians make gains from SDPI curriculum report. SDPI Research and News Bulletin Vol. 11, No. 1, January - February 2004
  • Yvette Rosser: Islamization of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks, RUPA, New Delhi, 2003.
  • Yvette Rosser: Hegemony and Historiography: The Politics of Pedagogy. Asia Review, Dhaka, Fall 1999.
  • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (PDF). University of Texas at Austin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 September 2008.
  • Rubina Saigol. Knowledge and Identity - Articulation of Gender in Educational Discourse in Pakistan, ASR, Lahore 1995
  • Shourie, Arun. 2014. Eminent Historians: Their Techniques, Their Line, Their Fraud. HarperCollins. ISBN 9351365921 ISBN 9789351365921
  • Tariq Rahman, Denizens of Alien Worlds: A Study of Education, Inequality and Polarization in Pakistan Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2004. Reprint. 2006
  • Tariq Rahman, Language, Ideology and Power: Language learning among the Muslims of Pakistan and North India Karachi, Oxford UP, 2002.
  • Tariq Rahman, Language and Politics in Pakistan Karachi: Oxford UP, 1996. Rept. several times. see 2006 edition.

External links[edit]