IN Media Practice | 05/05/2015
Nepali outrage over what many see as crass, insensitive and self-glorifying coverage by the Indian media has erupted on Twitter.
ALKA GURHA urges reflection. Pix: Kanak Mani Dixit~s tweet on 1 May, 2015.

After the hash tag #ShameOnTimesNow trended worldwide with more than 200,000 tweets in 12 hours over Times Now’s hysterical and chauvinistic commentary on the Indian cricket team’s semi-final loss to Australia in the World Cup, we had the Minister of State for External Affairs, General V.K. Singh, coining an undesirable moniker for the Indian media - ‘presstitutes’.

On 27th April, 2015, when singer Sonu Nigam was banned by Zee TV for allegedly supporting Kumar Vishwas,  people on Twitter stood with the singer expressing outrage against the news channel. In the aftermath of Gajendra Singh’s suicide, Zee TV had aired a clip where Kumar Vishwas’s voice was allegedly heard saying, “latak gaya”. However, a second video surfaced where Kumar Vishwas was not seen to be speaking “latak gaya” and Sonu Nigam posted the video on Twitter in support of his friend Vishwas. In response to the above controversy, Ankit Parikh, @Aparikh_206 tweeted, “Days have gone when people believed in media... People believe on facts rather than your fake news @Zee TV#IStandWithSonuNigam”.

This controversy was yet to subside when on May 3, the hash tag #GoHomeIndianMedia began trending on Twitter in the aftermath of the insensitive coverage of the Nepal earthquake by some sections of the Indian media. While the overall rescue efforts by the army were applauded, the media’s coverage of the calamity was labeled intrusive and insensitive.

It all began when Garima, @iGarima, addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tweeted, “Dear@narendramodi Wid due respect we request you to call back your media. We don’t need such concern anymore. Sincerely Nepalese.” She tweeted again saying “See even Indians are ashamed of your media. If you do have some self respect left then please call back your media. Sincerely Nepalese”.

When another Nepali boy, Sajak Upadhyaya@sazack, tweeted, “Badai kijiye lekin victims ke muh pe mic mat peliye: Nepali police se jhagda mat kijiye” ( Boast, but don’t thrust mics in the faces of victims, don’t fight with Nepali police) I responded by tweeting, “This is so unfortunate. The men with mics are undoing the good of our armed forces and the NDRF” to which Sajak replied, “That is the sad thing. I wish #ThankyouIndia was trending and not #GoHomeIndianMedia.”

The Nepalese boy went on to thank India for its support, saying that they were grateful for the fact that the Indian government responded before the Nepal government did otherwise many people would still be buried under the rubble.

Even as I write this article, #DontComebackIndianMedia is trending on Twitter. Sonalidevi Verma@sonaldeviverma tweeted, “Your media and media personnel are acting like they are shooting some kind of a family serial.”

While the Times of India ignored the media bashing on twitter, The Hindustan Times published news of the anger against the media on the cover page, “Nepal Twitter-rage rattles Indian media”.

According to the Hindustan Times, “More than 128,000 tweets on Sunday complained about and debated Indian press’s handling of Nepal’s worst quake in 80 years. The development coincided with the observance of the World Press Freedom Day. Many contended the Indian media was treating its coverage of the quake and its victims as a public relations exercise on behalf of the government in Delhi."

Kunda Dixit, a veteran journalist and editor of the Nepali Times said: “Some Nepalis, not all, feel the Indian media is a bit patronising in their attitude and that is perhaps why such sentiments are being expressed. That is how a section of the Nepali media also feels." 

Twitterati accused the Indian media of being insensitive to survivors, asking them irrelevant questions such as "How are you feeling?" and not helping those needing immediate medical aid. Many tweets reminded the Indian media that Nepal is a sovereign country and not a “satellite state”.

Ajay Bhadra Khanal, a former editor of The Himalayan Times, said: "The Indian media's aggressive presence and the way they are highlighting only their government's role in rescue and relief efforts has affected the perception among Nepalis of the Indian government.”
Since Indian publications and TV channels are easily accessible to the Nepalese compared to foreign media, their anger against a section of the Indian media is understandable. Notwithstanding the above fact, after a deluge of outrage on twitter against the media, it’s time for the media to introspect and course correct.

The earth beneath the fourth pillar of our democracy is shaking with cracks appearing on Twitter. The incessant aftershocks on Twitter could result in widespread damage for the credibility of our media. All the extensive coverage will be rendered meaningless without corrective measures taken to ensure credibility and sensitivity while reporting news.


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