What would have missed if you had read only one newspaper?

BY Tenzin Paldon| IN Media Practice | 23/04/2008
Tibet-China coverage--Part II. The Hindustan Times and Times of India had coverage from most angles, the Hindu and Indian Express did not.
TENZIN PALDON takes a close look

Four English newspapers were monitored over three weeks, from March 15, the day after the Lhasa protests sparked violence  to April 7. The Hoot did a numerical coverage which covered stories, page one snippets, stand alone photographs, editorials, edit page articles and the letters to the editor column. Letters, regardless of number, were taken as one.


On this quantitative basis we are presenting a quantitative and qualitative study of  The coverage of the Tibet-China issue.


The Hindustan Times


The Hindustan Times reportage on Tibet was objective, fairly neutral and covered the Tibet issue from most angles. Out of the four newspapers, Hindustan Times, in its 88 stories, had the most comprehensive coverage of the trouble in Tibet and its repercussions. It is also the paper which carried  the maximum number of stories on any given day. On the 19th March, it carried 11 Tibet related stories. The Lhasa riots were covered very well by the paper which ran a follow-up story that presented a consolidated report on the riots - "Eight days that shook China" carried on 19th March. The headlines were as follows:


  1. "Surrender or else" -16th March
  2. "Tibetans protest Lhasa crackdown" - 16th March
  3. "Tightening controls let to Tibetan outburst" - 16th March
  4. "There is no stopping Tibetan rage" - 17th March
  5. "Lashing out in Lhasa" – 17th March
  6. "Iron fist fails to smash Tibetan resistance" – 17th March
  7. "¿19 more killed, toll 99¿" – 19th March
  8. "Dragon Breathes Fire, Declares ¿Life-And-Death¿ War in Tibet" -20th March
  9. "Comprehensive crackdown in Tibet" – 4th April


Apart from the topical coverage of the Lhasa riots and the subsequent protests elsewhere, Hindustan Times also took time to report on the different strands of thought within the Tibetan community in exile through its stories like "Tibetan govt in exile urges activists to end march." (15th March) and "Gen Y fed up with ¿middle path¿" on 19th March.


It also ran a story "Storming fallout: Panchsheel Marg may be closed" which was primarily concerned with the traffic issues arising from the increased security at the Chinese Embassy. It also devoted a lot of space to the Indian government¿s stand on the Tibet issue and how it affects India. It informed its readers of the different responses from the Indian side in its following 7 stories.


  1. "Government walks the tightrope, expresses its distress" – 16th March
  2. "India frowns on stir by exiles" – 16th March
  3. "Tibet echo is LS; its plot against games, China tells ¿friend¿ India" -18th March
  4. "India¿s middle path" – 19th March
  5. "Tibet policy should not change: Karat" – 1st April
  6. "Anti-China remarks over Tibet harming ties: Karat" – 1st April
  7. "Dalai Lama is alright but politics isn¿t: India" – 2nd April

Through "China¿s clout ensures cautious world response to Tibet stir", it also managed to question the world response to the question of Tibet. Also it was the only paper to have an article solely devoted to Hollywood presence in the Tibetan movement - "Hollywood¿s abiding love affair with Tibet", carried on 21st March.


The Times of India


With 108 stories in the 3 week period of 15th March to 7th April,  the Times of India had the maximum number of stories on the Tibet issue. The tone of the newspaper leans towards the Tibetan point of view but it is objective enough to mention that the Tibetans manage the media very well. Its coverage of the Lhasa riots talked about violence from both the Tibetan protestors and the Chinese security forces. But by using terms like "crackdown", "bomb waiting to explode" etc. it also manages to lay a greater part of the blame on the Chinese side. The following headlines are some examples of this:


  1. "Lhasa fallout Tibetans on edge" – 15th March
  2. "China cracks down on Tibet" – 16th March
  3. "Protesters seethe in anger as Lhasa burns" – 17th March
  4. "Lhasa lockdown, violence continues" – 17th March
  5. "Tibet was a bomb waiting to explode" – 19th March
  6. "China admits to shooting Tibetan protesters" – 22nd March


Apart from the coverage of the protests, stories like "Mini Tibet wears deserted look says a prayer for Lhasa" on 16th March, "Refugees take lead from India¿s freedom struggle" on 17th March and "Tibetan exiles plan own ¿Olympics¿" on 30th March, also helped in forming a clearer picture of the Tibet situation. It is interesting to note that its story "Tibet protest adds to board exam stress", carried on 18th March on page 5, talked about how the Tibetan protests were affecting the traffic situation in Delhi and how the increased security at the Chinese Embassy inconvenienced the students whose exam centres were in schools in the Embassy area. Also its story on 16th March - "Chinese bloggers tell West to lay off" quoted what some Chinese bloggers had to say about the Tibet situation. Some of the headlines of the stories on India¿s position on the Tibet issue were:

  1. "India breaks silence, calls for talks on Tibet" – 16th March
  2. "India maybe forced to seal China border" – 17th March
  3. "Left silent as House erupts over Tibet crackdown" – 18th March
  4. "From Taslima to Tibet, India proves chicken" – 21st March
  5. "¿India¿s Tibet stand unchanged¿" – 24th March
  6. "India silent as China deploys its forces on Nepal soil" – 26th March
  7. "George slams NDA stand on Tibet" – 31st March
  8. "Now George says China is ¿potential threat No.1¿" – 31st March
  9. "Kowtowing to China" – 6th April


The 7 stories on the Olympic torch focused on Bhaichung Bhutia¿s refusal to participate in the Olympic torch run in "Bhutia refuses to carry Olympic torch" (1st April), Security issues in  "Government reviews security for Olympic torch run" (1st April) and  "China on edge as torch tour starts" (1st April), "Amid tight security, President lights Olympic flame for relay" (1st April), Aamir and Saif¿s decision to continue with their participation in the torch relay in "Aamir, Saif won¿t toe Bhutia line" (2nd April) , background to the Olympic flame "Olympic flame has been part of the modern Games since 1928" (7th April) and the disruption of the Olympic flame in London in "On London streets, a fight for flame"(7th April).



What would you have missed if you only read the Indian Express?


The Indian Express was the only paper which was overly concerned with what US had to say on the Tibet- China issue. Not only did it mention the US speaker Pelosi¿s stand on the Tibet issue, through "Bush tells Hu to talk to Dalai Lama", it manages to show that US is putting pressure on China. Also the paper mentioned the US Embassy¿s warning American citizens to stay away from Lhasa on the 15th March story. The story also quotes Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman. The following are the headlines of the stories that had clear US pressure on China angle to it.

1.      "US Speaker Pelosi, who slammed China, on her way to meet Dalai Lama" – 15th March

2.      "US wants China, Dalai Lama to talk" – 21st March

3.      "Sharing stage with Dalai Lama, US House Speaker tears into China" – 22nd March

4.      "Bush tells Hu to talk to Dalai Lama" -28th March


 On 18th March, the Express comments on CPM¿s silence on the Tibet discussion in the Lok Sabha in the story "In Tibet chorus, CPM is silent, calls it China¿s ¿internal matter¿". In Kanwal Sibal¿s lead article on the op-ed page, it ties the Lhasa riots and the Tibet issue with India¿s ongoing border disputes with China over parts of Arunanchal Pradesh. The following stories talked about how the Tibet issue is linked to and affects India.


1.       "Good Fences, Good Neighbours" – 15th March

2.      "Bending backwards to please China" – 16th March

3.      "Tibet on its mind, India backs China on Taiwan" – 18th March

4.      "In Tibet chorus, CPM is silent, calls it China¿s ¿internal matter¿" – 18th March

5.      "PM¿s swipe at Beijing: Dalai Lama stands for non-violence" – 21st March

6.      "India¿s Tibet Question" – 21st March

7.      "Tibet and us" – 5th April


The Indian Express does not include the following in its Tibet coverage.

·         Disruption of the Olympics ceremony in Greece.

·         world support for Tibetan cause

·         Traffic issues caused by protests.


The total number of items on Tibet in this paper over three weeks were 75.



What would you have missed if you only read The Hindu?


Numerically, with only 45 stories on  the Tibet-China issue, The Hindu had the least coverage of this subject among the four newspapers. It was the only paper which did not carry even a single story on 3 days, i.e. 16th March, 5th April and 6th April. In the Hindu, the Tibetan protestors are blamed in a story that is sourced from Xinhua. It is also the first paper to talk about return to ¿normalcy¿ in Lhasa on the 17th when HT- "Unrest spreads to Sichuan", TOI – "Lhasa lockdown, violence continues" and Express – "Beijing declares ¿people¿s war¿, troops pour into Lhasa" all point the other way.


Coverage angles primarily seem to be pro-Chinese, blaming the Tibetan protestors. The eyewitness account of a foreign resident in Lhasa "It seems… they want to kill anyone not Tibetan" (carried from Guardian) painted the Tibetan protestors in negative light. Also, compared to other papers, Hindu seemed to carry a lot of stories that were pro-China. 12 of its 45 stories on Tibet had the following headlines:


  1. "Tibetan protests were abetted by forces outside China: envoy" - 18th March
  2. "Tibet protests incited by Dalai Lama: Wen" – 19th March
  3. "China asks Dalai Lama to create conditions for talks" – 21st March
  4. "Its interference in our internal affairs, says Chinese envoy" – 22nd March
  5. "China launches search for Lhasa riot suspects"   22nd March
  6. "China vows to ¿resolutely crush¿ Tibet independence forces" – 23rd March
  7. "India¿s position is clear and consistent: China" – 24th March
  8. "China blasts bid to disrupt Olympic torch relay" – 26th March
  9. "Hu¿s firm reply to Bush on Tibet" – 28th March
  10. "China takes foreign diplomats to Lhasa" – 29th March
  11. "China to Dalai Lama: Use your influence to stop violence" – 1st April
  12. "How China sees the Dalai Lama and his cause" – 3rd April


It is interesting to note that the following angles have not been covered by the Hindu.

  • The discussion of the Tibet issue in the Lok Sabha
  • The viewpoints of the Tibetan Government in Exile
  • The disruption of the Olympics ceremony in Greece.
  • The background to the Tibet issue.
  • Disruption of the Olympic Torch relay in London
  • The protests in Delhi by Tibetan¿s in Exile



For detailed documentation see the following: 

Headline breakup according to newspaper  

Comprehensive Tibet coverage



Link to first part of this report: Are they telling it like it is? 


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