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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 8, February 18, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Feb 18, 2023

Friday 17 February 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Feb 18, 2023

Will Having More Makeup Artists Help?

Starting Dec 2022 India assumed the rotating presidency of the G20 (group of 20 most industrialized countries in the world) and this sparked a big political marketing blitz inside the country. So where ever you go in New Delhi the city is plastered with huge billboards and posters with a logo for G20 on one side and on the other side it says ‘Mother of democracy to host G20’ in a supposed reference to India and with a large photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But despite all the fancy ‘put-on’ packaging, the actions of the Modi Government are heavily at odds with the ways of liberal democracy. Two weeks ago, a two-part BBC documentary that criticised the failure of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi to protect Muslim minorities in Gujarat in 2002 was aired in the UK. BBC is a highly respected international news broadcaster but Modi Govt reacted by blocking its documentary and flagging it as ’anti-India propaganda’. The government invoked emergency powers under the 2021 Information Technology Rules to take down links sharing the documentary. University campuses were told to prevent the screening of the film by student organisations. The official response of India’s ruling BJP to the BBC’s documentary on Indian PM Narendra Modi was all about discrediting and denouncing the BBC as the world’s most corrupt organisation and that its reporting was biased and it shared an agenda with the opposition Congress party. Earlier this week, Tax officials raided offices in New Delhi and Mumbai of the BBC for close to 60 hours, saying these were routine so-called ‘Tax surveys’. Who is to believe that the Tax men had suddenly woken up to check on paperwork and possible tax evasion etc by the BBC. The country has seen earlier such intimidating tax surveys against Amnesty International, and more recently against a media organisation such as Newsclick, or NGOs such as Oxfam. There was even a police raid on the offices of Twitter India These seem to be part of a disturbing trend to harass organisations that report news or produce research materials embarrassing to the Government. The raid on the BBC has clearly backfired with international media organisations across G20 nations giving it high coverage and drawing even more public attention to the documentary film the Government tried to smother. Under the Modi Government, India’s rank in the World Press Freedom Index has sunk to 150th position out of 180. This episode damages further India’s reputation as a democracy during its G20 presidency. One thing is certain, there is more money to be made by reputation management consultants & makeover artists on contract with the Modi Government.

February 18, 2023 —HK

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