Monday, October 10, 2016

Planted Stories in Indian Media

Last year, India's ex foreign secretary Sujata Singh bitterly complained about negative stories "planted in the media" by the Modi government to "tarnish" her reputation as part of the campaign to force her resignation. "The commentary that I have seen over the past two days has pained me deeply. I believe it was not necessary to get low and dirty," she said, according to India's First Post.

RAW Planted Stories:

Doing a Google search today on news about Pakistan shows the first page of the search results filled with negative stories that seem obviously planted by the Modi government in highly search-engine-optimized Indian media.

The planted stories present Indian Army's claimed "surgical strikes" in Pakistan as fact. They do not bother to put quotes around "surgical strikes" as international media have done. They do not ask any questions nor offer proof of such "surgical strikes".

Some of these planted stories claim "mass public protests" and "Pakistan flag burnings" in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan  without offering any evidence.  Other such made-up stories are about civil-military tensions in Pakistan and the country's "international isolation".

Psychological Operations (PsyOps): 

Who plants these stories? And how? Let us examine this in a little more detail.

Professor Shyam Tekwani of the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii has studied how the Indian government plants stories as part of its psychological operations (PsyOps). Here's an excerpt from his book "Media and Conflict Reporting in Asia":

"With a huge deployment of army, paramilitary and police forces fighting a host of separatist rebel armies, psyops has become a regular feature of journalism in conflict-ridden zones like India's Kashmir and northeastern states. The army and the paramilitary forces, the intelligence agencies and even state police have their own budgets and dedicated psyops. While most organizations use their intelligence units and public relations officials to perform the task, the Indian army has a full-fledged psyops cell in the Directorate of Military Intelligence... Bigger intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) employ media directors, mostly drawn from the Indian Information Service......And what do they do? Plant and push stories that run down the enemy and their image, promote their own cause and image, cover their track on a secret killing or blame it falsely on others (routine for them to pass off a secret killing by their assets as "infighting among  rebels") and create feel-good atmosphere about their own operations.....Psyops planners carefully take into account 
capabilities of their own "media assets" and the reach of the media they work for and whether the "plant" would hit the target area and create the necessary impact. It is war through the media--whoever said pen is mightier than sword is vindicated--but at the cost of professional journalism."

RAW Money Flow:

India has opened up a big money money spigot to use its agents, including its media assets, to destabilize Pakistan. RK Yadav, an ex intelligence official of RAW, has in a TV interview (Siyasat Ki Baat with RK Yadav video 6:00 minutes), talked about RAW agents with "suitcases and cupboards full of money".

Current National Security Advisor has talked about RAW recruiting terrorists with one-and-a-half times the money they are making from other sources.

RK Yadav has, in his book "Mission R&AW",  written about RAW money paid to late Pakistani politician Khan Abul Wali Khan in 1970s. He's also confirmed the existence of RAW-inspired 1960s Agartala Conspiracy that recruited Shaikh Mujib ur Rehman's Awami League to work for Indian intelligence.

More recently, London Police documents have revealed the testimony of MQM leaders Muhammad Anwar and Tariq Mir confirming that Altaf Husain received money from Indian intelligence.

Ex RAW chief A.S. Dulat has said "money goes a long way in Kashmir" intelligence operations.  Part of the money, it seems, is now flowing though the " RAW's media directors" and their "media assets" as described by Professor Tekwani in "Media and Conflict Reporting in Asia".

Western Media:

Western media often use a few stringers in conflict zones to file reports. These stringers are low-paid locals who are more prone to manipulation by authorities than more experiencd better-paid correspondents.

Professor Shyam Tekwani explains that foreign agencies like the Associated Press (AP) or Agence France Press (AFP) and even BBC often create a stringer monopoly of one or two that feeds news to all the top global media outlets. Just a couple of stringers can be used by RAW to influence the entire global media reporting on Kashmir.

Pakistani Media:

Pakistani media has grown from about 2,000 journalists in the year 2000 to nearly 20,000 of them now. Rapid growth has meant that many of them are inexperienced and naive. Some of them pick up the planted stories from India and publish them. Others lack conscience and do it for money.


Indian media is abuzz with anti-Pakistan stories fabricated by "RAW's media directors" and planted by their "media assets" described by Professor Shyam Tekwani in his book "Media and Conflict Reporting in Asia" . These stories are part of Indian government's campaign to slander Pakistan to achieve the following objectives:

1. Deflect world attention from Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir.

2.  Cover up India's proxy war of terror in Pakistan.

3. Isolate Pakistan internationally.

4. Sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It's important for Pakistanis to not only understand what India is doing but also make a serious effort to make the world aware of it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Noam Chomsky on Indian Media

700,000 Indian Soldiers Vs 10 Million Kashmiris

Modi's Covert War in Pakistan

ADB Raises Pakistan GDP Growth Forecast

Gwadar as Hong Kong West

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

Indian Spy Kulbhushan Yadav's Confession

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW Successes Against Pakistan

Saleem Safi of GeoTV on Gwadar

Pakistan FDI Soaring with Chinese Money for CPEC


Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt from "Studies in Intelligence, Journal of the American Intelligence Professional" December 2009:

"The Indian government put few restrictions on the influx of Soviet journalists, and in the 1980s more than 150 KGB and GRU (military intelligence) officers served on the subcontinent. Many of them were busy planting biased or false stories in the Indian papers. According to KGB archivist and defector Vasili Mirokhin, the KGB planted 5,510 stories in this way in 1975 alone and controlled 10 Indian newspapers and one news agency. KGB officers boasted to one another that there was no shortage of Indian journalists and politicians willing to take money."

Riaz Haq said...

The growing cancer of paid news in Indian media:

The media being infected with a 'cancer called paid news' is an issue debated many a time. During this year's Maharashtra assembly elections, this cancer magnified so grievously that, if not dealt with immediately, it could end the media's credibility.

Akin to the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, the BJP led the race in marketing and advertising. But this time around, the party was not content with front page advertisements in newspapers. It went a step further. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at New York's Madison Square Garden was telecast across all Marathi news channels during prime time. BJP leaders conceded they had to pay up to Rs 20 lakh per episode, which means the whole deal cost them in crores. The moot question, however, is: should the media sell its prime time slot, which is globally reserved only for news, to a political party?

BJP leader Vinay Sahastrabudhe said in a television debate the party went ahead with the plan only after a green signal from the Election Commission (EC). But the Congress has lodged a complaint with the EC, demanding it be regarded as paid news, followed by strong action against it.

What is exactly paid news? An advertisement disguised as editorial is paid news. Published content and TV news is taken seriously, hence political parties plant stories in the media, promoting its candidate. The transaction, obviously, happens in cash.

In this case, however, there was nothing opaque about the way BJP went about its business. It bought the prime time slot legally, and openly advertised about it. In fact, the whole issue was highlighted because of their ad. Morally, it should have been avoided. But the real culprits are the editors who sold their conscience just because a political party was willing to buy it. Some channels stooped so low, they did not even disclose the fact that it was an ad, thereby deceiving its viewers. According to TRAI regulations, TV channels are not supposed to exceed the limit of 10 minutes of advertisements per 30 minutes. One must scrutinise if the channels have disregarded this regulation.

This episode has given birth to several issues. Should a PM's address, during his official visit as the leader of a country, be reduced to election campaigning? According to the BJP, it was a private program. But one should not forget Modi was representing India while in the US. Has the EC rule been undermined? The EC must come up with a well thought out decision because one of its regulations insinuates that the PM, CM or any minister's address as an official should not be used for party campaigning.

The second and more important question is about the freedom of the media and viewers. Management selling editorial slots is an attack on the soul of journalism. Gradually, ads have settled themselves on newspapers' front pages. Showing an 'ad disguised as speech' during the 9.00pm slot is an attack on the editorial right as well as viewers' right to watch news, isn't it? It is no secret that hundreds of crores are required to sustain a channel. But if this trend continues, it will injure journalism fatally. Is it a deliberate conspiracy by vested interests?

Because if a watchdog collapses, everyone is free to do anything.

There is no point projecting this issue as 'the BJP vs Congress'. The foundations of paid news were laid during the Congress regime. Former CM Ashok Chavan's case is a well-known example. Today, the Congress is going hammer and tongs against the BJP, but what are the odds of Congress not doing the same when the tables are reversed? If all the biggies keep this money game alive and kicking, what will happen to small political parties, which do not have such money power? How does our democracy remain a level playing field then?

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from "Studies in Intelligence, Journal of the American Intelligence Professional" December 2009:

Yes, the CIA & KGB were pouring money into India newspapers & politicians in that period. This is why India brought in the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to control foreign money in 1976.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "This is why India brought in the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to control foreign money in 1976. "

So the law was in effect in 1980s when Vasili Mirokhin says the KGB continued to plant stories.

"in the 1980s more than 150 KGB and GRU (military intelligence) officers served on the subcontinent. Many of them were busy planting biased or false stories in the Indian papers"

And RAW is still playing that game, raising serious questions about Indian media's credibility.

Riaz Haq said...

How #India & #Pakistan punish journalists who write about #Kashmir. Both rank abysmally low on Press Freedom Index

In the three weeks since militants allegedly based in Pakistan attacked an Indian army compound, killing 18 soldiers, and India retaliated with “surgical strikes” to neutralize terrorist “launchpads” along the de facto border, officials in Islamabad and New Delhi have been falling over themselves to control the narrative of events. Amid mutual jingoism, paranoia and bluster, they have found it expedient to punish journalists who counter their preferred realities.

On Monday, Cyril Almeida, a columnist and reporter at Dawn, Pakistan's most prominent English-language newspaper, tweeted that he had been put on the “Exit Control List,” a roster of those forbidden from leaving the country. He had been about to embark on a family vacation. Almeida recently published a blockbuster exclusive report, which he attributed to unnamed officials, that detailed a confrontation in which Pakistan's civilian government admonished the military for abetting militant groups that operate on the borders of India and Afghanistan.


Meanwhile, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, residents are entering their third month of unrest, during which the government has imposed curfews, curtailed Internet access and prevented newspapers from printing.

On Oct. 2, the government of Jammu and Kashmir released a statement banning an English-language newspaper called the Kashmir Reader. It provided no specific reasoning for the closure, other than to claim that the paper had published “content that can incite acts of violence.” A later statement failed to pinpoint the actual story or stories that ostensibly prompted the ban, saying only that the paper had published items “disturbing public tranquility and notwithstanding the principles of rules governing the subject.”

Both India and Pakistan rank abysmally among democracies in the World Press Freedom Index. India ranks 133rd out of 180, and Pakistan ranks 147th. The governments of both countries clearly have lines that journalists should not cross, and which most do not cross for fear of repercussions.

Rizwan K. said...

This Washington Post article is yet another fallacious attempt to equate Indian atrocities with anything remotely atrocious in Pakistan.

First off, Cyril A. didn't write anything about Kashmir. More significantly, India banned the largest circulating paper in Kashmir.

The headline is not only misleading but inaccurate.

Riaz Haq said...

#India shut newspapers in #Kashmir. #Indians have no reason to gloat over #Pakistan's #CyrilAlmeida via @htTweets

This (Cyril Almeida travel ban) story is bound to generate a lot of interest in India. It will confirm to many their impressions that Pakistan is a nasty place. There is indeed an irony in the Pakistani State allowing LeT’s Hafiz Saeed to roam freely and it lobbying China to prevent Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar from being on UN list of terrorists while preventing a journalist from heading abroad just because he highlighted the rifts within the establishment. Since Pakistan gets an exaggerated amount of mind space in India, many on social media will no doubt be telling Indian liberals that they ought to be treated similarly for arguing with the Modi government or they will likely gloat that India is so much better than Pakistan when it comes to press freedom.
On both counts they need to think again – as India is not the exemplar of press freedom and individual liberty as many would like to believe. Take the case of the travel ban for Almeida for example. The idea evidently, from the Pakistani establishment point of view, is to prevent potential interactions with media peers and diplomats abroad who would be interested in civil-military dynamics in Pakistan, which is of great interest to those in Western and Asian capitals.

But fear of uncomfortable stories getting out is also a big concern for India. Priya Pillai, then working for Greenpeace, was offloaded from Delhi airport in January 2015 just as she was heading to the UK to brief its parliamentarians on mining and human rights violations in Madhya Pradesh, an act the ministry of home affairs felt was tantamount to projecting India negatively abroad.
More recently, police raided media houses and shut down newspapers in Kashmir for three days in July “to ensure peace”, in the words of the government spokesman. The daily Kashmir Reader was banned, on Gandhi Jayanti, for “publishing content that can incite acts of violence” and “disturb public tranquillity”, even though the state government is yet to explain what content it is referring to.

Riaz Haq said...

16 countries to participate in "isolated" #Pakistan military exercises- #isolation #India #Modi #Kashmir

Sixteen countries are slated to participate in Physical Agility and Combat Efficiency System military exercises scheduled to begin in Lahore from October 18.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the countries will take part in the six-day drills aimed at enhancing physical and military capabilities of troops, The News International reported.

A 25-member Sri Lankan army team arrived in Lahore on Wednesday.

The first ever joint exercise between Pakistan and Russian military which started on September 27, meanwhile, ended on October 10.

Riaz Haq said...

Twitter abuzz with questions on #CyrilAlmeida's @dawn_com story with hashtag #WeStandWithArifaNoor #Pakistan

Apparently, Arifa Noor, Dawn's resident editor in its Islamabad bureau, was kept out of the loop. Decision to publish Almeida's story was made by Dawn editor Zafar Abbas alone.

Shahab R. said...

I am not sure what this implies. The Cyril Almeida story was leaked out of a meeting. These guys need to fix their own house and figure out where the leak was from as opposed to punishing the messenger.

Riaz Haq said...

Shahab: "I am not sure what this implies. The Cyril Almeida story was leaked out of a meeting. These guys need to fix their own house and figure out where the leak was from as opposed to punishing the messenger."

Please read my post for your answer about my suspicion.

Shahab R. said...

I did. I continue to believe that had it been another media house, I would have taken your argument on balance. Having seen and since I have been reading Cyril 's columns and stories for a while now, I believe that this particular story has an element of truth in it. This is a proper journalistic find as opposed to a planted story.

Riaz Haq said...

Shahab: "Having seen and since I have been reading Cyril 's columns and stories for a while now, I believe that this particular story has an element of truth in it. This is a proper journalistic find as opposed to a planted story."

NY Times supposedly has more credibility than most newspapers and yet it accepted planted false stories about Saddam's "WMDs". I haven't forgotten that.

I'm basing my suspicion on what I have seen in the past. Media management by governments and intelligence agencies is a fact, not conjecture. Checkbook journalism is a fact, not conjecture.

Monis R. said...

My theory is that Dawn / Cyril were played. They thought they were getting the story of the year whereas the story was planted by the govt only to be denied later. I think the Islamabad editor may have been skipped due to the sensitivity of the story and Cyril wanting to go straight to the top of the food chain without it leaking. And possibly to assert his importance within the organization.

Anonymous said...

NY Times supposedly has more credibility than most newspapers and yet it accepted planted false stories about Saddam's "WMDs". I haven't forgotten that.

NY Times used to be a proper newspaper in the pre-internet era. Once the internet wiped out the newspaper industrt, NY times came close to collapse. This is when the State department stepped in an offered support. NYT is today a mouthpiece for the State department, very much like Pravda was to the Communist Party in the USSR.

Those WMD stories in the NYT were planted by the State department.

So who is planting stories in Dawn? It can only be the government of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#China refuses to support #India’s #NSG bid, #Azhar’s banning - The Hindu. #Pakistan #BRICSSummit …

On the eve of President Xi Jinping’s India visit, China on Friday stuck to its guns saying that there was no change in its stand on India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership bid and New Delhi’s attempts to get Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist by the United Nations (UN).

As Mr. Xi is due to arrive in Goa on Saturday to take part in the BRICS Summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said the relations between India and China made “great headway” despite some “disputes” but there was no change in in Beijing’s stand on the issues of NSG and Azhar.

“I have stated China’s position. I would like to reiterate that the UN committee dealing with the listing does it according to provisions of the UN charter,” he said while replying to a question on India’s application to ban Azhar following the Pathankot terrorist attack.

1267 Committee line

Mr. Geng, at a briefing, said China maintained that 1267 Committee of the UN designated to ban terrorist outfits should work on true facts and make a decision according to consensus of its members.

“All parties are divided in listing of the relevant people. And this is why China has put on hold banning Azhar,” he said.

The second technical hold put by China will give enough time to make the listing decision, Mr. Geng has said, adding that this also shows the responsible and professional attitude of the Chinese side.

“China’s position has not changed regarding the joining of the NSG by India,” Mr. Geng said.

‘Need for consensus on NSG issue’

Speaking on the same issue earlier this month, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong had harped on the need to build consensus over the admission of new members in the 48-member NSG.

Mr. Geng said that he wanted to “underscore” that in recent years China and India relations had been making “great headway” despite some “disputes.” He said that the “mainstream of bilateral relations has been positive” and “cooperation far outweighs competition.”

Mr. Geng has expressed hope that the two countries can continue with dialogue and cooperation to exchange views on some disputes, seek solutions and properly manage relevant disputes.

Expediting CPEC

Meanwhile, a Chinese scholar, Hu Shisheng, Director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations affiliated to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China may speed up the construction of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir if Pakistan was isolated and cornered by India.

“China has to discuss with Pakistan about the current situation on how to handle and how to come out it,” Mr. Hu said speaking about Pakistan’s isolation in the region leading to the postponement of the SAARC summit after the Uri terror attack in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.

“China has to further enhance relations with Pakistan if it feels cornered. A cornered regime some times will be more desperate, which will not be conducive to political development within Pakistan,” Mr. Hu said.

Riaz Haq said...

"How Narendra #Modi’s #surgicalstrike turned into a monumental farce" by Shivam Vij. #India #Pakistan via @qzindia

It was meant to be Narendra Modi’s moment of glory. Now it looks like a sham.
India’s military raid across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on Sept. 29 has become a matter of deep political bickering and crass opportunism. The Indian Army called it a surgical strike. Two weeks later, India’s politicians are still doing the autopsy.
First, there was an intense debate on whether the government should publish videos or photographic evidence of the strike after Pakistan claimed that no such strike had taken place. Similar demands, made by politicians such as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, were dubbed “anti-national.” They were projected by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and some news channels, as questioning the Indian Army itself.

The government, on its part, fuelled speculation that it might publish the visual evidence after all. In off-the-record background briefings on Sept. 29, journalists were told as much.
Meanwhile, NDTV’s Barkha Dutt interviewed former home minister P. Chidambaram of the Congress party. Intriguingly, after running promos, the channel chose to not run the interview. It wanted to stand in solidarity with the army and not broadcast it as “political mud-slinging regarding the surgical strikes without a shred of evidence was actually damaging to our national security.”
Chidambaram later said he had mentioned nothing controversial in the interview. He told The Indian Express that all he said was that the Congress party supported the strike and whatever decision the government takes, his party would back it. He also said that it might not be a bad idea to put out the evidence, not because he didn’t believe the Indian Army, but merely to call Pakistan’s bluff.
Now, how was this damaging to national security, as NDTV claimed?

In any case, after days of speculation, the government ultimately decided to not release any evidence after all.
However, there is another contentious debate that is far from over.
The surgical strike was presented by the Modi government and media as a first: Finally, India had crossed the LoC, giving up its policy of strategic restraint in dealing with Pakistan. At long last, the country had shown that it was capable of “responding.” Not even during the 1999 Kargil war had India crossed the LoC.
So, Modi meant business, or so it was claimed.

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times Op Ed by Mohammad Hanif:

Once, in a TV studio near Delhi almost eight years ago, I tried to stop a war between India and Pakistan and left thinking: Let them fight. It’s never a good idea to join a TV debate when those two are on the brink of yet another war.

I was visiting Delhi just after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and my publisher persuaded me to accept an invitation to discuss Indo-Pak relations. I was the only Pakistani among the half dozen panelists, mostly Indian ex-generals and defense experts, all apparently trying to start and win a war with outrageous sound bites.

As the panelists made their case, a map flashed on a studio screen, and crude animated Indian missiles blew up one Pakistani city after another. The panelists called these cities targets. There was a live poll during the program. It asked viewers a simple question: Should India carry out targeted strikes in Pakistan? Suddenly, it was my duty to convince millions of Indians that attacking my country wasn’t such a good idea.

I was scared, but I tried. I mumbled something about the fact that the cities being annihilated on the show’s virtual map were not terrorist training camps but regular places with ordinary folk. Yes, there were terrorists in Pakistan, but I didn’t have their addresses. I pleaded peace. For the first time I realized how some words, like some countries, are stronger than others. The phrases my co-panelists were using — surgical strikes, hot pursuit, psy-ops, befitting reply — had power, immediacy, significance. They sounded like calls to action — like jumping in a raging sea to save your baby from drowning, like rushing with a bucket of water toward a house on fire.


Most reports on Indo-Pak tensions remind us that the two countries have gone to war over Kashmir three times. What they fail to mention is that all these wars achieved was to obliterate the aspirations of Kashmiri people. In the din of conflict, the first voice to be silenced is theirs. In the current noise hardly any one notices that since July some 1,000 Kashmiris have sustained eye injuries because Indian forces are firing at them with pellet guns.

Saner pundits say: Nothing much more will happen; it’s all bluster; India and Pakistan would not go to war again because both have nuclear weapons. I hope they are right, but I am reminded of the massacres during Partition in 1947, when we didn’t have bombs and had few automatic guns. With knives and rods we managed to kill more than a million people. We didn’t have Twitter to ignite the violence; we managed to do it by word of mouth, through pamphlets and rumors that said, let’s kill them before they kill us. Now those rumors are in our living rooms, accompanied by animated maps.

Peace doesn’t make good TV. Dialogue is not an exciting visual. The history of Kashmir doesn’t fit into 140 characters. While peaceniks on both sides of the border search for a new vocabulary, we need a few moments of quiet mourning.

Riaz Haq said...

South Asian media
All hail. The Economist

India’s press is more craven than Pakistan’s
Oct 22nd 2016 | DELHI | From the print edition

most Indians assume, their media are freer. When Cyril Almeida, a Pakistani journalist, revealed earlier this month that he had been banned from travelling abroad after writing a story that embarrassed Pakistan’s security forces, India’s tabloid press gloated.

The Schadenfreude proved short-lived. To general surprise, Mr Almeida’s colleagues rallied in noisy support. Pakistani newspapers, rights groups, journalists’ clubs and social media chorused outrage at his persecution. The pressure worked; the ban got lifted.

On the Indian side of the border, however, there has not been much critical examination of the government’s actions. Instead, Indian media have vied to beat war drums the loudest.

When an army spokesman, providing very few details, announced on September 29th that India had carried out a retaliatory “surgical strike” against alleged terrorist bases along the border, popular news channels declared it a spectacular triumph and an act of subtle statecraft. Some anchors took to describing India’s neighbour as “terror state Pakistan”. One station reconfigured its newsroom around a sandbox-style military diorama, complete with flashing lights and toy fighter planes. A parade of mustachioed experts explained how “our boys” would teach Pakistan a lesson it would never forget.

Such jingoism was predictable, given the fierce competition for ratings among India’s news groups. Disturbingly, however, the diehard nationalists have gone on the offensive against fellow Indians, too.

This month NDTV, a news channel with a reputation for sobriety, advertised an interview with Palaniappan Chidambaram, a former finance minister from the opposition Congress party. Mr Chidambaram was expected to say that previous governments had also hit back at Pakistan, but with less fanfare than the present one. Abruptly, however, NDTV cancelled the show. An executive sniffed that it was “not obliged to carry every shred of drivel” and would not “provide a platform for outrageous and wild accusations”.

Arnab Goswami, the anchor of a particularly raucous talk show, has declared that critics of the government should be jailed. Extreme nationalists in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, have urged filmmakers to ban Pakistani actors. One party has threatened to vandalise cinemas that dare show a Bollywood romance, “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, due for release later this month, which features Fawad Khan, a Pakistani heartthrob. The film’s director, Karan Johar, has aired a statement declaring his patriotism, explaining that the film was shot before the current trouble and promising never again to work with talent from “the neighbouring country”. One commentator described his performance as akin to a hostage pleading for mercy.

Why, asks Mr Chidambaram, are the media toeing the government line so slavishly? Some answer that they have become ever more concentrated in the hands of big corporations, many of which carry heavy debts and so are wary of offending the party in power. Others ascribe the shrinking space for dissent to the unchecked rise of chauvinist Hindu-nationalist groups. Repressive colonial-era laws on sedition and libel also play a part.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan fares better than #India for #freedom in conflict reporting, political satire. …

Report said Both India and Pakistan would allow limited or no freedom on five topics but political satire and conflict were not among the censored subjects in Pakistan.

The report claimed that Internet is “partly free” in India. However, in so-called largest democracy Internet is usually censored when someone criticises the state authorities, makes comment on conflicts like Kashmir, makes satire of the politicians or other high profile personalities, does social commentary and says something which is considered blasphemous.

In Pakistan, the topics including criticism on state authority, blasphemy, social commentary, lesbian/gay issues and ethnic and religious minority face partial or complete censorship.

The report ranked Pakistan 56th in the index of 65 countries in terms of Internet freedom, with 34 million users. The countries which have poor score than Pakistan included Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria and China. The report revealed that Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, with more governments than ever before targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid disseminating of information, particularly anti-government protests.

Riaz Haq said...

Information Operations: It Takes a Thief

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday on foreign cyber threats to the U.S., there were several references to the saying that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” The point, made by DNI James Clapper, was that the U.S. should not be too quick to penalize the very espionage practices that U.S. intelligence agencies rely upon, including clandestine collection of information from foreign computer networks.

But perhaps a more pertinent saying would be “It takes a thief to catch a thief.”

U.S. intelligence agencies should be well-equipped to recognize Russian cyber threats and political intervention since they have been tasked for decades to carry out comparable efforts.

A newly disclosed intelligence directive from 1999 addresses “information operations” (IO), which are defined as: “Actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one’s own information and information systems.”

“Although still evolving, the fundamental concept of IO is to integrate different activities to affect [adversary] decision making processes, information systems, and supporting information infrastructures to achieve specific objectives.”

The elements of information operations may include computer network attack, computer network exploitation, and covert action.

See Director of Central Intelligence Directive 7/3, Information Operations and Intelligence Community Related Activities, effective 01 July 1999.

The directive was declassified (in part) on December 2 by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, and was first obtained and published by

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts of US Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking of DNC:

1. "Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow's longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order."

2. "Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. "

3. "These activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations."

4. "Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."

5. "Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards."

6. "In July 2015, Russian intelligence gained access to Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks and maintained that access until at least June 2016."

7. "The Kremlin and the intelligence services will continue to consider using cyber-enabled disclosure operations."

Riaz Haq said...

How the #American #CIA Infiltrated the World's #Literature Using Famous Writers as Tools … via @VICE

"The CIA's influence in publishing was on the covert ops side, and it was done as propaganda. It was a control of how intellectuals thought about the US."

The new book, Finks, reveals how great writers such as Baldwin, Márquez, and Hemingway became soldiers in America's cultural Cold War.

When the CIA's connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines were revealed in 1966, the backlash was swift but uneven. Some publications crumbled, taking their editors down with them, while other publishers and writers emerged relatively unscathed, chalking it up to youthful indiscretion or else defending the CIA as a "nonviolent and honorable" force for good. But in an illuminating new book Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers, writer Joel Whitney debunks the myth of a once-moral intelligence agency, revealing an extensive list of writers involved in transforming America's image in countries we destabilized with coups, assassinations, and other all-American interventions.

The CIA developed several guises to throw money at young, burgeoning writers, creating a cultural propaganda strategy with literary outposts around the world, from Lebanon to Uganda, India to Latin America. The same agency that occasionally undermined democracies for the sake of fighting Communism also launched the Congress for Cultural Freedoms (CCF). The CCF built editorial strategies for each of these literary outposts, allowing them to control the conversation in countries where readers might otherwise resist the American perspective. The Paris Review, whose co-founder Peter Matthiessen was a CIA agent, would sell its commissioned interviews to the magazine's counterparts in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere. Mundo Nuevo was created to offer a moderate-left perspective to earn trust among Latin American readers, effectively muting more radical perspectives during the Cuban Revolution. Sometimes the agency would provide editors with funding and content; other times it would work directly with writers to shape the discourse. Through these acts, the CCF weaponized the era's most progressive intellectuals as the American answer to the Soviet spin machine.

While the CIA's involvement in anti-Communist propaganda has been long known, the extent of its influence—particularly in the early careers of the left's most beloved writers—is shocking. Whitney, the co-founder and editor at large of the literary magazine Guernica, spent four years digging through archives, yielding an exhaustive list—James Baldwin, Gabriel García Márquez, Richard Wright, and Ernest Hemingway all served varying levels of utility to Uncle Sam. (Not that the CIA's interest were only in letters: Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were also championed by arms of the agency.)

But don't let that ruin Love in the Time of Cholera. Whitney explains with methodical clarity how each writer became a tool for the CIA. This nuance not only salvages many of the classics from being junked as solely propaganda, but it serves as a cautionary tale for those trying to navigate today's "post-truth" media landscape. In an era where Facebook algorithms dictate the national discourse, even the most well-meaning journalist is prone to stories that distract on behalf of the US government.

"It was often a way to change the subject from the civil rights fight at home," Whitney said of the CIA's content strategy during the Cold War. We can easily draw parallels to today, where the nation's most dire issues are rarely our viral subjects. With Donald Trump's presidency just weeks away, Finks arrives at a crucial time, exposing the political machinery that can affect which stories are shared and which are silenced.

Riaz Haq said...

Social media are rapidly changing the communications landscape of the world. Everyone, including politicians, bigots, demagogues and ordinary citizens, has its own megaphones to spread whatever message they like: love, hate, anger, lies, peace, violence, etc. These messages become much more potent and powerful when done in an organized fashion such as the BJP's professional troll operation or the Russian intelligence's information ops. It's important to acknowledge the power of the social media and find ways to make it a force for good.

Riaz Haq said...

What's "fake news"? 60 Minutes producers investigate. #fakenews #SocialMedia #Russia #Trump #hillary

What surprised 60 Minutes producers who reported on "stories that are provably false" — and why arguing about it "is like going down the rabbit hole"

Cernovich is a southern California lawyer who runs the website Danger & Play. He describes himself as “right of center politically,” and 60 Minutes reported that Cernovich has become “a magnet for readers with a taste for stories with no basis in fact.” Cernovich’s online articles include a bogus report that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s disease and a fake sex cult story about Hillary Clinton’s “inner circle.”

Cernovich told 60 Minutes, however, that he believes everything he publishes is true.

“They’re definitely not fake,” he tells Pelley of his stories. “One hundred percent true.”

During the interview with Cernovich, the 60 Minutes team realized that the very definitions of words like “true” and “false” were not agreed upon by everyone in the room.

“Getting into an argument about it is like going down the rabbit hole,” Radutzky says. “And it wasn’t our job to go down the rabbit hole. It was our job to interview him and understand how he makes the decisions he makes.”

The editorial decisions Cernovich makes apparently have a broad influence, thanks to his daily commentary streams and social media posts. He reached Twitter users 83 million times last month alone.

“One of the issues with this story, with this topic, is that there is a basic fundamental disagreement right now in the country about what is false information,” Campanile says. “And that is a place where really we haven’t gone before.”

Riaz Haq said...

What is "brain hacking"? Tech insiders on why you should care
Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked, says a former Google product manager. Anderson Cooper reports

The following script is from “Brain Hacking,” which aired on April 9, 2017. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent. Guy Campanile, producer.

Have you ever wondered if all those people you see staring intently at their smartphones -- nearly everywhere, and at all times -- are addicted to them? According to a former Google product manager you are about to hear from, Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked. He is one of the few tech insiders to publicly acknowledge that the companies responsible for programming your phones are working hard to get you and your family to feel the need to check in constantly. Some programmers call it “brain hacking” and the tech world would probably prefer you didn’t hear about it. But Tristan Harris openly questions the long-term consequences of it all and we think it’s worth putting down your phone to listen.

Tristan Harris: This thing is a slot machine.

Anderson Cooper: How is that a slot machine?

Tristan Harris: Well every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, “What did I get?” This is one way to hijack people’s minds and create a habit, to form a habit. What you do is you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward, an exciting reward. And it turns out that this design technique can be embedded inside of all these products.

The rewards Harris is talking about are a big part of what makes smartphones so appealing. The chance of getting likes on Facebook and Instagram. Cute emojis in text messages. And new followers on Twitter.

Tristan Harris: There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used to get you using the product for as long as possible.

Anderson Cooper: What kind of techniques are used?

Tristan Harris: Tristan Harris: So Snapchat’s the most popular messaging service for teenagers. And they invented this feature called “streaks,” which shows the number of days in a row that you’ve sent a message back and forth with someone. So now you could say, “Well, what’s the big deal here?” Well, the problem is that kids feel like, “Well, now I don’t want to lose my streak.” But it turns out that kids actually when they go on vacation are so stressed about their streak that they actually give their password to, like, five other kids to keep their streaks going on their behalf. And so you could ask when these features are being designed, are they designed to most help people live their life? Or are they being designed because they’re best at hooking people into using the product?

Riaz Haq said...

Meet 'The Brothers' (Dulles Brothers) Who Shaped U.S. Policy, Inside And Out

Stephen Kinzer on NPR Radio

On the Dulles' ability to overthrow regimes in Iran and Guatemala but not in Cuba or Vietnam

They were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it's very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it.

Actually, one of the people who happened to be in Guatemala at the time of the coup there was the young Argentine physician Che Guevara. Later on, Che Guevara made his way to Mexico and met Fidel Castro. Castro asked him, "What happened in Guatemala?" He was fascinated; they spent long hours talking about it, and Che Guevara reported to him ... "The CIA was able to succeed because this was an open society." It was at that moment that they decided, "If we take over in Cuba, we can't allow democracy. We have to have a dictatorship. No free press, no independent organizations, because otherwise the CIA will come in and overthrow us." In fact, Castro made a speech after taking power with [Guatemalan President Jacobo] Árbenz sitting right next to him and said, "Cuba will not be like Guatemala."

Now, [Vietnamese Communist leader] Ho Chi Minh was not establishing an open society ... the fact is, he had a dictatorship, he had a closed, tyrannical society, and that made it much more difficult for the CIA to operate. So we find this irony that if [Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad] Mossadegh and Árbenz had been the tyrants that the Dulles brothers portrayed them as being, the Dulles brothers wouldn't have been able to overthrow them. But the fact that they were democrats committed to open society made their countries vulnerable to intervention in ways that Vietnam and particular North Vietnam then were not.

On how things might have been different had the Dulles brothers not intervened

It's quite possible, even likely, had the Dulles brothers not been [in Vietnam] or had acted differently, there never would've been an American involvement in Vietnam at the cost of a million lives and more than 50,000 Americans. Guatemala wouldn't have suffered 200,000 dead over a period of 35 years in the civil war that broke out after they intervened in Guatemala and destroyed democracy there. Iran fell under royal dictatorship and then more than 30 years of fundamentalist religious rule as a result of the Dulles brothers' operations. Had they not intervened in Iran we might've had a thriving democracy in the heart of the Muslim Middle East. ...

So you look around the world and you see these horrific situations that still continue to shake the world, and you can trace so many of them back to the Dulles brothers.

Riaz Haq said...

Arun Shourie On Media Freedom: #Indian govt raids are an attempt to intimidate #India's free press. #Modi … via @ndtv

My dear friends, I want to first begin by expressing my deep gratitude to Narendra Modi. He has brought so many friends together. And as a return favour, I want to read him a couplet, which Kuldip Nayar will tell us who it is by:

Tujhse se pahle vo jo ik shakhs yahan takht-nashin tha
Us ko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yaqin tha

(He who occupied this throne before you
He too believed himself to be God as much as you)

And as that is from a Pakistani poet (Habib Jalib) I must protect myself by reading from the Granth Sahib: Ram gayo, Ravan gayo, jake Bhau Parivaar...Ye bhii jaayenge. (Ram is gone, so is Ravan, and these people too will go.)

So we must have that confidence. As there is no fact that needs to be added, no point in law that needs to be added after the person who has been the shield of freedom in India, Mr Fali Nariman, has given us such a good exposition.

I will address the question which (journalist) Nihal Singh sahib proposed. The question is: What should we do? And as Mr Kuldip Nayar said, it is not necessary to answer this question, at the time of the Emergency, but the fact of the matter is every generation is taught the lesson of freedom.

So this time, once again that lesson has begun. The first thing we must do is to recognise that a new phase has begun. Because thus far the government was using two instruments. One was to stuff the mouth of the media with the bribe of advertisements. There is a Zulu proverb that a dog with a bone in its mouth can't bark. So, they were converting the media into a dog with the advertisements in its mouth that cannot bark at them.

And the second point was, they were controlling and managing the media by the subterranean spreading of fear: Yaar, tum jaante nahi ho, Modi sab sun rahaa hai, uske paas saari team hai, ye hai, woh hai... Amit Shah CBI ko control kartaa hai, kal tumhaare par ye hogaa...Arre yaar, ye ho gayaa hai, phir bhi aadmi zindaa hai (points towards Prannoy Roy). Phir bhi channel chal rahi hai. (You know, Modi is listening to everything. He has this big team, he has this, he has that...Amit Shah controls the CBI, tomorrow they will do this to you... But, this has happened (the CBI raids) and the man (Prannoy Roy) is still alive. The channel is still going strong.)

You must see that now they have got what they could from those two instruments. So now they are using the third instrument, which is overt pressure. And they have made NDTV an example of that. And this will intensify in the coming months, I believe this will intensify. One because of the nature of the regime, the nature of the regime - its genes are totalitarian. What does totalitarian mean? Total domination in the entire geography of India, in every sphere of life - in all fora, they must dominate. So, they are extending it step by step, if you look at the pattern. The second is, that the gap between what they claim in their advertisements and speeches, and what the people are feeling on the ground in their lives - whether you're a farmer or a person who is losing his job, that is so wide already but that will become wider in the next two years as investments doesn't revive and other things happen. For that reason, they will then take to not just managing but suppressing the voices of dissent. So that's the first thing to realise.....

Riaz Haq said...


WHEN IT COMES to Russian propaganda, things are seldom what they seem. Consider the case of the Internet Research Agency.
The shadowy St. Petersburg-based online-influence operation came under fresh scrutiny this week after Facebook disclosed that entities linked to Russia had placed some 5,000 phony political ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle. The IRA, which was the subject of a 2015 New York Times Magazine investigation, may have been behind many of the bogus Facebook ads, the company says.
Of course, things aren’t as simple as that. Russian corporate records indicate Internet Research Agency has been inactive since December 2016. But that doesn’t mean that Russians no longer engage in such activity. According to Russia researchers at the liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress, there’s reason to believe the Internet Research Agency is operating under a new name: Glavset.
A Russian tax filing reveals that Glavset, which launched in February 2015, operates out of the same office building—55 Savushkin Street in St. Petersburg—that once housed the Internet Research Agency. The filing lists Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, former head of the Internet Research Agency, as its general director.
These ties undermine the idea that IRA is no longer a threat, says Diana Pilipenko, principal investigator on CAP’s Moscow Project. “It’s there," she says. "It’s alive and well and operating.”

Glavset’s ties to IRA have been reported in Russian media. Russian outlets have been following so-called troll farms, businesses that create fake social-media accounts to spread propaganda, since 2015, when an undercover mole documented an account of her time working for IRA in a Russian newspaper. Those ties are less well known in the US.
It’s not clear whether Glavset purchased political ads on Facebook, or any other platform. A Facebook spokesman could not immediately say whether Facebook uncovered any ads placed by Glavset in the investigation it revealed Wednesday. That probe found 470 inauthentic pages and accounts affiliated with Internet Research Agency; Facebook turned that information over to special counsel Robert Mueller

Pilipenko says establishing the connection between IRA and Glavset—and identifying other entities connected to IRA—is crucial to understanding the scope of Russian propaganda efforts on Facebook and other social-media platforms.
"If Facebook has only identified ads purchased by one of these companies, there needs to be an immediate investigation into activity by everything in this 'Kremlebot' empire," Pilipenko says. "This may just be the tip of the iceberg."

Investigators probing Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election are asking similar questions, of Facebook and other internet companies. On Thursday, Democratic Senator Mark Warner called on Twitter to share what it knows about Russian entities purchasing ads on its platform. Twitter did not answer WIRED’s request for comment. Meanwhile, Google said it has found “no evidence this type of ad campaign was run” on its platform. Finding this evidence, of course, requires knowing what to look for. As recently as July, Facebook was saying the same thing.

Riaz Haq said...

John Swinton - Yes, He Said It, But...

John Swinton: Yes, he said it, but...

One night, probably in 1880, John Swinton, then the preeminent New York journalist, was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty_four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

(Source: Labor's Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

Riaz Haq said...

CIA Admits to Congress the Agency Uses Mainstream Media to Distribute Disinformation: 1975 Video

It has been verified by a source who claims she was there that then-CIA Director William Casey did in fact say the controversial and often-disputed line “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false,” reportedly in 1981.

Despite Casey being under investigation by Congress for being involved in a major disinformation plot involving the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi in 1981, and despite Casey arguing on the record that the CIA should have a legal right to spread disinformation via the mainstream news that same year, this quote continues to be argued by people who weren’t there and apparently cannot believe a CIA Director would ever say such a thing.

But spreading disinfo is precisely what the CIA would — and did — do.

This 1975 clip of testimony given during a House Intelligence Committee hearing has the agency admitting on record that the CIA creates and uses disinformation against the American people.

Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to a major circulation — American journal?”

Answer: “We do have people who submit pieces to American journals.”

Question: “Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?”

Answer: “This I think gets into the kind of uh, getting into the details Mr. Chairman that I’d like to get into in executive session.”


Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to the national news services — AP and UPI?”

Answer: “Well again, I think we’re getting into the kind of detail Mr. Chairman that I’d prefer to handle at executive session.”

It’s easy enough to read between the lines on the stuff that was saved for the executive session. Then-CBS President Sig Mickelson goes on to say that the relationships at CBS with the CIA were long established before he ever became president — and that’s just one example. Considering 90% of our media today has been consolidated into six major corporations over the past decade, it’s not hard to see that you shouldn’t readily believe everything you see, hear or read in the “news.”

“I thought that it was a matter of real concern that planted stories intended to serve a national purpose abroad came home and were circulated here and believed here because this would mean that the CIA could manipulate the news in the United States by channeling it through some foreign country,” Democratic Idaho Senator Frank Church said at a press conference surrounding the hearing. Church chaired the Church Committee, a precursor to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was responsible for investigating illegal intelligence gathering by the NSA, CIA and FBI.

This exact tactic — planting disinformation in foreign media outlets so the disinfo would knowingly surface in the United States as a way of circumventing the rules on domestic operations — was specifically argued for as being legal simply because it did not originate on U.S. soil by none other than CIA Director William Casey in 1981.

Riaz Haq said...

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

Jeff Jarvis: Washington shows the morals of a clumsy spammer

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter.

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom's contract requires for each controller the provision of one "virtual private server" located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Media Calls Out Indian Media’s Silence on Cobrapost Sting

The ignominy of Indian mainstream media’s deafening silence around the Cobrapost sting ‘Operation 136’ , which sought to expose the alleged underbelly of India’s biggest media outlets, has caught the eye of many international media houses.

Though the operation and its claims have been refuted by the media firms who have allegedly been exposed, what has raised eyebrows is the Indian media’s coverage, or lack thereof, surrounding the sting operation.

The sting operation that targets 27 media outlets, including some of the country’s biggest, reveals the supposed willingness of these media outlets to run political and religious propaganda in favour of the ruling government in return for hefty financial gains.

Apart from The Indian Express, that reported the story in a hard hitting piece titled ‘Where Anything Goes’ , most of the mainstream media turned a blind eye towards the story.

This led to a number of international media outlets calling out the Indian media for having failed to highlight the failures within the fraternity.

Indian Press Seems Willing to Peddle Political Propaganda: Foreign Policy
Pamposh Raina’s report in Foreign Policy talks about the fact that if proven, the media of the world’s largest democracy, would be willing to be used as propaganda mouthpieces by religious and political parties to spread their agenda.

“Despite sting journalism’s controversial reputation, the exposé, if accurate, reveals the ease with which the Indian press seems willing to peddle a political agenda. And, if true, the videos are all the more troubling given that India’s history has repeatedly shown mixing religion and politics can lead to violent sectarian clashes,” Foreign Policy wrote.
Troubling Doubts over the Independence of Media in India: BBC
Meanwhile the BBC highlighted the troubling issues that plague the Indian media, especially the fact that press freedom rankings of the country is a matter of shame and that if these allegations are proven true, it only further solidifies the concerns of Indian media’s follies.

There is no question that the Cobrapost allegations need to be treated with healthy skepticism. But there is also no question that they raise potentially troubling doubts over the independence of the media in India, particularly when it is a year away from a general election.
Also Read: Cobrapost Sting: ‘Explain Your Position,’ Editors Guild Asks Media

Problematic Time for Indian Journalism: Al Jazeera
A report in the Al Jazeera underlined that it is a troubling time for Indian journalism. In their weekly programme ‘The Listening Post’ that examines and dissects the world media, Richard Gizbert talks about the conspicuous absence of the Cobrapost sting operation in the Indian media coverage.

The suspicion that Indian media outlets can be bought is not new. So for many, the Cobrapost sting simply confirmed what they had long suspected and did so at an already problematic time for Indian journalism. In the four years of the Narendra Modi government, polarisation across the media has grown more extreme; the voices more shrill.
Al Jazeera
If at all these allegations were to be proven true, it would be a damning moment for the Indian media, and would only further intensify the skepticism that one goes through while reading and watching news in the mainstream media.

(With inputs from Al Jazeera, BBC and Foreign Policy)

Riaz Haq said...

The US intel agencies do influence internal American politics to help or hurt politicians and political parties

The most common way is to leak intelligence and plant stories in the media

That’s why Trump and Democrats both fear them

An example of what I’m talking about emerged when Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer was asked by Rachel Maddow about Trump’s spurning of the agencies’ findings. Trump is “taking these shots, this antagonism, this taunting to the intelligence community,” Maddow pointed out. The response by Schumer—who has been in Congress since 1980, and in the Senate leadership for ten years, and presumably knows his way around Washington—should send a chill through the heart of every American:

Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.

Some may argue that Trump is not serving his country well by not giving more respect to the intelligence community. But whether or not that is true, if it’s really the case that dissing the intelligence community might result in retaliation by that community against a politician, then the lines of power in our political system have become dangerously distorted.

It’s not clear what the “six ways from Sunday” are that Schumer has in mind. Presumably they could range from antagonistic leaks, to concrete actions overseas to undermine a president’s foreign policy, to darker forms of sabotage and blackmail. Certainly we have seen some of these behaviors in our nation’s history. And it’s worth remembering that our spy agencies are professionals at manipulating and interfering with governments—though all such activities are clearly illegal if applied within the United States or to U.S. persons.

It’s possible that Schumer was being flippant or over-dramatic. He may have meant simply that they might continue to try to make Trump look bad by releasing their intelligence findings to the public—something they ought to do more regularly. But this is not the first time we’ve seen suggestions that our spy agencies are becoming an independent political force. In January 2014, for example, in the middle of a steady drumbeat of Snowden revelations, President Obama was preparing a speech to address the subject. The New York Times, in a story on the upcoming speech, wrote the following:

The emerging approach, described by current and former government officials who insisted on anonymity in advance of Mr. Obama’s widely anticipated speech, suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies.

To me this was a deeply disturbing piece of reporting. Naturally Obama, like all presidents and indeed all politicians, had to navigate among competing interests. As America’s foreign policy leader, he had to worry about the opinions of foreign leaders and nations. As a politician, he naturally had to weigh the concerns of liberal civil libertarians, who were a part of his core political constituency in the Democratic Party, as well as conservative civil libertarians, who were part of his citizenry, and the Congress.

But, the Times reported, he was also concerned about a “backlash from national security agencies.”

Similarly, in a 2009 story published shortly before Obama was inaugurated, the Times reported that Obama was “reluctant” to authorize investigations into torture under the Bush administration. His administration, the paper noted,

will face competing demands: pressure from liberals who want wide-ranging criminal investigations, and the need to establish trust among the country’s intelligence agencies. At the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, many officers flatly oppose any further review and may protest the prospect of a broad inquiry into their past conduct.

Riaz Haq said...

'When #Media Turns Against the Citizen, Citizens Must Play the Role of the Media'#India’s mainstream media is working night and day to convert our citizens into “post-illiterates”, says Ravish Kumar in his #MagsaysayAward acceptance speech via @thewire_in

Information helps build nations. Fake news, propaganda and false history on the other hand helps create mobs. I’m thankful to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation for giving me this opportunity to put my views to the other parts of the world…

I am not here alone. I have brought the entire world of Hindi journalism practised by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and Peer Munis Mohammad.

We are living in testing times, as journalists and as common citizens. Our citizenship itself is on trial right now and make no mistake about it, we need to fight back. We need to rethink our duties and responsibilities as citizens. I believe that in today’s times when the attack on our citizenship is all-encompassing and the state’s surveillance apparatus is more overbearing than ever, the individuals or groups who are able to withstand this onslaught and emerge stronger from it, will be the ones who lay the foundation for a better citizenry and for that matter, maybe even better governments in the future.

Our world is filled with such determined citizens already who in spite of pervasive hatred and a manufactured information deficit, have chosen to fight back and bloom like the cactus flower does in the midst of a barren hopeless desert. Standing alone and surrounded by the ever stretching desert on all sides, the cactus doesn’t think about the meaning of its existence: it stands there to let you know that it’s possible.

Wherever the fertile plains of democracy are being subverted into deserts, the exercise of citizenship and the fight for the claim over – and right to – information have become perilous, but not impossible.

Citizenship effectively requires a free flow of verifiable information. The state today has established full control over the media and the corporations. The implication of this control over the media and in turn your information flow is that it limits and narrows the scope of your citizenship. In other words, the media controls diversity of the news stories, and specifies what interpretation of news events are acceptable. The media is now a part of the surveillance state. It isn’t the fourth estate anymore, but the first estate.

News channel debates take place within a vocabulary of exclusionary nationalism wherein they seek to replace the collective history and memory of the nation with that of the ruling party’s in their viewers’ minds. There are only two types of people in this news universe narrative: the anti-nationals and us. It’s the classic “us” and “them” technique. They tell us that the problem with anti-nationals is that they ask questions, disagree, and dissent. Disagreement is the atma – the spirit, soul, or essence – of democracy and citizenship. The democratic atma is under relentless attack every day. When citizenship is under threat or when its very meaning has been altered, then what happens to the nature of a citizen’s journalism? Both are citizens: those who claim to speak as the nation, and the victims of their derision.

Riaz Haq said...

Praveen Swami’s legacy of “sources” journalism

By Praveen Donthi

In 2013, I reported for The Caravan on India’s compromised national security beat. I noted in the piece that reporting on the “natsec” beat in India has always been a murky business, centred on a transactional relationship between the reporters and their sources in the security establishments. The glamorous nature of natsec reporting also ensures that they keep their sources completely anonymous, and are rarely questioned by editors. These reporters rely heavily on leaks, and the price for access is publishing information without much regard for its provenance. The beneficiaries of these dynamics are India’s security establishment and its government, which, on matters of national security, prefer to function without public scrutiny and accountability.

Swami, whose work I analysed in the 2013 report, fits neatly into this pattern. “If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles,” a 2010 report by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, a human-rights group, said.

Swami’s reports are based mostly on unnamed sources in intelligence agencies, and make big claims with recurring narrative patterns. I wrote in 2013 that his pieces often flaunted details that would have been difficult for any journalist to discover first-hand, all presented in neat, confident narratives. His work has since continued along similar lines. On 26 February, as the foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale announced that India had conducted an airstrike in Balakot, Firstpost had carried one of the first reports on the strikes. The article claimed that, “according to defence sources, IAF fighter jets not only targeted the JeM camp, but also Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen camps near Muzaffarabad.” These sources further claimed that there were six more targets “including Chakothi, Balakot and Muzaffarabad” and that five terror camps were also “targeted at Kangar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” The article was attributed to “FP staff.”

A week after the government claimed Indian forces had carried out surgical strikes on terror-training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 29 September 2016, Swami wrote a story for The Indian Express, where he was Strategic and International Affairs editor at the time. The story claimed to include “information which the governments of India and Pakistan have not made public.” The article, however, only confirmed India’s claims of the strikes. Swami claimed in the report that he sent questions to five people, “using a commercially available encrypted chat system,” who visited the villages that were apparently attacked during the strikes and spoke to the residents. Swami described them as “eyewitnesses.”

One of the stories Firstpost published after the recent fracas was by Francesca Marino, an Italian journalist. Marino’s story claimed that 35 people were killed in the strikes and mentioned that “the eyewitnesses were contacted by this correspondent using encrypted communication.”

Swami’s 2016 Indian Express story included this bit about a vengeful sentiment among the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, following the surgical strikes:

Friday prayers at a Lashkar-affiliated mosque in Chalhana, another eyewitness said, ended with a cleric vowing to avenge the deaths of the men killed the previous day. “The Lashkar men gathered there were blaming the Pak Army for failing to defend the border”, he said in one message, “and saying they would soon give India an answer it would never forget”.

He authored a Firstpost story on 1 March this year, which spoke of a similar sentiment among the leadership of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose training camp is believed to be target of India’s recent Balakot strike: