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Sunday, September 28, 2014

TRAI Report on Media Ownership: Occupation of media by 'natural' market forces

Note: The trend of occupation of media by 'natural' market forces has been unfolding for quite a while. Indeed "media regulation" is "essentially a bargain between power brokers in the media and the competing elements within the political domain" amidst "concentration of ownership".  Hasn't TRAI recommended something like a Third Press Commission “headed by a retired Supreme Court judge” to examine the structural changes in the media landscape? 

First Press Commission was set up Nehru Govt. The Second Press Commission set up by Morarji Govt and reconstituted by India Gandhi Govt. There was a demand for the 3rd Press Commission which Dr Manmohan Singh government agreed to it. It sought its Terms of Reference twice from Kuldeep Nayar but failed to set it up. The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Information Technology in its report in 2013 has observed on cross-media ownership and its adverse impact on "democratic structure”. Besides Nayar, senior journalists like Ram Sharan Joshi and Ram Bahadur Rai have been demanding the setting up of the Third Press Commission. 

In a rigorous analysis, Sukumar Muralidharan recorded that Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has commended the TRAI initiative but suggested that the magnitude of the problem of media monopolies remained to be accurately assessed. The market share of the major media entities was of course germane, but so too was the disproportionately large share they obtained of the aggregate advertising expenditure in the economy. 

The fact of The Times of India (TOI) questioning TRAI’s jurisdiction into the policy space on print media is quite predictable. Notably, TOI has questioned the role of Press Council of India too in the past.  TOI's division which manages radio broadcasting assets put on record its “fundamental” belief that the “growth of media in a democracy as vibrant and heterogeneous as India is possible only if the industry is allowed to grow to its full potential governed only by market forces and not restricted by suffocating regulations”. TOI's the internet division told TRAI, "(i)nstead of trying to harm the Media Industry...TRAI must be sensitive to efforts to protect the Media Industry against existing wrong practices like wage boards for newspaper employees, which allows government the power to decide the salaries of journalists and non-journalists." Such submissions of likes of TOI and STAR are part of profit at any cost ideology who find 'public interest' an idea of the by gone era for whom media freedom means freedom to make profit and externalize costs. 

Will the new government concede to the  demand for the Third Press Commission? Drawing on the 2009 report on media ownership by the Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), the TRAI recommendations makes a case for it.   

Gopal Krishna

Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)

TRAI Report on Media Ownership

The Press’s Curious Response

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recently released its report on media ownership to a studied indifference from the print media which otherwise debates this issue vigorously. Why have the newspapers avoided a serious and vigorous engagement with the report's consequential recommendations?
Sukumar Muralidharan ( is a senior journalist and political commentator based in New Delhi.
Given the general tone of public discussions on the media, there could be a prize reserved for any statement that avoids the term “fourth estate”. In its report on media ownership released on 12 August, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) fails to resist the cliché, resonantly pronouncing in its very first line that the “fourth estate” plays a “crucial role in a democracy”.1
TRAI’s exploration of media ownership stays true to form here, but reserves an element of surprise in the recommendations it puts forward. At issue are two among the constitutional rights: property and free speech. Property may have been demoted in the reigning constitutional orthodoxy from being a fundamental right to merely a “legal right”, but it remains an entitlement protected with greater zeal than life itself. And free speech is of course a right of very wide amplitude which has in much public discussion been reduced, unfortunately to merely a matter of the media. These are difficult knots to cut through and after placing all its thoughts on the table, TRAI leaves the task of unravelling the multiple complexities involved, to a future body, perhaps a commission “headed by a retired Supreme Court judge”.
Perception of Media
Public agencies and deliberative bodies have of late shown a proclivity to blow the whistle on the more blatant abuses creeping into the Indian media. In 2013 the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) completed its inquiries into the contagion of “paid news” or “cash for coverage”, identifying the progressive marginalisation of the craft of journalism within the media industry’s calculus, as a contributory factor. This raised hopes that the journalistic community would gain some sort of redress for their multiplying woes, a hope which quickly proved misplaced since general election season was coming up and the political establishment was unwilling to risk a confrontation with those who wielded real power within the media industry.
With the TRAI report now, as with the PSC’s report in 2013, the principal actors have played true to form. The official inquiry has stepped boldly beyond the limits of political feasibility in suggesting a course of action that would cut deeply through the shield of media industry autonomy. However, the media industry itself has responded with studied indifference. A sampling of the English language print media where the policy dialogue is customarily carried on with the greatest vigour, uncovers a curious indifference, with most newspapers relegating the TRAI recommendations to an insignificant spot on an inner page, often avoiding a serious engagement with its most consequential recommendations.
By pure coincidence, within days of the TRAI report, the Congress Party completed the pretence of an internal inquest into the savage mauling received in the recent parliamentary general elections. It was never in doubt, even if the elaborate rituals of honest stocktaking were followed, that the dynastic leadership of the party would evade all blame. The only point of interest in the outcome then, was in the discovery of a new scapegoat for the Congress’s abject failure. As a Congress spokesperson said after the report was completed, “manipulation of media coverage by the BJP” and the reciprocal favours done by the media which allegedly focused only on the BJP’s leader Narendra Modi while “painting a negative image of the Congress” were the principal elements that determined the election outcome.2
The diagnosis speaks eloquently of a party that has lost all ideological moorings except to the principle of power. But the perception that the media has now acquired the capability to influence political outcomes is widely shared, as evidenced by research agendas in schools of journalism, which have chosen the Narendra Modi campaign for 2014 as a case study of effective political communication. However it is assessed by future researchers, the mere fact that the perception exists that an election outcome was influenced to an unprecedented degree by the media, is sufficient indication of how the balance of forces lie today. The media will seek to leverage the perception of its strength to obtain maximum advantage. The political establishment will gladly yield that advantage as long as it sees that its vital interests are not impaired. And with media regulation being essentially a bargain between power brokers in the media and the competing elements within the political domain, the cause is unlikely to register much progress.
Negotiating Complexities
TRAI seeks to cut through the many ambiguities that have made media regulation a distant goal. Public interest is its only ostensible guide, as too the reasonable premise that pluralism is a desirable end. Pluralism as an end is defeated by concentration of ownership, but when media entities are either protected by accounting confidentiality or enabled to conceal the controlling hand behind a complex mesh of interlocked equity holdings, concentration is a difficult parameter to judge. Market power likewise is difficult to estimate when linguistic segmentation is the rule.
Partly by borrowing concepts first mooted in a 2009 report on media ownership by the Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), TRAI manages to negotiate these complexities with fair success. Ownership is assessed by requiring media entities to follow a regime of transparency and there is likely to be little amiss in imposing more stringent disclosure norms on these firms, on grounds of public interest. The more difficult notion of “control” could be quantified using equity ownership as the proxy variable. Where interlocking ownership occurs, the multiplicative rule is recommended, i e, for an entity that owns a certain percentage of the equity of another, which in turn owns a known share in yet another, the degree of control could be assessed by multiplying the first shareholding percentage by the second.
Equity holding of 20% or above, judged in accordance with the above procedures, would under the TRAI recommendations, connote the degree of “control” at which corrective measures would be triggered. Similarly, any entity with the power to appoint more than half the membership of the board of directors of a media enterprise, or holding 50% or more of the voting rights, would be deemed to have a controlling interest. TRAI also brings loans into the reckoning, since these have been used in recent years as a means of acquiring decisive influence over media agendas. Any entity which advances a loan that constitutes 51% or more of the total book value of a media unit’s assets, would be regarded as controlling its operations.
In its methodology for assessing market power, TRAI further develops on the suggestion made in ASCI’s 2009 study, that the Herfindahl Hirschman Index (HHI) be the relevant measure. Market share is assessed segment-wise, i e, in accordance with the language of broadcast and the state to which it is relevant, and measured using circulation for the print media and viewership for TV news channels. The English language media, both print and broadcast, would be assumed to have a pan-Indian audience. The HHI, which is the sum of the squares of the market shares of all players in percentage terms, would then give the figure for the degree of concentration in all the markets of interest. The HHI, it would be readily seen, could vary from a theoretical minimum of zero – when there are an infinite number of players in a market, each with infinitesimally small shares – to a maximum of 10,000, when there is one player with a 100% share. TRAI has suggested an HHI figure of 1,800 as a threshold figure. An HHI that exceeds 1,800 in any market would trigger certain recommended measures. Any single entity that has a contribution of 1,000 or more to the HHI in any market of interest (such as, for example, the print media in the Tamil language) would not be allowed then to have a like contribution to another (as for example, TV news in the same language). The controlling entity would then be required to dilute its control below the threshold level of 20% in one of the two markets of concern.
TRAI does not account for concentration of ownership across language markets, as with an entity controlling dominant shares in both the Tamil and English print media in a particular geographical region. In principle, the same procedure could be applied here, of a threshold level of the HHI at which action to dilute control would be triggered. Data availability is likely to be a hindrance since circulation and viewership information are only available after a certain time lag. Business units could argue that in a constantly changing market scenario, it would be unfair to subject them to legal sanctions on the basis of data pertaining to the past and having no reference to current and future realities.
Constitutional Challenge
Any effort to legislate the measures that TRAI proposes will almost certainly run into a constitutional challenge. Particularly troublesome would be the proposal to prohibit certain kinds of entities, such as political parties and religious bodies, from entering the news broadcast domain. A similar proposal was built into the broadcast regulatory bill that the United Front coalition brought in months before its short-lived tenure was ended by a withdrawal of Congress support in 1997. Legislation of this nature could conceivably have passed then, but facts have since been created on the ground that would defeat any such effort. Occupation, it is said, is one-half of the law and the number of religious bodies and political parties that operate broadcast channels through thinly disguised front organisations, is multiplying by the month.
Unsurprisingly, TRAI leaves these rather knotty legal issues to a future commission headed by an eminent jurist. But the existing jurisprudence on the issue is not favourable, with the Supreme Court having held in at least two decisive judgments that media freedom – derived in turn from the right to free speech – cannot be curbed on the grounds other than those strictly specified in the Constitution. This can be illustrated through the 1961 judgment in the Sakalnewspaper case, wherein the Court held that the Constitution did not permit any abridgment of the right to free speech of any strata of society (read, the media industry) “on the ground of conferring benefits upon the public in general or upon a section of the public”. The case then pertained to the so-called “price-page schedule” by which a restraint was sought on predatory pricing in the newspaper industry, which enabled the bigger players to leverage their superior access to advertisement revenue to drive out smaller entities through price competition. That object was not seen in the Supreme Court’s judgment, as justifying the means of restraining the bigger newspapers from a commercial strategy that would best serve their interests.
Similar principles were underlined in the context of a move to ration newsprint allocations in a situation of extreme scarcity. In the 1972 case of Bennett Colemann and Companythe Supreme Court held the effort to safeguard the interests of small newspapers by restricting newsprint consumption by the large newspapers, to be unconstitutional. The freedom of speech, it held “could not be restricted for the purpose of regulating the commercial aspects of activities of the newspapers”. In equally treating “newspapers which are not equal” in terms of their “needs and requirements”, the newsprint allocation policy fell foul of Article 14 of the Constitution, which upheld the principle of equality before the law.
Media Industry’s Arsenal
TRAI’s study comes at a time when the public mood over a runaway media is in a state of considerable aggravation. But if the debate is to advance any further, it should reckon with a consistent history of indifference by the government and obstruction by the media industry. Illustratively, the 2009 ASCI report, for all its methodological rigour and clarity, suffered a strange fate. Despite having commissioned it, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) effectively mothballed it and put it beyond the pale of public discussion. Close to three years later, the PSC attached to the MIB observed that “print and electronic media integration (was) taking place”, creating “behemoths (that were) acquiring a mind-share disproportionate to what is permissible in a competitive market environment”. The committee took note of the ASCI report and in response to its pointed inquiry, the MIB undertook as a “first step” to upload the entire document on its website. Public reactions would be sought and “views so received would be shared with TRAI for a relook on the entire issue”, the MIB promised.
There was of course, no explanation from the MIB of the delay in placing in the public domain a report on a matter of considerable importance. Neither is it known how long precisely the document remained on the MIB website. A fortnight after the parliamentary committee’s report was tabled in the house, the MIB secretary wrote to TRAI, to initiate a further series of consultations on the issue of media ownership. “Many players are looking for expanding their business interests in various segments of print and broadcasting sectors”, read the letter: “In this scenario, the issue of media ownership and the need for cross media restrictions assumes significance.” TRAI responded in February 2013 with yet another consultation paper. What were recommended as concrete policy options in the ASCI report became in TRAI’s paper a series of open-ended questions on which “stakeholders” – as the term of art would have it – were invited to comment.
Events that followed hewed very closely to the template set in earlier such junctures when changes to the media regulatory regime were proposed and public participation was called for. Media industry entities and their lobbies mobilised in force, deluging TRAI in verbiage that had one basic purpose: to establish the futility of any manner of regulation. Working journalists managed to put together a solitary submission through the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), commending the TRAI initiative and suggesting that the magnitude of the problem of media monopolies remained to be accurately assessed. The market share of the major media entities was of course germane, but so too was the disproportionately large share they obtained of the aggregate advertising expenditure in the economy, the DUJ argued.
There were a few other interventions from independent advocacy bodies and academia. Yet all these paled in comparison with the arsenal assembled by media industry groups to dismantle the case for regulation. The business group that owns The Times of India questioned TRAI’s intrusion into the policy space on print media, where it had absolutely no jurisdiction. The division which manages radio broadcasting assets within the same group, put on record its “fundamental” belief that the “growth of media in a democracy as vibrant and heterogeneous as India is possible only if the industry is allowed to grow to its full potential governed only by market forces and not restricted by suffocating regulations”. And as if the group’s interests were not adequately represented, the internet division stepped into the fray with the stern admonition that
(i)nstead of trying to harm the Media Industry...TRAI must be sensitive to efforts to protect the Media Industry against existing wrong practices like wage boards for newspaper employees, which allows government the power to decide the salaries of journalists and non-journalists.
And then, to complete this awesome display of the group’s corporate power, the Times TV Network came up with a positive celebration of cross media holdings.
STAR India, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled distribution platform which has, since beginning India’s first 24-hour news channel, withdrawn from the arena for an exclusive focus on distribution, scoffed at the entire purpose of the consultation. In a 335-page response in which the operative portions alone ran to 120 pages, followed by nine appendices, Star argued that the “existing media ownership regime itself has outlived its relevance and is ripe for dissolution”. An especially irksome example it cited was the 20% direct shareholding restriction by a foreign player in the DTH sector, which imposed an ownership restraint on Murdoch’s Sky Television. “Media companies”, said Star, “continue to be stymied by rules passed more than a decade ago – a time that bears no resemblance to the modern one in which they operate”.
Backroom Policy
If in comparison to this frenzy of activity in response to the TRAI’s initial call for responses, the media industry has responded in low key fashion to the recent report, the reasons are fairly clear. The battle is not one to be fought in the full glare of public attention. Media policy rather is to be determined in the backrooms where trade and barter take place, where the two principals arrive at rules of engagement that would best serve a mutuality of interests. TRAI’s invocation of the doctrine of the “fourth estate” may have had a certain resonance as an aspirational statement. But it has long since ceased having any relevance in the real world.
1 Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Recommendations on Issues Relating to Media Ownership, 12 August 2014, Delhi; available for download at the website of the authority:
2 See the stories titled “Rahul Gandhi Not to Blame for Congress’s Lok Sabha Poll Rout: Antony” in The Times of India, 16 August, extracted on 20 August 2014 at:; another well-known news platform, India Today, carried a story attributed to the Congress spokesperson and headlined “Media Focused Only on Modi: Azad”, on 16 August 2014; extracted on 20 August at:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

मीडिया पर कसता हुआ कारपोरेट का शिकंजा

मुझे अचरज नहीं हुआ जब मुकेश अंबानी के रिलायंस इंडस्ट्रीज लिमिटेड ने एक बड़े टेलीविजन नेटवर्क को अपने हाथ में ले लिया। ज्यादातर चैनलों- लगभग 300-के मालिक प्रोपर्टी डीलर हैं जो हर महीने औसतन एक करोड़ रुपया खर्च करने में सक्षम हैं, काले धन को सफेद करने का तरीका अपनाते हुए।
मुझे जिस बात से धक्का पहुंचा वह यह था कि मीडिया ने सौदे की खबर तो दी लेकिन इसने खामोश रहना पसंद किया। इसके बावजूद कि पत्रकारिता अब एक पेशा नहीं रह गया है और उद्योग बन गया है, मैं कुछ प्रतिक्रिया की उम्मीद कर रहा था, कम से कम एडीटर्स गिल्ड आफ इंडिया से।
लेकिन फिर यह समझा जा सकता है क्योंकि एडीटर्स गिल्ड आफ इंडिया ने मेरे इस प्रस्ताव को खारिज कर दिया है कि संपादक भी अपनी संपति घोषित करें जिसकी मांग वे राजनेताओं से करते हैं। दोहरा मापदंड उस ऊंचाई को झूठा बना देता है जिस पर मीडिया बैठा हुआ है।
मैं कारपोरेट के मीडिया में पूंजी लगाने के खिलाफ नहीं हूं। बढ़ते खर्च और विज्ञापनों के घटते जाने से मीडिया भुखमरी की स्थिति में है। लेकिन आदर्श यही है कि मीडिया खुद पर निर्भर हो। लेकिन ज्यादातर अखबारों और टेलीविजन चैनलों के लिए यह संभव नहीं है, फिर बड़ी कंपनियों के लिए यह तय करना होगा कि वे किस हद तक जाएं।
पूर्व प्रधानमंत्री श्रीमती इंदिरा गांधी ने अखबारों में विदेशी हिस्सेदारी पर 26 प्रतिशत की सीमा लगाई थी। कुछ कारणों से टेलीविजन के लिए यह सीमा नहीं रखी गई। शायद उन पर नियंत्रण करना संभव नहीं है। देश के बाहर के लोगों के स्वामित्व को कम करना तो समझ में आता है।
अगर विदेशी हिस्सेदारी- दुश्मन का भेदिया- पर एक सीमा रखी गई है, तो भारत की कंपनियों के लिए भी एक लक्ष्मण रेखा होनी चाहिए जिसे उन्हें लांघना नहीं चाहिए। लेकिन वे बहुत ज्यादा शाक्तिशाली हैं क्योंकि राजनेता अपनी विलासिता भरी जिंदगी और चुनावों के लिए उन पर निर्भर हैं। कहने की जरूरत नहीं है कि उनकी मिलीभगत है। कुछ राजनेताओं के बारे में कहा जाता है कि वे टेलीविजन पर अपना स्वामित्व रखते हैं या इनमें अपना शेयर रखते हैं।
कुछ कारणों से केंद्र की विभिन्न सरकारों ने प्रेस या मीडिया कमीशन की मांग ठुकराई है। आजादी के बाद सिर्फ दो आयोग बने हैं। एक आजादी के ठीक बाद और दूसरा आपातकाल के बाद 1977 में। दूसरे आयोग की सिफारिशों पर विचार भी नहीं किया गया क्योंकि आपातकाल के बाद दिए गए किसी भी सुझाव पर विचार करने से श्रीमती गांधी ने इंकार कर दिया। (पुलिस सुधार वाली रिपोर्ट इसी का शिकार हुई)।
नरेंद्र मोदी के नेतृत्व वाली सरकार अतीत की सरकारों से एकदम अलग है और इसे एक कमीशन नियुक्त करना चाहिए जो श्रीमती गांधी के शासन के समय से देश में मीडिया की स्थिति पर रिपोर्ट बनाए। भारत में टेलीविजन की भूमिका का कोई मूल्याकंन किया गया, यहां तक कि दूरदर्शन का भी, क्योंकि उस समय इलेक्ट्रौनिक मीडिया के बारे में जानकारी नहीं थी।
सबसे महत्वपूर्ण पहलू है किसी एक घराने या व्यक्ति का अखबार, टेलीविजन और रेडियो तीनों पर स्वामित्व। यहां तक कि अमेरिका में भी इस तरह एक से ज्यादा माध्यमों पर स्वामित्व को नियंत्रित किया गया है। लेकिन भारत में इस पर कोई रोक नहीं है, यह एक और कारखाना खोलने जैसा है।
मैं पूरी तरह प्रेस की आजादी के पक्ष में हूं। वास्तव में मैं नए सूचना और प्रसारण मंत्री प्रकाश जावेडकर के बयान से परेशान हूं। बेशक उन्होंने प्रेस की आजादी का आश्वासन दिया है कि लेकिन साथ ही एक चेतावनी भी दी कि आजादी जिम्मेदारी की मांग करती है।
मेरी समझ से बाहर है कि इसकी याद क्यों दिलाई गई। भारतीय प्रेस उन मूल्यों के पालन में किसी से कम नहीं है जिन्हें राजनेताओं ने नष्ट किया है। आजादी के बाद से प्रेस की ओर से गैर-जिम्मेदाराना व्यवहार का कोई उदाहरण नहीं है। लेकिन यही बात सरकार के बारे में नहीं कही जा सकती है जिसने 1975 में आपातकाल के दौरान सेंसरशिप लगाई थी।
आज भी राज्यों में अखबारों को मुख्यमंत्रियों के दबाव और दंड का सामना करना पड़ता है। छोटे अखबारों के लिए मुख्य आर्थिक स्रोत का काम करने वाले विज्ञापनों का वितरण समर्थकों को पुरस्कृत करने और आलोचकों को इंकार करने के लिए किया जाता है। और सरकार जो भी खर्च करती है वह टैक्स देने वाले नागरिकों का है।
विज्ञापनों का गाजर पाकिस्तान और बांग्लादेश में भी बेहिचक काम करता है। शासन करने वालों के पास करोड़ों रुपया है प्रभाव कायम करने के लिए। बड़ी कंपनियों और व्यक्तियों की ओर से मीडिया पर नियंत्रण की कहानी भारत में अलग नहीं है।
पिछले कुछ सप्ताहों में मुझे पहले बांग्लादेश, फिर पाकिस्तान जाने का मौका मिला है। उनका गड्डमड्ड शासन और सरकारों पर सेना का प्रभाव अलग से पूरे लेख की मांग करता है। मैं अपना कालम सिर्फ मीडिया तक सीमित रखता हूं जो बेशक राजनीति को भी प्रभावित करता है। बांग्लादेश में दैनिक अखबारों से ज्यादा टेलीविजन चैनल हैं और करीब करीब सभी बांग्ला में। लेकिन कुछ अपवादों, जो इलेक्ट्रोनिक के मुकाबले प्रिंट मीडियम में ज्यादा हैं, को छोड़ कर राय सत्ता के पक्ष में है।
पाकिस्तान, जो ज्यादातर मामले में अभी तक सामंती राज्य है, में उपमहाद्वीप का ज्यादा दमदार मीडिया है। एक टेलीविजन चैनल के हामीद मीर पर शारीरिक रूप से हमला किया गया। लेकिन ढेर सारे पत्रकार हैं जो रोज धमकियों का सामना करते हैं। कुछ उग्रवादियों और इंटर सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेस (आईएसआई) के निशाने पर हैं। फिर भी मीडिया में काम करने वाले मर्द और औरतें काफी निर्भीक होकर काम करते हैं, और अमूमन सच्चाई के साथ।
मीडिया पक्के तौर पर यह कह सकता है कि पूरे उपमहाद्वीप में प्रेस और टीवी चैनलों के मालिक अब विदेशी नहीं हैं। भारत के पहले प्रधानमंत्री जवाहर लाल नेहरू ने प्रमुख अखबारों पर से ब्रिटिश स्वामित्व हटाने के लिए बड़े औद्योगिक घरानों की मदद ली थी। बैनेट कोलमैन ने टाइम्स आफ इंडिया को, मद्रास में द मेल ओर लखनऊ में पायोनियर का स्वामित्व बदल दिया गया। द स्टेट्समेन को नेहरू का आशीर्वाद पाए उद्योगपतियों के एक समूह ने ले लिया।
सच है मीडिया। अब काफी प्रगति कर चुका है। फिर भी प्रेस कौंसिल आफ इंडिया अपनी इस बार की सालाना रिपोर्ट में बेचारगी से टेलीविजन चैनलों को अपने दायरे के भीतर लाने की मांग कर रहा है।
कौंसिल कहता है 'कुछ समय से पत्रकारिता के पेशे में प्रवेश पाने के लिए योग्यता का मुद्दा उठा हुआ है। मीडिया के पूरी तरह विकसित क्षेत्र हो जाने और लोगों के जीवन पर इसके महत्वपूर्ण प्रभाव के कारण अब वह समय आ गया है कि कानून द्वारा कुछ योग्यता निधार्रित की जाए।'
दुख की बात है कि मीडिया का ध्यान ज्यादा मार्केटिंग और साज सज्जा पर है। यह सच है कि यह भी जरूरी है, लेकिन विषय वस्तु को प्राथमिकता मिलनी चाहिए। यह तो लगातार पीछे जा रहा है।
कुलदीप नैयर

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Interesting disclosure about 1962 war between India and China

Note: There is circumstantial and documentary evidence that suggests that Jawahar Lal Nehru was either taking instructions from UK based politicians or was reporting to them. Nehru paid his first and the last visit to China in October 1954 after its 1949 revolution. He was there from October 15- 19, 1954, when he was in China after a stopover in Vietnam. Nehru had a long meeting with Mao Tse-tung. Nehru wrote a top-secret note on his visit to China on November 11, 1954. Nehru had sent a copy of his top-secret note to Winston Churchill, the UK Prime Minister which was declassified at the expiry of 30 years and is available in Britain’s Public Records Office. In India, it was published first in Nehru’s Letters to Chief Ministers first and then in the Selected Works in the 1990s. 
Gopal Krishna   
Neville Maxwell who outed the Henderson Brooks report has another disclosure in The Times of India. A "couple of years ago I made the text available to several major Indian papers on condition they didn't disclose their source, but none of them would publish it, so by this time I had to conclude that if I didn't do it myself it might never see the light of day." So he put it up on his website. But he is mum as to which newspapers.

It wasn't China, but Nehru who declared 1962 war: Australian journalist Neville Maxwell
Two weeks ago, the Australian journalist Neville Maxwell finally made part of the Henderson Brooks report public, by putting it up on his blog. The report was an internal Indian Army enquiry into its rout in the 1962 war with China — Maxwell was the New Delhi correspondent for The Times, London, at the time — but in the 51 years since the report was written up by Lt Gen Henderson Brooks and Brig PS Bhagat, successive Indian governments have refused to make it public. Only two copies of the report were thought to be in existence, although there was never any doubt that Maxwell had had access to the report for his 1970 book India's China War quoted extensively from it. In his first interview to the Indian media since he made the report public, the now 88-year-old Maxwell tells Parakram Rautela that he had been trying to make the report public for years but that nobody would publish it. He adds that he was only able to get hold of Volume I of the report, minus 45 pages, and that he never laid eyes on Volume II. And of course he still blames Nehru for the war, not the Chinese. Excerpts:

Q: You suggest India's official account of the cause of the 1962 border war is false. What, in your view, is the truth?

NM: By September 1962 the Indian "forward policy" of trying to force the Chinese out of territory India claimed had built up great tension in the Western (Ladakh) sector of the border, with the Chinese army just blocking it. Then the Nehru government applied the forward policy to the McMahon Line eastern sector and when the Chinese blocked that too India in effect declared war with Nehru's announcement on October 11 that the Army had been ordered to "free our territory", which meant to attack the Chinese and drive them back. As General Niranjan Prasad, commander of 4 Division, wrote later: "We at the front knew that since Nehru had said he was going to attack, the Chinese were certainly not going to wait to be attacked" — and of course they didn't. That's how the war began. The Chinese attack was both reactive, in that General Kaul had begun the Indian assault on October 10, and pre-emptive because after that failure the Indian drive had been suspended to build up strength for a resumed attack.
Q: What in your opinion were the policies, on both sides, that brought about the basic quarrel over the border?

NM: As far as the McMahon Line was concerned India inherited the dispute with China, which the British had created in the mid-1930s by seizing the Tibetan territory they re-named NEFA. The PRC government was prepared to accept that border alignment but insisted that it be re-negotiated, that is put through the usual diplomatic process, to wipe out its imperialist origins. Nehru refused, using London's false claim that the Simla Conference had already legitimised the McMahon Line to back up that refusal — that was his Himalayan blunder. Then in 1954 he compounded that mistake by laying cartographic claim to a swathe of territory in the north-west, the Aksai Chin, a claim which was beyond anything the British had ever claimed and on an area which Chinese governments had treated as their own for at least a hundred years. To make matters worse, he ruled that there should be no negotiation over that claim either! So Indian policy had created a border dispute and also ruled out the only way it could peacefully be settled, through diplomatic negotiation.

Q: Whatever the truth about the origins of the war, it's the effect on India-China relations and the deadlock since then that is important now... And there was the worry that bringing up all the bitterness of that bloody conflict may only make matters worse?

NM: Certainly not, the opposite is true I think. If the Henderson Brooks Report is read closely in India (and it's not easy reading!) people will see that political favouritism put the Army under incompetent leadership which blindly followed the Nehru government's provocative policy. It shows that all the way, from formulation to implementation of the Forward Policy, that policy was resisted by the pucca soldiers because they saw it must end in a conflict India could only lose, but the orders came from the top and in the end had to be obeyed... the authors of the report ruefully quote the poem, "theirs not to reason why... but to do or die".

Q: What made you publish the report now, and why were you selective about what you published?

NM: There's a significant gap in what I published, about 45 pages, otherwise I published all I have, which is Volume One of the Report's two volumes. The gap is there only because the time I had to copy it was limited, and when I saw I wouldn't have time to copy it all I chose to leave out a chunk in the middle rather than the end of it. As for the timing, I'd been trying to make it public for years but thought if I did it myself there'd just be attacks on me rather than concentration on the Report's contents, and to some extent that what's happening now. So a couple of years ago I made the text available to several major Indian papers on condition they didn't disclose their source, but none of them would publish it, so by this time I had to conclude that if I didn't do it myself it might never see the light of day. Now it's done without any harm whatever to national security let's hope the Indian government, this one or the next, will quickly publish both volumes of the Henderson Brooks Report without any gaps or editing.

Q: All right, but don't you see you may have made matters worse by arousing all this heated discussion just before a general election?

NM: Honestly, the elections never crossed my mind as bearing on my decision, I don't follow Indian politics closely nowadays. And as for making matters worse, absolutely not, I see the opposite as being true. The tragic irony in all this is that settlement would be easy and the way to settlement has always been open! All that is required is that the Indian government, any Indian government, reverses the Nehru refusal to negotiate. And it's possible that under the guise of just "talking", a secret process of negotiation has in fact been going on and there are signs that it may have reached agreement on basics. If so the Indian public is more likely to welcome that outcome because the myth of "Chinese aggression" has been exposed again, as the Henderson Brooks report does. I say "again" because all this, the historical and diplomatic background and what the Henderson Brooks report tells about the debacle, was exposed long ago in my 1970 book India's China War, and a revised edition of that has just come out in Delhi.

Mehta and Bal on Open magazine's "regret"

Note: Indeed Open magazine has no business to apologise on behalf of Vinod Mehta and Hartosh Singh Bal without either speaking to them or taking consent from Manu Joseph, the then editor of Open. Was the magazine forced to apologise?
Media Vigil
Mehta and Bal on Open magazine's "regret"
Following the item carried on the Hoot – “Vindication?” -- about Open magazine's “regret”  regarding an interview it carried in 2012, Vinod Mehta and Hartosh Bal have asked that we carry this letter they have written to the editor of Open.  

April 1, 2014
S. Prasannarajan

Open Magazine
New Delhi
Dear Sir,
This is with regards to the ‘clarification’ published in the last issue of Open Magazine expressing regret at the hurt caused to The Indian Express by an interview of Vinod Mehta that referred to a report in The Indian Express on Army troop  movements towards Delhi. 
We the undersigned Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of the Outlook Group who was interviewed and Hartosh Singh Bal, who conducted the interview and Manu Joseph, the then editor of Open who in his words “fully endorses this letter”, are bemused by the claim in the clarification that “Open was aware, at the time of publication of that conversation, that The Indian Express had stood by its report. Open published Mehta’s description of the report as a ‘mistake’ even though it had no independent confirmation of any factual error in it. Also, it did not contact The Indian Express for its version.”
Since neither of the three was contacted by Open before publishing this clarification, there is no way for Open to make the claims it does in the clarification. The new editor S. Prasannarajan is in no position to make this assertion, but even more to the point the clarification indicates a basic ignorance of journalistic norms.
Mr Mehta’s criticism of the story is his opinion of what was stated in The Indian Express and how it was presented by the newspaper. The Indian Express itself publishes editorials which often talk up cudgels against statements and claims made in public, as far as we know it never contacts anyone for their version before going ahead with the editorials.
Even more pertinently, Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express regularly interviews people on television and The Indian Express then published these transcripts in the newspaper. In an interview with Mark Lynas, once an anti-GM campaigner, the following exchange occurs:
But (Vandana) Shiva is well meaning. Why is she doing it? She is not an enemy of India or Indian farmers.
I think she is…”
No comments from Shiva are included along with the interview. Such instances can be multiplied but we think this suffices in revealing the hypocrisy behind The Indian Express’ demand for an apology and the opportunism displayed by the Open Management in succumbing to it without any regards for journalistic norms.

We the undersigned continue to defend the publication of the interview and see no reason to express any clarifications for having carried it in the magazine. To put the record straight we urge you to publish this letter and give it the same prominence as the wrongly termed clarification you have published in the magazine. 

Vinod Mehta and Hartosh Singh Bal

Thursday, March 20, 2014


March 18, 2014, The Kremlin, Moscow 

Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon.  Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.

More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favor of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolizing Russian military glory and outstanding valor.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalize the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.


In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole – and we must state this clearly, we all know it – this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realized how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realized that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalized, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­– the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighborly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us. (Applause)

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill.  Russia seemed to have recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbor, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilized state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine’s independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day laborers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day laborers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totaled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law.  Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine.  However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet.  Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement.  True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it.  Why is that?

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote.  They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties.  Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly - if the Crimean local self-defense units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military – and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.


Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.

There was a whole series of controlled “color” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.

A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organised and well-equipped army of militants.

We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.

On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.

It happened with the deployment of a missile defense system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.

Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experience many limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.

In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.

Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.

At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always considered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.

Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.

I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.

I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.

I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!

Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.

Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.

We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.

Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.

Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead. 

Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilized and good-neighborly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world.


I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people’s fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.

Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, like in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.

The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens. More than 83 percent think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86 percent of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country’s lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea’s referendum: almost 92 percent of our people support Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation’s people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.

Now this is a matter for Russia’s own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people’s will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority.

Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people’s will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Naked Bias Threatens Media’s Credibility – A Statement by Some Mediapersons

An Appeal to Indian Journalist Fraternity by a Group of Media persons, released in Chandigarh, 16 March, 2014
In a terse comment, Aam Aadami Party leader Arvind Kejriwal said that a part of the media, particularly some TV channels “sold itself to Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and is indulging in running a propaganda spree in favor of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi”. As has happened earlier in many cases relating to deprived and unprivileged sections of the Indian society, that section of media took an undue offence to the comment that was completely out of proportion, and it launched a virulent campaign against AAP. This section of media is peeved at Arvind Kerjriwal’s remarks that if his party came to power, a punitive action would be taken against those media outlets which have been biased in their news coverage and suppressed the anti Modi news stories projecting his false claim to an ‘unparalleled development of Gujarat’.
During his field tour to Gujarat, Kejriwal started taking on Modi , attempting to expose the chinks in ‘Gujarat Vikas’, which according to him, is a ‘hollow projection’ made with ‘active support’ of a section of media. In what could be called an overreaction, a naked anti-Kejriwal slant became a routine affair in the coverage of some media outlets. It is not difficult to smell from the reports and debates of these media outlets that their journalists (by order from above or own their own) have shamelessly started walking in the footsteps of Hitler’s notorious spin doctor Joseph Goebbels, who also did a stint in journalism.
Some dailies including those priding themselves as ‘ national dailies’ are also carrying selected news stories and pictures aimed at showing Aam Aadami Party in bad light. Some electronic media outlets in their orchestrated debate shows are inviting the BJP, Congress and other anti-AAP politicians and providing them platforms for the use of even abusive language against Kejriwal calling him ‘a liar, opportunist and an autocrat’. They are trying to cow down Kejriwal by repeatedly claiming that he and his party was a “creation of the media’’ suggesting that if they can create AAP they can kill it also. And now they have loaded their news presentation and debates in favor of Modi. This is obviously a biased and propagandistic reportage which no sane professional will agree with. India is a largest democracy of the world where political parties are made and dismantled by people and not by the media which do has an important role but a peripheral one.
By using unconcealed media tactics to paint Kejriwal and his party in black, it would be difficult for the above media outlets to shield themselves behind the proverbial neutrality of the profession, which everyone knows, is easily compromised in this profit oriented age of the present media. Now media is less of a mission, more a business with maximizing profit as its goal. For revenue, the media outlets depend upon advertisements, which mostly come from the corporate sector. On the other hand, to protect and promote their business interests in the Centre and State Governments, the corporate and business houses fund political parties and their candidates in the elections. Hence, an underhand barter system operates among media outlets, business houses and politicians. The bitter truth is that in this kind of atmosphere, attempting to maintain impartiality and objectivity by a media outlet has become an arduous proposition. Hence, instead of attempting to project a ‘holier-than-thou’ image through retaliatory criticism of AAP, the media-outlets should view Kejriwal’s remark in a holistic perspective. And they should understand that AAP catapulted into a discernible political force out of peculiar circumstance crisscrossed by corruption, lawlessness and political despondency. Yes, the media deserves due credit in highlighting its activities which, to some extent, propelled it to a startling victory in the Delhi assembly polls. But it is also fact that by reading the public mood and supporting it, the media also earned credibility on the sly. Credibility, which is blood and breath for any media organization .That is why, the media should not expect ‘an explicit expression of indebtedness and gratefulness’ for highlighting Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign which gave birth to AAP, as it was a part of a bigger democratic upsurge which also brought into focus the independence, credibility and freedom of the media. The motivated campaign on the behest of some political forces or sponsors can jeopardize this hard earned credibility of the media outlets.
In the present state of things when the media managements rarely ignore the power of money and politics, maintaining of impartiality and objectivity has become a very difficult task and the need of the hour is to safeguard the sacred divide between propaganda and journalism. A journalist working on any level and position is duty bound to push back the hand which is eager to choke Citizens’ right to free and unbiased information.
They say it easy to light a candle in normal climate but the brave do so even in gale.
Anil Chamaria, columnist, author and head of Media Studies Group, Delhi
Sidhu Damdami, former Editor, Punjabi Tribune
Rajesh Kumar Verma, Senior Journalist and Media Analyst
Prashant Tondon, Senior TV Journalist
Daljit Ami, film-maker and Chief-in–Editor, TV channel
Daljit Sra, Editor, The Amritsar Times
Chanchal Manohar Singh, Editor-in-Chief,
Jagtar Singh, Senior Journalist and Author
Hamir Singh, News Coordinator, Punjabi Tribune
Jaspal Singh Sidhu, former UNI Special Correspondent and author
Prof Navjit Singh Johal, former Head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Punjabi University,Patiala
Avaneesh Kumar, Journalist, Media Studies Group
Jetindra Kumar, Senior Journalist