The Indian government and big newspaper houses have long resisted foreign investment in media. But the Western media conglomerate camel already has its nose in the Bharatiya tent, and before long it will be inside up to its elbows! The latest inroad is by The Independent newspaper of London, which has a tie-up with the publishers of Dainik Jagran to bring in a 'facsimile copy' – meaning without any local content or advertising – to the Indian market starting in September. The Independent News and Media Plc owns a 20 percent stake in the company, and DJ the rest. This sideways foray into English publishing by Jagran is somewhat different from Dainik Bhaskar, however, which decided to invest heavily in bringing out the DNA daily in Bombay.     Rather late, wouldn't you think? Better late than never, wouldn't you think? Whatever, in the middle of August, on India's 60th Independence Day, the state-owned Doordarshan launched an Urdu TV channel – initially to have a daily transmission of seven hours, but to be extended to around-the-clock. Manmohan Singh, inaugurating the channel, asked why it had taken so long (since Independence) to get the Urdu channel going. "Der aaye, durust aaye," he said, translated as, "It is late, but it is good." That remains to be seen, Mr Prime Minister! (Looked to see if 'Doordarshan' logo in Urdu was available, but apparently not).     Bangladeshi media analysts have long been exasperated by the way in which the Western and Indian media treat their country as the next staging ground of Osama's al-Qaeda. The latest cause for offence came from The Washington Post, whose 2 August piece by Selig S Harrison, "A New Hub for Terrorism", was lambasted by Mostafa Kamal Majumder in The New Nation as an article tainted with "vicious subjectivity". Wrote Majumder: "Newspapers publishing one-sided information and views are called leaflets in Bangladesh and carry little significance … Selig S Harrison's oversimplification of politics really does not apply to Bangladesh."     Quotable quote from Sri Lanka, in an article on the Sri Lankan media by K Sivathamby as carried by the website Tamilweek: "The picture of the [Sri Lankan] press is as gloomy as the political scene. But my point is that the political gloom is worsened by newspapers." Chettria Patrakar would wager that there would be no one to disagree with that assessment in the rest of the Southasia.     The Asian College of Journalism is the Madras-based school that is setting new standards in journalism education in Southasia. Siriyavan Anand is a Madras-based journalist and activist-publisher who is excited that four Dalit students – three men and a woman – have been admitted to the ACJ with full scholarships. The students are D Karthikeyan, G Priya Darshini, Chittibabu Padavala and Nageswar Rao. Writes Anand: "Significantly, there was no relaxation of criteria for the admission of these students. They wrote the entrance and attended the interview like all other students. The only concession is that the course fee (ranging from INR 1.25 to INR 2 lakhs) was waived totally for these students." Siriyavan reports that the ACJ hopes to institutionalise the fellowship from next year. Good for you, ACJ! Website:     Naeem Mohaimen, a writer alternating between Dhaka and New York, has a great blog (, where he recently placed some interesting write-ups he had trolled in relation to India's Independence Day, on 15 August. Try this selection by Mohaiemen, from The Telegraph of Calcutta: "Every morning, Shamshad Hussain goes to his rooftop, just opposite Red Fort, to enjoy a cup of tea after the azaan, his ears catching strains of prayers from the nearby Jama Masjid. Today, he carried two cups – the second was for the sniper on the rooftop. 'I doubt anyone would know better the meaning of celebrating Independence Day in these times of terror,' he says, gazing at the freshly painted red and white domes of Red Fort, from where the prime minister will address the nation tomorrow."     When 68-year-old politician and publisher Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah of the Tamil-language daily Namathu Eelanadu was shot on the night of 20 August, the Reporters Without Borders organisation condemned the killing, saying: "The journalists and employees of Tamil news media continue to be eliminated at a horrific pace. The press is again the victim of Sri Lanka's dirty war, and the government is partly to blame for this hellish cycle of violence." Sivamaharajah was a member of a pro-LTTE party, and it is thought that he was killed by pro-government Tamil paramilitaries.     Here is the list that Chettria Patrakar has culled, on the latest authority, of the Indian channels (they may be overseas-owned) banned in Bangladesh by government order of 24 July: ESPN, Star Sports, TEN Sports, Set Max, Zee Classic, Zee Action, Zee Trendz, Zee Premier, VH1, Zoom, HBO, Star One and Disney. And here, again on latest authority, are the channels blocked by Pakistan: AXN, National Geographic, Reality, Set Max, Sony, Sahara One, Balle Balle, ETC, Channel One, Now, MM, MM2, M NET, Series, Action, Super Sports (1-6), Fashion TV International, Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee Music, Zee Sports, Zee News, Zee Smile, STAR Utsav, STAR Care, STAR Gold, B4U Movies, B4U Music and E-Entertainment. So if you are an addict of any of these channels, you might think twice about traveling to Bangladesh or Pakistan.     When luminaries die in Southasian countries that are outside the interest threshold of the all-important New Delhi print and television media, they might as well have not died at all, for lack of any coverage of the passing. Indeed, with the all-pervasive Indian media acting as arbiter of what is to be disseminated, when acclaimed poet Shamsur Rahman died in Dhaka on 17 August, few of us outside Bangladesh were any the wiser. Said one article, "Rahman was considered by many to be Bangladesh's greatest contemporary poet, with 60 poetry books to his name. His campaign for political and social justice made him an iconic figure among liberals, but he was criticised by conservative religious factions."     Sindh promulgates access to information ordinance, even while big India shudders at the thought of doing the same. We need not believe everything they say they will do, but Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad on 9 August did promulgate the Sindh Freedom of Information Ordinance, "to ensure transparency and openness in the functioning of government departments". Quite appropriate that this happens in Sindh, on the other side of the border from Rajasthan state, which is where the momentum on right to information was generated – among the more effective and sustained examples of grassroots activism Southasia has seen.   In India, however, at the time of writing, the landmark Right to Information Act passed by Parliament a year ago may end up amended and watered down to such an extent that it would be nearly meaningless. There appears to be an attempt by bureaucrats to disallow the public the right to see the notes jotted down by civil servants outlining the rationale for a particular decision. Activists close to the issue say that access to these notes is crucial. Looks like you win some (in Pakistan) and lose some (in India), though we still have to see whether the Sindh government is good to its word.     In the aftermath of the Bombay blasts on 11 July, the Indian media was quick to toe the intelligence line. While India Today's cover was titled 'Tackling Pakistan' – and listed striking across the LOC and attacking Pakistan among them – even the liberal weekly Outlook succumbed to the temptation. Its cover read 'Can we make Pakistan Pay?'. There was no analysis of Pakistan's internal dynamics, or how the Indian intelligence agencies were seeking to hide their incompetence by using the Pakistan-bashing agenda, or the discontent among Indian Muslims in the face of growing Hindu intolerance. Instead we witnessed how editorial slant was irresponsibly camouflaged as reportage, and 'Pakistan' was blamed. Outlook did try to make up by sending a reporter to do an in-depth cover on Pakistani polity and society for its following issue. But it is in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy that the media needs to be most responsible. Alas, New Delhi's free media failed its people yet again.   – Chettria Patrakar

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian