Tag Archives: India

Countries use of visas hurt journalists

Visas are basically applications to enter a country.

The most common visa is for tourism. Brazilians coming to Florida to visit Disney World. Americans going to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers. And so on…

And then there are specialty visas.

If a person is coming to the States for just a few days for business — to attend a conference, attend company meetings, participate in corporate training — the visa is straight forward and is included in the same category as a tourism visa.

Different visas are needed if a person is going to live and work in the US. And within that group there are different categories.

Most countries have a special category for journalists.

The United States has the I visa for journalists visiting the US for a short period. (Living and working in the US as a journalists — as in other countries — is a whole other issue and category.)

While deportations of journalists arriving on a tourism visa and then doing journalism in the States are rare (and often involve issues other than journalism), other less open countries use the journalism visa to limit access to the world’s media or to punish news organizations for what they perceive as unfriendly coverage.

China has long been known as a real stickler for enforcing its various journalism visas.

The Chinese government has withheld visas from New York Times staffers assigned to its Beijing bureau to punish the paper for printing stories about corruption and favoritism in the government and ruling party. (New York Times journalist forced to leave China after visa row)

And for journalists wanting to go to China, the process is long, tedious and often ends in frustration.

For example, I applied for a journalism visa to cover a conference in Beijing. I was living in Brasilia at the time. The embassy held onto my passport for more than a month. Calls to the embassy about the status of my visa went unanswered, other than “It is in process.”

In the end, I got the visa, but on the day the conference started. Given that it takes more than 30 hours to get from Brasilia to Beijing, that meant I would not be going to cover the conference. (This was something I realized a few weeks earlier. I had to inform my publisher I most likely would not be going to Beijing.)

When I lived in Hong Kong, I often got e-mails from friends in the business asking if they should lie about their profession to avoid any drama with the Chinese government. I always advised people to tell the full truth. Beijing is notorious for using any discrepancy in a visa application to either deny a person a visa or to deport the person for “activity not in compliance with visa status” if the discrepancy is discovered later.

Unfortunately for journalists the “activity not in compliance” excuse is what is most often used to expel alleged spies. (Then again, the thinking in Beijing is that journalists are nothing but spies anyway.)

No one really expects anything less from the control freaks in Beijing.

And then there are governments such as the one in Indonesia that are officially open and democratic but that also freak out if journalists start asking too many questions.

The latest example is of a British journalist being held in Indonesia for filming while doing a documentary on piracy. Usually journalists are just expelled from the country for visa violations, this time, however, the journalists face five months in prison and a $3,700 fine. (Jail British journalists for five months, says Indonesian prosecutor)

There are examples of people who get away with coming in on a tourist visa, doing some journalism and getting out. However, once discovered, these same journalists can kiss goodbye the chance to get another visa. (India: Let us in!)

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Filed under Asia, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Why #GoHomeIndianMedia is trending, and some side notes

The hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia started taking off over complaints of how the Indian media covered the Nepal earthquake relief efforts. With variations of #IndianMediaGoHome.)

Journalists were accused of creating news or misrepresenting what was happening.

Indian Journalists delivered fake news

One of the largest Indian news channels, NDTV, broadcasted pictures of roads and buildings destroyed by earthquake, saying it was in Nepal. Turns out, the pictures were from Mexico and Chile.

In another instance, NDTV broadcasted a pro-India news, and compared Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister to a god who saved Nepal. India was on the forefront of the rescue team, but this was beginning to cross the line.

A lot of the complaints have focused on how the Indian media appear to be shilling for the Indian government.

Angry Nepalese flocked to Twitter in their numbers, protesting what they have been calling the insensitive, triumphant and jingoistic coverage of the earthquake that devastated the country. End result? #GoHomeIndianMedia was the top trend on Twitter – ironically on press freedom day.

Along with complaints against the Indian media, a number of tweets included calls for the Indian army to pull out.

India Army Media

But, as expected in the area, there has to be a Pakistan angle.

The New Indian Express shows a clipping that explains the #GoHomeIndianMedia movement is all a ploy by the Pakistan nationalists.

One of the complaints using the hashtag is that while 34 countries sent aid, the Indian media focused on what the Indian relief teams did.

Really? Why is that surprising. When I saw the U.S. coverage, they kept interviewing the USAID team (VA Task Force 1). And I bet the French media covered the French teams and so on.

Here is a quick Storify based on the hashtag.

The BBC was also recruiting people to discuss this issue on its World Have Your Say program.

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Filed under Ethics, India

Real mature India! Al Jazeera shutdown over map.

The Indian government pulled the plug on Al Jazeera this week over a map: India takes al-Jazeera off-air in Kashmir map row

Yes, I know it is all about protecting national pride and all that. But really? 

India is the world’s largest democracy. It should act like one. Pulling the plug on a news organization that shows a map not to the government’s liking is hardly the sign of maturity or democratic principles.

Rather than issue a statement expressing their concern that maybe Al Jazeera had wrongly portrayed who controls what part of Kashmir, the Modi government gets all huffy and kicks over the table.

But to be fair, it is not just this government.

Past governments have gone just as crazy in calling any deviation from the official Indian map “cartographic aggression”.

In 2011, the previous government in India forced Economist to cover up a map used to illustrate a cover story about the border between India and Pakistan because it did not show full Indian sovereignty over Kashmir.

At the time, the magazine said the government was engaging in censorship.

And they were right then. And would be right again today.

Time to grow up India.

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Filed under Censorship, India

Banning news items is not something democracies do – India’s wrong move

Democracies allow a great deal of freedom. It is the freedom to report on society — warts and all — that makes democratic societies better and stronger. Unfortunately, there are too many who think democratic countries cannot survive exposure of some of the worst warts.

So the BBC put together a documentary on the brutal 2012 gang rape of 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh. And the resulting screams from India showed that the Indian government was more concerned with perceived attacks on the image of India than in doing anything to protect women.

The rape shocked the world. It even got through to many in India who had been willing to turn a blind eye. Thousands turned out to call for new laws to protect women and to change the way society looks at rape. (India gang rape: six men charged with murder)

Not that anything really happened in the ensuing years.

The BBC documentary — India’s Daughter — included interviews with the one member of the gang who raped Singh. His comments further outraged the world:

  • A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night.
  • A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.
  • When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape

Rather than embrace the documentary and step up work to make life safer for women, the government decided that the film makes India look bad and banned it from the country. And then, to make sure no one outside India can see it, the government went to the British courts to get the ban extended to the entire BBC system.

In that latter effort, the government failed. The BBC aired the documentary earlier than announced. And that set the Indian government into a fit of complaints and actually launched an investigation into how the film maker was given access to the rapist in jail.

Fortunately for the future of India, some are upset with the banning action:

“[T]he reality is what the man spoke reflects the view of many men in India and why are we shying away from that? In glorifying India and (saying) we are perfect we are not confronting the issues that need to be confronted,” said businesswoman Anu Aga, a member of the chamber.

In the meantime, the film maker left India out of fear for her well being.

Documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, meanwhile, was reported by India’s NDTV channel to have decided to fly out of India due to fears she could be arrested.

The television channel also broadcast what it said was Udwin’s last interview before she left India. “I’m very frightened what’s going to happen next — I predict the whole world will point fingers at India now,” Udwin said. “It’s a tragedy — you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

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Filed under Freedom of Information, India, International News Coverage

Indian polling schedule

Just a quick follow up for those who have yet to grasp that the Indian election — with its 850 million voters — is a big thing, visit the website of the Election Commission of India to see the when, how and where of the voting.

Just FYI: This is offered because so few US media outlets have thought it worthwhile to report on this election. To use Vice President Biden’s phrase: “This really is a big fucking deal!”

India schedule

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Filed under Connections, India, International News Coverage

Did John Oliver hit the mark on US coverage of the Indian election?

The online New York Times has a series of blog and news postings about news from around the world. Nida Najar from India posted a blistering (and well-deserved) attack on the US media’s lack of coverage of India’s election. And the attack was based on a bit done by former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver: John Oliver on the American Media’s India Blind Spot

And sure enough, a quick Google Search of “Indian Election 2014” does not yield one U.S. media outlet reporting on the election.

In a way this is not surprising. Oliver points to the McLaughlin Group as the only news show that discussed the election, only to have it being dismissed by the host as irrelevant because “it’s not even in our hemisphere.” (For once I found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan: “It’s 800 million voters! More than 1 billion people!”)

For the political and economic well being of the United States, India matters. (I can be snarky: The importance if India is well beyond tech support. Where do you think you are calling when your computer crashes?)

India is the 11th most important trading partner with the United States, accounting for 1.7 percent of all US trade. That puts it in the same neighborhood as France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

Most of what the US sell to India are not raw materials or agricultural products but finished goods that require good jobs:

  • Misc. manufactured commodities
  • Transportation equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Computer and electronic products

So, yes, the US needs to be informed and aware of what is going on in India, if for no other reason, because our economic well being depends on it.

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Filed under India, International News Coverage, Story Ideas, Trade

India elections: Some dark clouds on the horizon for journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a great piece on the threats to free press and journalism independence if the current front runner in the Indian elections wins.

Modi’s rise does not bode well for Indian press freedom

Modi, who is serving his fourth term as chief minister of Gujarat, has a history of silencing critical journalists in his home state. In 2006, his administration brought sedition charges against Manoj Shinde, an editor of the Gujarati-language daily Surat Saamna, for criticizing Modi’s handling of a flood, news accounts said. Sedition is punishable by death in India. (It is unclear if the case against Shinde was ever resolved). Two years later, CPJ documented sedition charges brought by Gujarat authorities against an editor and reporter at The Times of India and a photographer at Gujarat Samachar in connection with a series of investigative reports questioning the competency of a high-ranking police officer and his alleged connection to the leader of an organized crime group. The latter charges were eventually quashed in court.

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Filed under India, Press Freedom