On censorship, The Hindu plays a dubious game

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28 Aug 2012

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The Hindu editorial entitled Tweets and twits is an exercise in—there’s no other way to say this–deception. In the garb of condemning the recent Government ban on 300-odd online properties, it indulges in wholly uncalled-for insinuations and selective reasoning against one individual as well as groups.

The editorial, which begins by condemning the Government’s bizarre manner of blocking sundry websites then launches on a fairly elaborate explanation of Indian cyber laws. It characterises the Government’s ban order as having made no reference to any law, and that the emergency provision of, and indeed, the IT Rules of 2009 are opaque.

Interestingly, in the very next paragraph, the editorial throws the said reference to opacity to the winds. To quote, “Especially disturbing is the decision to block the Twitter handles of Right-wing agitators and one pro-Hindutva journalist. Bad taste, warped logic and chauvinist comment do not, by themselves, add up to hate speech or criminal incitement.” The Hindu, as one of the oldest dailies of repute, has accomplished several things in just this one sentence.

First, it has simply labelled people who espouse Right-wing leanings as “Right-wing agitators” without bothering to verify what these people actually say on Twitter and elsewhere. Basic journalistic norms, nay, norms of fairness dictate that one needs to do some amount of credible background research before making an opinion public. More so if such opinions show someone in poor light. As someone who frequently interacts with most of the “Right-wing agitators (sic)” on Twitter, I can testify that these are professionals from various walks of life; they’re well-read and care deeply about the Indian national interest. That the Hindu chose to apply this kind of blanket bracketing is in very poor taste. The Hindu seems to have reverse-applied “one swallow does not a summer make” quite nonchalantly in this editorial.

Second, the media put the DoT’s gag order on these Twitter accounts and websites in the public domain two days ago. The order clearly names @KanchanGupta as one of the Twitter accounts targeted for the ban. In fact, Kanchan Gupta has himself appeared on TV to air his views about the ban. Despite all this, one wonders why the Hindu merely contents itself with terming him a “pro-Hindutva” journalist.  Doesn’t the earlier remark about the lack of transparency in the IT Rules apply to journalistic transparency as well?

Third is the insinuation, which occurs in the same breath as “Right-wing agitators.” The import of this insinuation, according to the Hindu, is that people who lean to the Right are endowed with “bad taste, warped logic” and make “chauvinist comments,” which do not “by themselves, add up to hate speech or criminal incitement.” Such insinuations are beneath contempt but deserve our attention because they appear in a widely-read paper like the Hindu.

What is more revealing is the fact that the editorial has sympathy for an “anti-hate page on a Pakistani website” which was targeted for the ban but “which was one of the first to expose how fake photographs had been used to whip up Islamist passion on the Rakhine clashes in Myanmar.” In the Hindu’s worldview, every website and Twitter account that speaks for the Indian national interest and identifies with Hindu causes get shoved into the “Right-wing agitators” club whereas anti-hate Pakistani websites—commendable as they are—become showcases of excellence.

This has nothing to do with taking the blind line that ‘India is always good’ and ‘Pakistan is always bad’ but a call for editorial balance. Surely, if the Hindu could find an anti-hate Pakistani website, it could equally find dozens of anti-hate, pro-Right Indian websites and Twitter accounts that were similarly blocked.

It is really a shame that a paper like the Hindu, which was once known for integrity and high standards, has found the need to indulge in smear tactics, guilt-by-association and unfounded insinuations.

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  • http://twitter.com/sanju859 sanju

    why does not the paper renames itself as The Muslim .. the editor must be Svardarajan .. why does not these outsiders leave this country ..he is US national what is he doing in this country … another sycophant of congress who was one of five journos invited for PM dinner during Obama visit ..

  • Equateall

    Excellent dissections of The Hindu’s attempts to tar every right / pro-right person with same brush.

    One small typo: The 1st line “The Hindu editorial entitled …” should be “The Hindu editorial titled …”, and a link to it would help.


  • chandra

    Subramania Iyer would have turned in his grave seeing the antics of Varadarajan.

  • Aparna

    Sandeep, the Tweets and twit author’s bumbling attempt at subterfuge fizzles out even before it has a chance to take off. The self imposed burden of defending the indefensible has perhaps eroded the already frail logical faculties of The Hindu. To see that The Hindu feels the need to obfuscate an issue as serious as free speech, is a telling sign of partisan journalism.

  • Shashi Kiran

    he Hindu is the 2nd Most Read paper in India. Recently they gave many TV Ads. They want to become Number 1, Henceforth you shall see them with a lot of Leftist Liberal rant.

    For Example: Recently there was an Article in Hindu, Bangalore Edition that Hindus were not giving their houses to rent to non-Hindus. Is the opposite not true also??

    These Articles were written by 1 Hindu and 3 Non Hindus. Why do these people not report about Mass Conversions and Increasing influence of Madrasas in Minority Ghettos.. Is this not a More Serious Concern to the country??

  • shek

    the indo american editor of the hindu siddharth varadarajan is known for his anti indian stance for long.not surprising at all

  • Arvind

    It is commendable that atlast there is a media website for right. However, if you want to reach the masses, it is time to create a tv channel. Unfortunately, news papers such as pioneer are not getting any support from right wingers so that they can compete with Times and the Hindu.

  • malavikapatil

    ‘The Hindu’ was good, and it has not been objective since 90′s. It carries its ideological leaning on its sleeves. More over editorials and letters to the editor are echo chambers of each other. I,e the letters to the editor are heavily censored.

    I am not sure that ‘The Hindu’ is the second largest Newspaper. Vernacular press like Eenadu has a much higher circulation the Hindu. Even in ELM circles it is lagging, and it has no presence beyond South India.

  • Abe

    I hate the hindu but wat to do, i live in hyderabad n here hindu is the only worth reading news papers(toi n dc r s**t).plz give an option

    • chandra

      try ‘New Indian Express’ it is slightly better…

  • Abe

    niti central shld bcum a weekly magzine like outlook n shld b a pan indian one!

  • Pruthu

    Please sign the petition at the link below

    Thanks for helping in fighting against internet censorship.

  • malavikapatil


    If you can read Telugu, vernacular press (like EEnadu) is much better.

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  • Murthy

    It is high time that The Hindu’s dubious ethics is exposed. Sri Sandeep Balakrishna’s analysis is accurate.

    I wish to add that the mostly Left-liberal clique that runs the Indian Media, uses the term ‘Hindutva’ as a ‘dirty’ word, not much different from terms like ‘Nazism’ or ‘fascism’.

    The neo-colonial minds they have, almost automatically, puts any Hindu standpoint in the context of 1930s Germany and Italy.

    The Hindu’s editorial group is a leading example of this.

    Of course, they are selling their ideology as Smt.Malavika Patil has pointed out in her letter below. I remember instances of their ‘news’ distorted to suit their ideology.

    I stopped buying The Hindu in the 1990s. The paper is misleading and dishonest.

    As ‘Chandra’ says in his letter, Sri G. Subramania Iyer, who founded this paper to articulate the Hindu standpoint must be stunned in his pitr loka abode by the antics of these neo-colonial, neo-Marxist owners of his beloved paper.

    I rather think, equally stunned would be the late Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, who bought this paper from Sri Iyer and the ancestor of some of this gang of four owners.

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  • Karan Makhija

    Excellent critique.

    It would really help if someone like Niti Central did a media audit of the larger print media houses in the country in terms of the backgrounds (just basics – 5 to 10 lines each) of their top editorial team. Perhaps the top 3 or 4 people in each organisation. It would really give us all a sense of what ideologies are dominant in the media.

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