The Indian media has again provoked outrage among Chinese readers in a recent wave of distorted reports saying India detained Chinese troops for "crossing the borderline." This was soon confirmed by a Chinese military source as "purely fabricated and hyped by Indian media".
Some Indian media have long been criticized in the international community for their unprofessional reporting protocols and frequently exposed fabricated news, especially on issues concerning border disputes with neighboring countries, prompting Chinese readers and observers to explore the reasons behind it.
Observers pointed out that Indian media often distort or exaggerate facts to increase ratings and repeatedly tarnish China to cater to India's nationalist feelings and its fragile self-confidence.
Journalists familiar with India's media reporting protocols told the Global Times that some outlets from the country rely more on alleged official "sources" than checking facts firsthand. The lack of expertise of some Indian journalists contributes to the unprofessionalism of their reports. Those groundless news were turned into bargaining chips of the Indian government in border dispute negotiations while the media was used as cannon fodder, they said.
Unprofessional and ignorant
Recent reports from Indian media that Chinese soldiers were detained for "crossing the borderline" are purely fabricated. The Chinese border troops conducted a routine patrol when they encountered an "unreasonable obstruction" from the Indian military, a Chinese military source told media on October 9.
The distortion from Indian media was not a surprise as its professionalism in news reporting has long been widely criticized among the media industry. Journalists who are familiar with the tricks of Indian media reached by the Global Times scrutinized some of their typical labels including relatively poor professionalism, low barriers to entry, weak originality, little knowledge and bias against China.
Indian journalists control the content of the reports but unfortunately, many have weak professional experience in diplomacy or foreign affairs, Lu Qiang (pseudonym), a Chinese state media reporter covering news in India for years, told the Global Times.
Most Indian outlets rely heavily on Western mainstream media for reporting on foreign affairs, mainly because of the lack of solid sources, professional correspondents and enough overseas bureaus, said Lu.
Compared with other more rigorous mainstream media, many local or nationalistic outlets in India are prone to misread and even distort facts on some diplomatic issues, Lu told the Global Times, adding that the nationalistic feelings of individual journalists can also be seen in their reports.
Worse still, although Indian media have a lot to say about China, the country's journalists covering stories related to China actually know little about their biggest neighbor, said Yuan Jirong, former correspondent of the Global Times who worked in India between 2016 and 2019.
"They know almost nothing about China," Yuan told the Global Times, adding that "most of the time they cover China based on their imagination."
Yuan recalled that around 2016, there were only "three or five" registered Indian reporters working in China and India's news websites usually used incorrect pictures irrelevant to the city or individuals the articles mentioned.
Yuan referred to the editor of an Indian TV station he met in New Delhi, who he thinks is a "relatively rational and friendly-to-China guy." The editor talked to Yuan about his trip to China to cover the 2016 Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Hangzhou, in East China's Zhejiang Province.
"He told me that was his first time visiting China. He felt that Hangzhou was so clean and beautiful and was impressed by China's modern infrastructure, including the high-speed railway," Yuan recalled. "He said he had seen China's development and changes these years, but unfortunately, his [positive] voice could hardly be heard," noted Yuan.
India's other neighbors, including Nepal and Pakistan, have also become victims of its fake news campaign, journalists from both countries told the Global Times.
"Nepal has become the victim of such fake propaganda disseminated by the Indian media," Pushpa Raj Pradhan, Editor-in-chief of the Nepalese media People's Review Weekly, told the Global Times.
A spate of fabricated, hyped China-Nepal and China-Bhutan border disputes have previously raised the alarm in China, Nepal and Bhutan as Indian media repeatedly quoted groundless sources on false territory encroachment allegations and defamation against neighboring countries. Experts say such backstage sources are likely Indian political factions who see both Nepal and Bhutan as their protectorates.
Analysts said some Indian reports lack discipline and hype topics to cater to the nationalist sentiment amid intense press competition, calling such media a "poison" for regional peace and stability.
Instead of pursuing the truth with journalist ethics, some Indian media outlets fabricate lies to draw attention. This has become their habitual way of reporting, analysts said.
"My impression is that the Indian Media are the biggest factory of fake news. Indian media are a bundle of fake and fabricated stories. This hurts the South Asian nations." Rajan Karki, an editor working with Nepali media Gorkha Express told the Global Times.
Muhammad Zamir Assadi, a journalist from Independent News Pakistan, said that manipulation of news and intentional spread of false content by Indian media have damaged their domestic and international credibility among the targeted audience.
The practice by Indian media of spreading the fake news resonates with their interest just to gain ratings among misguided and illiterate viewers who do not have the capacity or rational judgment to discern news content, Assadi said.
"The malicious habit of creating fake news has deepen into the roots of Indian media that do not care about even the basic ethics of journalism," he told the Global Times.
Indian media's fake news against Pakistan have become so common that even the independent international organizations have exposed their true face in spreading false news content, Assadi noted.
"We have seen the evidence that EU DisinfoLab, a Brussels-based nongovernmental organization, has also very clearly pointed out that large numbers of fake websites were established in past years to serve and protect the India interests," Assadi said. These websites were used internationally to "win the favorable views about India on various aspects and to spread propaganda against Pakistan and other countries," he added.
In December 2020, EU DisinfoLab released a reported titled Indian Chronicles, saying it uncovered a Delhi-based Indian holding company Srivastava Group (SG) and its "15-year misinformation campaign," which aims to reinforce anti-Pakistan and anti-China sentiments in India.
The campaign is not only violating the ethics of journalism but also breaching international norms and values that are a set standard for keeping the operations of global affairs, Assadi criticized.
Apart from the market orientation, which prompted Indian media to cater to readers with exaggerated, eye-grabbing China-related stories, news outlets in India also play a puppet role for the country's government and military by being an accomplice of the Indian authority's smear campaign against China, front-line correspondents and scholars on Indian issues told the Global Times.
India's right-wing forces have a complete set methods to smear China that involves news media, publications and think tanks, Yuan said. "The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long been conducting anti-China propaganda campaign," he said.
In recent years, Indian TV stations, newspapers and websites have always published fake news against China when there are exchanges between top officials of the two countries, such as a visit to India by the Chinese national leader, or both countries holding talks on border issues, Yuan said.
The recent rumor saying that "Chinese soldiers were detained for crossing the borderline," was for instance hyped by Indian media during the 13th round of corps commander-level talks earlier this month, Yuan noted.
"Each time like this, the Indian government or the military will release misinformation to deceive the public opinion through local media, which spread the rumors by simply quoting 'sources' or 'insiders,'" Yuan told the Global Times.
Regarding China as its biggest adversary, the Modi administration has been using the anti-China propaganda campaign to stir up a nationalist feeling and to divert attention from its domestic contradictions, said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
"From the Donglang [known as Doklam in India] incident in 2017, to the Galwan Valley clash last year, Modi is attempting to magnify the border issues with China, particularly since his second term," Hu told the Global Times.
By stirring up troubles against China and other neighbors, Modi tries to divert the public's discontent toward the BJP which failed to control the spread of the COVID-19 and prevent the economic slump amid the pandemic, Hu said. "The Modi administration is eager to build an enemy," he added.
The Indian government has used the media as the offensive force to create propaganda against other countries, Pradhan said when sharing his impression about Indian media.
"Indian media, although said to be free, are under the control of the External Affairs Ministry and the Indian intelligence. Yes, they can write anything on domestic issues but they are not free to write or telecast freely on international issues," Pradhan told the Global Times, recalling the experience of a colleague who was stationed in Delhi as a correspondent of The Rising Nepal in the late 1980s. "[He informed me that] every day, they [the Indian media] receive instruction from the External Affairs Ministry spokesman," he said.