Monday, February 20, 2012

Smear campaign against Iran? - By Seema Mustafa - THE FREE PRESS JOURNAL, Mumbai, India

Steeped in their old practice of instantly blaming a certain favorite community, in case of any bomb blast incident, India's electronic media, saw no reason not to pick up Israel's instant charge on Iran for the Delhi car blast. However, this time around it had to eat humble pie, when an international consensus is emerging that Israel's charge is unproven and political and India and its media, at least should have hedged and waited for proof from their own national authorities, before spreading the charge. Their faux pas has exposed their unhealthy connection with corporate world and its demands on nursing prejudices against a certain community.

Of all the major India based TV Channels, Times of India's TIMES NOW, appeared to be as reckless as ever in repeating Israeli charge, without any care for either media responsibility or diplomatic propriety. As Justice Katju has pointed out, Media should now be under some level of scrutiny and accountability, so that it sticks to its hallowed role of informing people but not carrying out propaganda as paid media.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



Smear campaign against Iran?
  • India
  • Feb 20, 2012
The question that needs to be answered is: why would Iran risk its growing friendship with India by launching a terror attack against Israel? And that too on Indian soil? And that too against a lowly Israeli official?

Journalists, now it seems a long long time ago, were always told to verify facts before levelling allegations.

And that if the allegations came without facts to always use the words " alleged" or " claimed" making it clear that the version was an allegation and clearly not verified. Journalists were always told not to accept any version as the gospel truth, and make all possible attempts to clarify and find out the facts.

This changed dramatically with the advent of 24- hour television channels, that accepted any and everything that came their way as the final truth. So it was in New Delhi when a vehicle, in which an Israeli official was travelling, blew up mysteriously at a traffic crossing just yards from the Indian Prime Ministers residence. The television channels scrambled to beat each other in the coverage of the alleged attack. Israel predictably hit the ground running, insisting that Iran was responsible for the alleged bomb attack on the vehicle in which the woman was travelling even before the flames had been doused. Israeli Prime Minister set their particular political ball in motion when from Tel Aviv he declared that Iran had launched a terror attack on Israel within minutes and hours of the incident.

The media without facts, started carrying headlines and organizing discussions on the basis of the Israeli charge.

Iran and Israel battle it out on Indian soil, screamed the headlines as the nationalist anchors came on air shaking their heads, and wagging their little fingers in a " look at what is going on" stance.

It was very unfortunate that the Indian media decided to accept Israels allegations as the gospel truth without any regard for the facts, or the consequences.

The investigations had not even begun when the media decided to accept the Israeli version and launch into 'breaking news'and discussions claiming a Israel versus Iran war was being fought on Indian soil. The Iranian denial was drowned in the din and one suspects the over- eagerness to please the corporate and allied interests. By the second day sections of the print media had also started joining the bandwagon, with not a single story questioning Israels claims, and the legitimacy of its assertions.

Fortunately, despite the tremendous pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv, India has continued to resist the temptation to support Israel, and cut off links with Iran. It is no secret that the US made its displeasure of Indias renewed friendship with Iran very clear during Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathais visit to Washington.

But till date New Delhi seems to be holding out, although given Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs close proximity with the US one cannot say at this stage for how long, or for that matter whether it will last the course.

Fortunately there is a division in the strategic elite establishment that crowds government corridors. Iran is quite a favourite with the Indian people, as well as sections of the Establishment. Besides, given the dip in growth statistics it is apparent even to those in government that the need to mop up energy resources is urgent. And India cannot afford to dismiss Iran as it had earlier. Against this back the timing of the attack could not have been better for Israel, not Iran.

After a hiatus India had started to mend relations with Iran that was clearly a source of worry for Israel and the US. The question that thus, needs to be answered is: why would Iran at this stage risk its growing friendship with India by launching a terror attack against Israel? And that too on Indian soil? And that too against a lowly Israeli official? Sleuths across the world establish the motive first as an important aid in investigations of a crime. In this case Israel has a motive, in that it wants relations between India and Iran to sour and break. Iran does not have a motive as its efforts currently are to strengthen relations as it needs the friendship of India in countering the Israeli offensive.

Investigators also like to study the modus operandi. Till date the sticky bomb that was supposedly used to blow up the Israeli diplomatic vehicle has been used only by Israel in its targeted assassinations across the world. This magnetic bomb was used by Mossad operatives to kill Iranian nuclear scientists in recent months. 

Also it is a well known fact that Mossad specializes in such specific operations, and crosses borders and boundaries to reach and exterminate the targets. Iran has not adopted such a modus operandi as yet, and has really been more of a victim on this front than an aggressor. But now the Israelis would have the world believe that their weapons and their methods are being used by targeted nations who are bowed under sanctions, and being hit on an hourly basis by vicious propaganda and threats from powerful nations.

India did err by voting against Iran at a crucial juncture at the IAEA on the nuclear issue. It also dropped out of the energy rich Iran- Pakistan- India peace pipeline, under US pressure. There were many experts in this country who criticized this move, and it has taken some time for the UPA government to realize that Iran is essential for energy that is essential for growth that is essential for the ruling Congress to win the next general elections. Or at least have a chance to win.

India will make a major strategic mistake if it shifts position against Iran under the growing pressure. It might be recalled that after abstaining from a vote at the UNSC against Syria it has now sided with the US against Syria, costing it much goodwill in the neighbouring region.

Foreign policy under the UPA government has taken the shape of a see saw that bends on the one or the other side under pressure. This has weakened India's position in the developing world, as non- western governments are no longer sure of its policy at any given point in time. There have been many instances when the government has moved back from categorical assertions, in a volte-face that defies comprehension and flies in the face of consistency.

It is important for the media to be brought under some levels of accountability, by journalistic bodies that too seem to be quite oblivious of the irresponsible reportage. The tendency of anchors to play the police, jury and hangman is coming increasingly in the way of the exercise of good, responsible, independent journalism and it is time that the few media outfits that have survived the test of time take a lead in what should become a long and deep introspective exercise. Otherwise, the media will lose all respect of the people and instead of acting as a watchdog and a counter check on the recklessness of the executive and the legislature in particular, will become an oppressive instrument against the people of India and the nations interests.

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