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Spinning out of control

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spin doctors had a vice-like grip on all the media events orchestrated during his London visit to continue propagating his rockstar foreign image. But for a few glitches everything went according to script, notwithstanding the growing gossip about Prasoon Joshi’s sycophancy.

However, there’s been a backlash at home. Indian doctors, among the most respected of all expatriates abroad, are on the warpath. A British publication reported that during a town hall assembly with the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom on April 18, Modi said: “You probably know that doctors’ conferences are held sometimes in Singapore, sometimes in Dubai. They do not go there because people are ill there; they go because the pharmaceutical companies need them.”

Last week, howls of protests erupted in India. The Indian Medical Association wrote to Modi: “Maligning the medical fraternity in a foreign land in a language which is derogatory to the core is not expected from the prime minister.” The Association of Medical Consultants, Mumbai, told the prime minister: “By and large, Indian doctors are law abiding, honest citizens. By singling out the medical fraternity and painting all with the same brush, you have hurt, brought shame and humiliation to Indians as a whole. Now the world will look with suspicion at us all.”

A Rs 4 lakh crore misunderstanding!

Alt News’ Sam Jawed reports that an infographic tweeted by the official BJP Twitter account on April 14 made a claim that “Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 has resulted in the recovery of Rs 4 lakh crore out of the staggering Rs 9 lakh crore of NPAs or bad loans given to the corporates under the UPA government”. The incredible claim, says the portal, was faithfully tweeted by unsuspecting followers.

RBI data on recovery of NPAs tells a different story. “According to RBI data presented by Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla in response to a query in the Rajya Sabha, over the last four years, the public sector banks recovered only Rs 29,343 crore out of Rs 2.73 lakh crore of bad loans that were written off.”

Alt News contacted Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas to get a clarification about the discrepancy between the RBI data and what he was quoted by the media as saying. He told Alt News in a written response: “I have been misquoted. What I stated was that nearly 50% of the NPAs have got referred to the system put in place under IBC.” He clarified the basis of the Rs 4 lakh crore figure by explaining that “at present cases involving Rs 3.30 lakh crore have been referred to NCLT. In addition to this, claims amounting to Rs 83,000 crore have got settled before admission. Together it exceeds Rs 4 lakh crore”.

The tall claim made by the BJP was deleted once the error was realised, the portal said.

Republic of embedded journos

Having quit as editor of Mail Today, Abhijit Majumder, who has gained notoriety in recent months for spreading fake, often communally divisive, news through his tweets and Facebook posts, is now headed for a new role. If the media grapevine is to be believed, Majumder is expected to join BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s Asianet News, the parent company of Republic TV.

As reported in an earlier Media Watch item, Chandrasekhar has officially resigned as a director from the board of ARG Outlier Asianet News but continues to be the biggest investor in Asianet and Republic TV.

In a Facebook post after he quit Mail Today, Majumder had recently said that his new job would involve “setting up something new with a well-known media house”. If he is indeed joining Asianet, Majumder would be in the company of a certain other cantankerous journalist who holds fort at Republic TV every evening shouting down panellists, hurling jingoistic platitudes, disseminating fake news, and acting as the unofficial sarkari spokesman. It may also be recalled that Majumder had recently been shortlisted by Prasar Bharati for the role of chief editor for Prasar Bharati News Service. However, despite Smriti Irani firmly backing his appointment, the proposal for paying Majumder a staggering Rs 75 lakh per annum forced the Prasar Bharati board to reject his appointment.

Dangerous slide

India continued its downward slide in the world press freedom index for 2018 released by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) which presents a gloomy picture overall with the heading “RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies”. “More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” says the report. The “largest democracies” of India and the US and their leaders, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, find special mention.

“The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people’, the term once used by Joseph Stalin,” the report says.

It says the line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving, and, in India (down two at 138th), “hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s (party’s) pay”.

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