Grey Zone Warfare has acquired a major salience in recent times, especially in creating and pushing narratives to form or distort public opinion. This is done to extract a disproportionate mileage and is enabled a great deal by the advent of social media whose reach, far and wide, has become exceptional. A great deal is invested by various powers in powerful media across the world, through ownerships, extortion and offerings and financial leverage in the garb of pursuing a principled stance on several issues that are invented daily. But often this tool of misinformation, disinformation or skewed narratives is used against adversaries. It principally and normally need not be used against your friends, especially the strategic partners.
Western media with the connivance of their masters and deep state tend to target rising powers including India. This has been frequently witnessed since In the realm of international journalism, the western media’s coverage of India and the Global South has increasingly been criticized for its biased and often misleading portrayal. The good news is no news is often the refrain. This trend, far from being a series of isolated incidents, reflects a deeper systemic problem and strategic game plan that distorts the global narrative and hinders mutual understanding and cooperation in our interconnected world.
The recent accusation by Turkey against Reuters, as reported by TRT World, exemplifies the potential for misinformation in conflict reporting. Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun criticized Reuters for being an “apparatus of perception operations and systematic manipulation”, particularly during Turkey’s engagement in fighting Daesh. This instance is a stark reminder of the challenges in maintaining objectivity and reliability in western media outlets when reporting conflicts in the Global South.
Similarly, the portrayal of climate change negotiations by outlets like The New York Times, which mocked India’s stance, reveals a troubling double standard. While developed countries have historically been the largest contributors to carbon emissions, the western media often attempts to shift the blame to developing nations. This overlooks the fact that India’s per-capita emissions are significantly lower than those of western countries and ignores the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in global climate policy. Yet speaking at the recently held COP28 for climate justice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked developed countries to completely and sincerely reduce their carbon footprint intensity by 2050 and urged that developing countries must get appropriate access to the remaining global carbon budget. He also announced a new Green Credit initiative apart from several others including LiFE (Life style for Environment).
The stereotyping in renewable energy coverage, such as the cartoon by The Australian newspaper depicting Indians as incapable of handling renewable energy, is not only offensive but also ignorant of India’s ambitious renewable energy goals. India’s aim to achieve 40 per cent- 45 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2030 reflects its commitment to sustainable development. Such stereotypes in western media not only misrepresent India’s efforts but also perpetuate outdated colonial attitudes. They find it difficult to realise that India can launch a Mars mission at a cost less than a Hollywood film or a Chandrayaan to the finest precision. The strategic autonomy or a moral stance on key international issues is an anathema to them. Hence, the tirade of verbiage against India becomes a potent tool. India would do well to work out a coherent and powerful communication strategy.
The coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asian countries has often been sensationalist and stereotypical, contributing to the rise of anti-Asian sentiment. This focus on extreme cases and the use of misleading images have created a distorted image of the pandemic’s impact in these regions, as highlighted in a report by Global Times.
Furthermore, the BBC documentary on an event in India from two decades ago, criticised by the Indian government for its biased and colonial mindset, is an example of selective storytelling. Such narratives often ignore the broader historical and socio-political context, painting a one-sided picture of events in the Global South.
The case involving Raphael Satter from Reuters, as reported by Lokmat Times and The Daily Beast, highlights serious ethical breaches in western journalism. The wrongful arrest of an Indian citizen and the subsequent legal issues underscore the lack of respect for local laws and journalistic integrity in some western media reporting.
The pattern of biased and sometimes unethical reporting by western media on issues about India and the Global South is not just detrimental to the regions being misrepresented; it also harms the global community. Twisted and warped narrative on Pannun and Nijjars of this world, known terrorists and separatists who are sheltered by the respective State under the garb of democracy and sovereignty, will eventually undermine the safety and security of these very nations. In an era where international cooperation and understanding are more crucial than ever, such biased reporting fosters misunderstanding and perpetuates stereotypes. It hinders the global community’s ability to engage in informed dialogue and to collaboratively address the challenges we face, from climate change to global health crises.
For a truly global and fair media landscape, western media outlets must adopt a more nuanced, respectful and fact-based approach to reporting on the Global South. Only then can we hope to bridge the gap in understanding and foster a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of the diverse world we live in. This shift is not just a matter of ethical journalism but a necessary step towards building a more informed and cohesive global community.
How I wish the hopes were horses and, in this case, expecting an ideal scenario from the West and its media, most of whom are good friends, may be just hope but hanker and strive we must strike at their conscience and morality, however, rare it has become on the pedestal of geopolitics.
This article first appeared in Firstpost and is republished with author’s permission.
Ambassador Anil Trigunayat
Anil Trigunayat is a former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta and has served in Russia twice.