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Exclusive India Opinion Politics Sri Lanka

N Ram plays tele prompter for Rajapakse in interview

The Editor of popular South Indian daily “The Hindu” interviewed Sri Lankan President Rajapakse recently and the interview was published in the magazine in a two part series. The interview is unique in the sense that the interviewer N Ram had more to speak than the interviewee Rajapakse. Ram is seen announcing government initiatives more than the President himself. Ram is also seen feeding answers in several of the question he poses. After reading the complete interview it left me wondering if Ram was interviewing Rajapakse or if Ram was coaching Rajapakse on how to build his Public Relations campaign in light of the growing negative popularity due to the war crime charges.

It is not a secret that N Ram’s views on Sri Lankan is on the extreme side. He has been on the best books of successive Sri Lankan regimes. He was awarded Sinhala Ratna award by Sri Lankan government in Nov 2005. It should be noted that Sri Lanka is now regarded as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Journalists.

The most important question any journalist would be keen to ask Rajapakse would be regarding the war crime charges against him by UN, International rights groups and Tamil diaspora organizations. Ram did ask a question relating to this topic. However, here is how he put the question:

You have the U.N. effort, the advisory panel that the Secretary General has set up despite opposition from the Sri Lankan government, and the demands of the NGOs for more investigations into alleged human rights violations. They don’t seem to have got anywhere.

Like most other questions, he tags his expected response to the question at the end.

Now that some initiatives are underway towards upholding Media Ethic’s after the Radia debacle in India, I want to ask the big names in Indian Journalism on how to handle folks like N. Ram who have strong political agenda’s and are not shy to pursue them as a Journalist as opposed to pursuing them as a Politician.

Most readers of The Hindu know too well that Rams opinion on Sri Lanka is biased and he uses the magazine as a propaganda machinery for successive Sri Lankan governments. He is also known to represent Chinese interest in the region. While most Indian media reported the suspected Chinese buildup and border crossing in Kashmir, The Hindu had a column that focused on how the Chinese respected and worshipped Gandhi. There are several blogs, forums and even exclusive websites that have written about N. Ram’s unethical reporting on Tibet and Sri Lanka.

What I am surprised is the lack of initiative in challenging the journalistic ethics of N Ram by other popular journalists. There have been some protests by certain public interest groups, but they were at the grass root level and do not get media attention. The protest has to come from other respectable journalists and media groups for it to be effective.

The Indian media is slowly waking up to the horror that terrified the Tamil civilians at the end of the Sri Lankan war in May 2009. Several leading media organizations have reported and aired the leaked Channel 4 video on the rape and execution of journalist Isaipriya and others.

As expected The Hindu is yet to report this story and to my knowledge will never report it. As long as N Ram heads “The Hindu” group, this media group will continue to function as mercenary journalists operating as a propaganda machinery for Sri Lanka and China.

The President of Singapore once rightly studied that Sri Lanka has successfully cultivated Indian media and continues to use them for their propaganda. This is true. I often read news from Google News and as The Hindu is located in Chennai, it gains points in reporting news from this region and is featured often in Google News home page. For the past several decades The Hindu’s biased reporting of Sri Lanka has in-fact adversely impacted Indian/Tamil interests in this region. In my opinion, to ignore the nexus of N Ram with successive Sri Lankan regimes is a costly mistake to India and Lankan Tamils.

The Tamil Diaspora groups have a vested interest in understanding this situation. With about 40,000 civilians massacred in 2009, and the information blacked-out from Indian English Media, it should be one of their top priority to understand and remedy not just the nexus between N Ram and Sri Lanka, but the overall denial of Indian media in exposing the humanitarian catastrophe in Sri Lanka. Exposing N Ram may not offer a permanent solution, but cultivating the Indian media to honestly represent the aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka is important.

I am not sure about how N Ram goes about training his reporters to be Pro Sri Lanka and Pro China. I would like to know more about the editorial process followed at The Hindu. Does Ram instruct his employees upon recruitment that they should not report certain news?. Does he screen and reject reports that he deems negative towards Rajapakse’s image? Does he pay incentives for the reporters who write articles that show Rajapakse regime in good light? How does he go about maintaining “The Hindu as a Pro Sri Lanka propaganda machine? If a reporter creates a story regarding Isaipriya’s rape and execution, how does N Ram make sure it gets rejected in the work-flow?

I call upon employees of this media group to expose N Ram’s modus operandi with respect to maintaining the magazine as a propaganda machine for Sri Lanka and China. If someone has access to N Ram’s travel itinerary, can they tell how often N Ram travels to Sri Lanka and China.How often does N Ram call and talk to Rajapakse or other top Sri Lankan officials. If someone has access to N Ram’s bank accounts, can they expose any payments he receives from Sri Lanka and China. Does he receive periodic materials from Sri Lanka to publish in the daily.

Can the employees of “The Hindu” expose such materials to WikiLeaks site?

The responsibility to build a balanced English Media entity that truly represents the aspirations of the Tamil/Indian people rests with us. In my opinion, our earlier generation has failed to realize the importance of a balanced media. While it is important to boycott magazines such as The Hindu, it is more important to build an alternate English media based out of Chennai that can profile the people of the region and their aspirations in the right way.

Not just Tamil aspirations, all regional aspirations have to be profiled appropriately and presented to the world in an acceptable manner. Only this approach can build a real strong India or South Asia. What we have today is pseudo in all respects because our media rejects any idealogy that does not flavor itself with the so-called national mainstream profile.

While Engineering and Medical colleges have sprung across the state/nation, Schools for Journalism, however are concentrated in major cities only. With the advent of Internet and the entry barrier to Web Media reduced greatly, we should see more citizen journalists coming forward to expose folks like N Ram and render unethical journalists out of business.