Was Bucha a Turning Point for India’s TV News Channels?  – The Diplomat

The pulse | Politics | South Asia

When graphic reports of corpses lying on the streets of Bucha began to be sent in early April, some of India’s leading anchors and correspondents became sharply critical of Russia.

Was Bucha a turning point for India's TV news channels?

The bodies of four people who died during the Russian occupation are awaiting burial during burials in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kiev, on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Credit: AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti, File

“Have the Russians lost it completely?” asked Arnab Goswami, host of a popular news show on Republic TV. Most nights, “the Tucker Carlson of India ”adheres to a hypernationalist manuscript in line with government policy. But in the wake of the Bucha massacre in Ukraine controversial host pressed the pause button on Russia-friendly coverage. “No, Russians, this is not fake news,” he said, referring to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. assertion that the killings were staged. “If you hear anything about the opposite, it’s, Russians, fake news!”

Apart from theater, Republic TV was not the only English-language station that signaled a shift in tone. As Graphic reports of corpses lying on the streets of the Kiev suburb of Bucha began to be sent in early April, some of India’s leading anchors and correspondents turned sharply critical of Russia. “There has been overwhelming evidence … of war crimes,” said Vishnu Som, an NDTV anchor reporting from the site of a mass grave in Bucha. WIONs Palki Sharma admitted: “It’s hard to argue with these images … a barbaric retreat of the Russian army.”

The sudden turn of events surprised observers in South Asia. Tanvi Madan, Director of the India Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, wondered on how “one of the loudest talking heads” went from “hosting Russian commentators who made … disinformation about bio-warfare to actually criticizing Russia for the Bucha massacre, calling it genocide.” A possible explanation: You have seen on Indian television night after night coverage of what Russian military forces have done… it is not Western media coverage. ”

Despite the focal point, nationalism infuses public commentary on the war. And the Western world “lectureIndia on Ukraine was still the preferred target for media outrage. ““Everything that is critical of the Indian government and its foreign policy is backfired,” explained Manoj Kewalramani, President of the Indo-Pacific Research Program at Takshashila Institution, a Bangalore-based think tank.

Since the end of February, when the Indian government evacuated aircraft cargoes of medical students from Ukraine, television news has covered the airwaves with scoops and exclusive from the war zone. Leading channels sent several reporting teams to the region in a race for the market share and international recognition. The cover also had lighter moments: “hip-hop” journalismeye catching graphics, and unintentional comedy. A video of a Times Now anchor yells “Do not teach us here in India” with the wrong guest went viral.

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IConsistent with India’s neutral stance on the invasion, some channels made it a point to highlight Russia’s side of history. In early March, WION ran a show with the titleHas NATO pushed Ukraine into war? “They also aired a controversial one talk by Lavrov, in which the foreign minister claimed that Russia had not attacked Ukraine. YouTube temporarily blocked channel for violating Community guidelines. WION accused the video sharing platform of selective censorship: “Silencing Russia will not end this war.”

Meanwhile, the Russian government offered some Indian journalists unprecedented access to the front lines of eastern Ukraine. On April 4, an India Today correspondent reported from a Russian tank as it was preparing roll into Donetsk. And a few days later, another India Today journalist reported from a plywood-clad Russian army trench during an active gun battle. But the channel’s most explosive story that week came from their Kyiv-based team. As he drove into Bucha “minutes after the Russian withdrawal”, Gaurav Sawant from India Today anchors testified what Russia did not want the world to see: civilians massacred by a retreating army.

When the report was sent, headlines played up on both sides of the story: “Will the truth about Bucha ever be known?” followed by “Satellite images counter Russian allegations” and finally: “Why were no massacres reported on March 19?” The last caption referred to the date of the satellite Pictures shows corpses on Yablonska Street in Bucha. The wording resounded unfounded comments of Russian officials that the mayor of Bucha had not reported the killings until after the withdrawal of troops. However, Anatoliy Fedoruk had talked about corpses piling up on the streets already on March 7, the Mayor told Associated Press that the city could not bury the victims because of the ongoing shelling. “It’s a nightmare,” he added.

Russia’s official position on Bucha did not change despite rising proof of war crimes. On April 19, Lavrov gave India Today a headline interview. He announced that the military operation was entering a new one phase. Lavrov also doubled his claim that the Bucha massacre was a “false situation.”

By then, Indian journalists had already documented what they had seen on Yablonska Street and beyond. TV hosts shaping public opinion could hardly ignore the evidence presented by their colleagues. At the end of one interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 7, Republican TV host Goswami declared: “The world will change after this … we stand with the people of Ukraine.”


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