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In a peculiar incident, the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has accused the country's biggest news agency Press Trust of India of 'anti-national reporting' and has threatened to cancel its subscription on Saturday, June 27.
Prasar Bharati & PTI
Established under the Prasar Bharati Act 1997, Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio. Although considered to be autonomous in nature, the authority is regulated by the central government's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Contrary to the purpose for which it was initially formed which was to have an organisation independent of the government's influence for the dissemination of uncontrolled views, Prasar Bharati is overviewed by the Union Broadcasting Ministry.
On the other hand, Press Trust of India (PTI) is the country's largest news agency with reportedly over 1000 journalists and reporters working with the organisation.
PTI took over the operations of the Associated Press of India from Reuters after India's independence and has built a strong reputation and credibility over the years due to its unbiased and independent reporting.
A not-for-profit trust, PTI is run by a board of members. The agency's board consists of owners and proprietors of key newspapers groups in the country. It works on a paid subscription model providing latest and updated news to a number of newspapers, television channels, other companies, government and non-government organisations.
According to reports, Prasar Bharati is one among PTI's biggest subscribers paying an annual subscription fee of Rs 9.5 crore.
Prasar Bharati Vs PTI: What happened?
Reports suggest that Prasar Bharati's warning to sever ties with PTI is due to the two interviews conducted and broadcasted by the agency.
PTI's interview with Indian ambassador in Beijing, Vikram Misri, on the developments occurring in Ladakh's Galwan valley reportedly landed it in the soup.
The ambassador had said India had always respected the boundaries and carried activities on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India has always carried activities on the Indian side of the LAC: Indian envoy to China Misri to PTI— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 26, 2020
Misri also said that the Chinese troops have to stop the practice of crossing the limits and trying to erect structures on the Indian side of the LAC.
China has to stop the practice of transgressing and trying to erect structures on the Indian side of the LAC: Indian envoy to China— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 26, 2020
Furthermore, he said that India is hoping that China will realise the impact, shoulder responsibility in de-escalation by retreating to its side of the LAC.
India hopes China will realise its responsibility in de-escalation and disengaging by moving back to its side of LAC: Indian envoy to China— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 26, 2020
The ambassador's comments on the Galwan Valley incident which has been considered to be the most brutal faceoff between the Indian soldiers and their Chinese counterpart stands in stark contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's claim that there was "no intrusion" into India.
We hope that the Chinese side will realise its responsibility in de-escalation and disengagement.— Vikram Misri (@VikramMisri) June 26, 2020
At an all-party meeting which was held last week to address the issue of building tensions on the Indo-China border, the Prime Minister had asserted that "Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured."
पूर्वी लद्दाख में जो हुआ, इसको लेकर आपने रक्षा मंत्री जी और विदेश मंत्री जी को सुना भी और Presentation को भी देखा । न वहां कोई हमारी सीमा में घुस आया है और न ही कोई घुसा हुआ है, न ही हमारी कोई पोस्ट किसी दूसरे के कब्जे में है: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 19, 2020
Reportedly, PTI has been on the receiving end of the state-run broadcaster's ire due to its interview with Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong on June 25.
The Chinese diplomat has accused India of deliberately provoking the violent clash in Ladakh's Galwan Valley on June 15, which led to the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers.
"The incident was completely instigated by the Indian side and the responsibility does not lie with the Chinese side," PTI had quoted him.
"The onus is not on China," Sun had told PTI. "The Indian side crossed the Line of Actual Control for provocation and attacked the Chinese border troops. The Indian forces seriously violated agreements on border issues between the two countries."
After the interview, Sun tweeted, "Gave an interview to PTI on #GalwanValley Incident. Onus is not on #China. We are willing & able to properly manage differences. Mutual respect &support is sure way. Suspicion & friction is wrong path. Will jointly uphold peace & stability in border areas, ensure sound & steady relations."
Gave interview to PTI on #GalwanValley Incident. Onus is not on #China. We are willing & able to properly manage differences. Mutual respect&support is sure way. Suspicion&friction is wrong path. Will jointly uphold peace&stability in border areas, ensure sound&steady relations.— Sun Weidong (@China_Amb_India) June 25, 2020
Prasar Bharati In Action
According to media reports, Prasar Bharati sent a "strong letter" expressing "deep displeasure on anti-national reporting" by the agency. It also communicated that PTI's editorial stance makes it untenable to "continue relationship".
The developments have put the broadcaster's humongous subscription support to the agency into jeopardy. Sources have also claimed that PTI has been "rigid" on the review of the same since 2016-17. Due to PTI's reportage, Prasar Bharati is not just reviewing its relationship with the agency but is set to communicate a "final decision" at the earliest.
Journalists Taking A Dig Too
Ishan Prakash, a journalist with Asian News International, retweeted Chinese diplomat's interview and said " What a hard hitting interview with a whopping three questions. 🙏."
What a hard hitting interview with a whopping three questions. 🙏 https://t.co/5PLvl3FaXx— ishaan prakash (@ishaan_ANI) June 25, 2020
Several other journalists joined the bandwagon to question PTI's integrity and stance on the Indo-China border dispute accusing the agency of giving a platform to China to peddle propaganda in India.
It's better to refuse to do the interview— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) June 26, 2020
PTI Takes A Stance
The Scroll reported the national news agency calling the allegations "unwarranted, unjustified and unfair".
Calling the backlash unwarranted, PTI said that it is an "independent media organisation" which has built its credibility for being objective and unbiased news coverage, reported The Print.
It further clarified that the Chinese diplomat who claimed that he was made to answer just three questions was in fact asked a number of questions including many that challenged several aspects of his narrative but the embassy indulging in self-censorship ignored the questions and published only three answers as 'main points'.
PTI has written to Ambassador Sun to protest in the strongest terms their lopsided presentation of the interview.
Press freedom in India has taken a severe blow with several instances of killing of journalists, slapping unbailable charges against them to silencing them. With Prasar Bharati branding the news agency with international ties as "anti-national", it would not just tarnish PTI's credibility but also mark a new low to curbing of press freedom.
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