Media concocts a SECOND advisory against OZ studies.

Irresponsible TV channels highlight a personal opinion of the MOS Preneet Kaur to give an impression to Indian students and Australian institutions that a second travel advisory has been issued and INDIANS HAVE BEEN BEEN ADVISED NOT TO TRAVEL FOR STUDY IN AUSTRALIA.

Friday, 29th January 2010: What an eventful day for all of us. Thank god that I did not have a heart attack.

Around noon, parents of Indian students bound for quality University education in Australia who had just come out of pre-departure briefing sessions prior to their departures in the coming week started calling the institutions and their representatives frantically quoting the Indian TV channels that “Indian Government has issued a fresh Travel Advisory clearly advising students NOT to opt for Australia and not to travel”. Australian institutions that begin their visit to India for several educational information sessions and conferences too panicked and some even have reportedly called off their visit to India.

The source of report was the TIMES NOW website (article link) and I quote from it:

In an obvious toughening of the Indian government’s stance on continuing crimes against Indians in Australia, the Ministry of External Affairs has issued a second advisory to Indians discouraging them to travelling to Australia to study. This is the government’s second travel advisory for students aspiring to study in Australia, in a month.

TIMES NOW is from the Times of India group but I personally donot give it the same respect as what I give to THE TELEGRAPH or HINDU and hence switched to the NDTV website for a confirmation. NDTV being owned by Dr Prannoy Roy is certainly considered a standard amongst the TV channels and my personal bias due to the Doon School connections certainly accentuates this belief. NDTV website (article link) as that time was running it as the headline and stated under the heading GOVERNMENT ADVISES STUDENTS TO STAY AWAY FROM AUSTRALIA the similar message but more categorical and I quote:

The Indian government has officially asked students to avoid Australia for now.

NDTV confirming the TIMES NOW report made me call an emergency meeting of our staff with the agenda being to cancel the forthcoming Australian University briefing sessions in Kolkata as I had no intention to go against the Indian Government briefing. Also to drop our Australia advert from Times of India’s Education Times that is scheduled for coming Monday. It was a Friday afternoon and the Universities in Australia had already wound up for the day, thankfully.

However, something seemed amiss. The interview of the Minister of External Affairs, Mr Krishna just a few hours earlier aired on NDTV did not indicate anything about the advisory. Maharani Preneet Kaur is Minister of State in MEA and can possibly issue an advisory but these are evidently not broadcasted in this manner. I have respect for the Patiala family (once again my bias for the Doon School link. Not just Capt Amrinder Singh who shares my alma mater, but the full lot of Raninder, Jayat and Jagat Singh were at the time of my Doon School stay and almost batchmates.). However, what Maharani stated appeared more like her personal opinion and the reference that she made to the advisory was the earlier advisory that only cautioned students going to Australia to be careful and provided some Do’s and Don’ts. This is what appeared to me but still the NDTV and Times Now had stated almost categorically that a “second” advisory had indeed been issued.

I cross checked with the Australian High Commission which seemed clue-less and were themselves trying to verify the reports and they too seemed to give a lot of value to the NDTV standards of journalism leading them to not discount the information on their websites.

By now, hundreds of websites were carrying the report of the second advisory. Regional channels began re-cycling the reports and parents began the process of cancelling the plans for their children.

I used my “non-TV” channels for confirmations and called up my friends in the reliable PTI wire service who confirmed that there was NO NEW ADVISORY AGAINST OZ.

All this while, Ministry of External Affairs website was totally silent on the advisory and this gave rise to further doubt on the genuineness of the reports. In late afternoon, the Ministry of External Affairs website carried the following clarification:

Responding to a question by a member of media today MOS Smt. Preneet Kaur pointed out that an advisory had already been issued by the Ministry (on 12 June 2009) spelling out dos and don’ts for students planning to go to Australia for further studies. The advisory encourages the students to conduct due diligence and carefully apprise themselves of the ground realities including suitability of the institution in question, costs involved and consular procedures. 
(New Delhi
January 29, 2010)

Clearly, there was NO second advisory and the Minister Kaur had only referred to the earlier advisory. It is also clear that the bites that the channels picked up from her were more of her opinion and the Ministry on its website seemingly has rephrased the same and has clarified by putting the referenced date that the advisory that MOS referred to was the first advisory only and that there hence was no second advisory. It is quote obvious that the TELEVISION CHANNELS concocted that to make it look like A FRESH TRAVEL ADVISORY and even labelled it as a “second” advisory. Ministry of External Affairs was quoted in the reports but noone bothered to even check the Ministry website which remains regularly updated and which carries the advisories. Advisories are not one-liners uttered by the ministers but always a well worded document that is put up on the MEA site.

The Television channels continuing to be irresponsible had further harmed the Indian-Australian collaborative interests. All this while , on this important day, hardly any notice was made to the fact that the police in Australia had arrested the killers of Indian Ranjodh Singh and the accused were surprisingly “INDIANS”. I invite the “Seths of the world and the Goswami’s of the world” to be brave and withdraw the “racism” tag that they had given to OZ when the burnt body of Ranjodh was discovered a month ago. They will not as this requires courage and not just media-savviness. Nor will it bring them the TRP advantage.

It is a sad state of affairs in our country that the FREE press that is running for the “No. 1 position” and which needs to arrive with the “first breaking news” fails to understand the responsibility that comes with FREEDOM. It has let us all down by the fact that the false-alarm has affected and panicked so many people. While I donot want to blame the MOS for her comment (you may ascribe it to my Doon bias) but would hope that she visits Australia for herself in the near future to be able to review her opinion. Journalists however do know and donot need to be reminded on the way advisories is issued by the MEA.

Having had a troublesome afternoon, I took off a little early from office and took my family to my other passion: Movies on Fridays. Amitabh Bachchan starrer RANN did not let me down at all. Infact it was so timely. The way the farce of TV reporting has been unravelled by Ram Gopal Varma should make all our OZ bound students and parents to “doubt” every thing that they see on the box which is so aptly nicknamed “Idiot-box”. Completely in line of developments of the day, Big B and his channel almost reminded me of Dr Prannoy Roy and NDTV while Mohnish Behl and his sensationalism reminded me of Arnab Goswami. Like in reality where Arnab was trained by Dr Roy, in Rann too, Mohnish is trained by Big B. I need to tweet Ram Gopal Varma with my appreciation and ask him this. A must watch for all in our industry and in present context.

It is with this “dope” that I have done this blog. Kept it factual and with all details and links so that you can form your opinion. In Rann, the young and ethical journalist (Ritesh) almost gives up and surrenders to the “wheels within wheels” but Prannoy Roy(sorry I mean Big B) finally re-dos all mistakes of the channel and makes a thunderous dialogue stating that his “Rann goes on”.

My RANN(Battle) must also go on and I must not give up…

Ravi

PS: Times Now and NDTV sites on Saturday too have not corrected their report on their websites despite the clarification on the MEA site. Times of India (Saturday Print edition) carries the same report that the Government of India has issued an advisory not to study in Australia quoting their own reporters and well… it is clear that NO ONE wants the truth.

I now need to discover the Rann’s Paresh Rawal’s “real life” avatar now.

8 Comments

  1. My experience with Media tells me the reports always pass through the filter of free booze and gifts in favour of party throwers.Reporting in haste just after the party/press conferences to meet the deadline,hardly provides opportunities to give a balanced factual researched crosschecked copy.

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  2. RLS, Your blogs are interesting and extremely well researched. It raises certain very important questions. I feel concerned that how this plagued journalism is decaying our faith in the media. We expect media to support the genuine causes and help us to form right opinion. Unfortunately most of them are keen to ‘make’ news that ‘sells’ the most. That’s fatal. Just imagine how many of us read your blogs. Common people don’t even have regular access to the internet. They don’t even know about blogs – be it micro or macro. The soul sources of the information for these people are newspapers and TV channels. Naturally many a times the truth doesn’t permeate the way it should, ideally. Wrong information leads to wrong opinions, wrong choices and wrong decisions.It’s tough battle for sure to discipline media that they can discipline the society. I’m sure you’ll come up with ideas to widen the reach of your messages and that’s required. Wish you all the best. I wholeheartedly support your cause. Keep fighting 🙂

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  3. I have read your blog very carefully as i too tried to find out whether the news being flashed at both (Times Now & NDTV)the channels is true or not before talking to any one else. All I cold find out was the statement given by the MOS Ms Preneet Kaur to a journalist and reference used by her for the previous advisory issued by the Indian Government in June 2009. Now I am very shocked at the irresponsible manner of both the channels as I am an ordinary person and I wanted to verify the news before I could share it with my colleagues or friends, how these channels could flash it to the entire country. In my opinion this is a height of irresponsible behaviour of such reputed channels. I would like to remind them that we are living in an era of knowledge and information, where even a common man can have access to information through various modes. Those days are gone when only News Agencies and TV Channels have access to such information and people use to believe them what ever they were shown. We all love the freedom of Press and electronic media, but with some responsibility, accountability and transparency. The aim of free media is to enlighten the masses and bring the facts to people. But if media continues to ignore it then it will damage its own image. Gulshan Kumar PathaniaPresidentAssociation of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) 203, DDA II Tower, Above McDonaldsDistrict CentreJanak PuriNew Delhi 110058Tel. No. 91-11-45594559Fax no. 91-11-25536114Mob no.91-9810188116website: http://www.kangaroostudies.com

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  4. Very interesting article. We have all heard in the past and we have seen now the classic examples of the misuse of media. Today we all understand and are quite confident that no single news is true. In our own lives we see that media has been playing a major role on our opinions and beliefs. I think we must all change our thinking now and not be influenced by this stupid giimicks played by media and news items and have our own opinions after taking all things into consideration. I am worried about the future generations; all our children watch the different serials, news where things are violent, emotional or aggressive. These sorts of environments can heavily influence the behavior of our children. The Australian and Indian media are looking at trashing each other and these attacks have given both of them an opportunity. Both of them forgot that the primary job of the media is to report correctly and not build opinions by under or over reporting.Similar attacks are common and these attacks were always there all over including India, they prevail in almost every country and Australia is no different. But the “Racism” tag given by the media has caused all this damage. Some how they all forgot the education quality and success of many Indian students and families in the past.

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  5. Sir — I keep reading your blogs and this one is really well researched. Infact everyone knows the fact about the Journalism these days but the negative news publicity by Times Now and NDTV shows how irresponsible can a Media be and how the Freedom is being abused. Infact after OZ police confirmed that the death of Ranjodh Singh has done by our own Indian.. these medias does not want to clarify.I strongly feel that if reputed Medias like Times Now and NDTV are creating negative publicity despite knowing the fact that the attacks which happened has nothing to do with Racism this means there is someone else playing a role of 'DON'. There can be a possibility of some big hands of Mafia which is trying to tarnish the image of Australia and its relations with India. May be the Medias may have received huge sponsorships just to do the job of tarnishing the OZ image? But the pity is even the students who are educated are behaving like uneducated and blindly confirming the false media claims without making any homework.I am very glad that you are fighting hard to bring out the truth and I will be always available with you towards this fight.Since you are also a Member of esteemed comittees like AAAERI and other reputed organisations.. its high time that every one should take a stand and not to work with Times of India and their associated groups.The view above is my personal view and it has nothing to do with my organisation.S NagarajanMarketing ManagerEducation Centre of Australia

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  6. Shocking indeed Ravi…..Electronic media …. fourth pillar of our democracy having no due diligence in reporting is pollution to a free society, and can lead the nation towards a cancer…..

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  7. Ravi, this is a classic case of a minister who is caught in a funeral and making a statement under pressure to assuage the feelings of angry set of people. My question is that what was a Minister of External Affairs doing at a funeral of a person who has been murdered in a foreign country?? Is it a norm that a Minister attends a funeral of such nature or was it in her personal capacity. If it was a personal relationship with the deceased's family than that statement should not have been made at all, otherwise it was a most irresponsible statement made by a MEA.. how can we be a country where our MEA makes media statement which are irresponsible..The less said about the media the better,the movie 'Wag The Dog' seems to be the model these news channels work on. I understand that your personal biases but both NDTV and TImes Now are two sides of the same coin, both with their agendas and driving home their agendas one subtly and other more brazen..

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  8. I am glad i read this. I had started doubting the ground reality in Ozzieland post the informative updates from the free press.Keep the blogging on & hopefully someday you/we will be heard.

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