US News: India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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US NewsIndia is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists

16:15  19 september  2019
16:15  19 september  2019 Source:   msn.com

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India is replaying Trump ' s favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir , where it cut off the India has been screaming ' fake news ' for decades. The Indian government resorting to fake - news accusations is nothing new — in fact, the government and its supporters have

WhatsApp, India ' s most popular messaging platform, has become a vehicle for misinformation and propaganda ahead of the upcoming election. Image caption This photo of the aftermath of an earthquake in Kashmir was shared on WhatsApp and Facebook.

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Susan Walsh/AP

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

  • The Indian government has repeatedly accused news outlets, including the BBC and Reuters, of reporting fake news about the ongoing Kashmir crisis.
  • Among other stories, those outlets reported that Indian security forces had shot at civilians with pellet guns and tortured people for information.
  • Indian officials are widely believed to have intimidated newsrooms and academics into not publishing their critical work, and paid people to troll critics online for years.
  • Experts told Insider this climate of fear has ramped up since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and has also been encouraged by US President Donald Trump.
  • "Targeting the freedom of the press is a popular tactic used by authoritarian regimes to govern through fear," Angana Chatterji from the University of California, Berkeley, told Insider.
  • Insider reporters have received an uncommon number of inflammatory and abusive messages on Twitter and email accusing them of "fake news" and promoting "jihadi propaganda" after writing about Kashmir.

The Indian government is taking a page out of President Donald Trump's playbook by relentlessly accusing journalists of publishing false reports about the situation in Kashmir, where millions of people have been cut off from the internet and the outside world for over five weeks.

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The statement did not define fake news or provide guidelines about who could lodge complaints against journalists . The statement said a journalist ’ s The article, on a website called The True Picture, accused “sections of the media ” of supporting the opposition and trying to portray the

India accused of targeting Muslims in Kashmir crackdown (3:02). The government of Pakistan-administered Kashmir , known locally as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), denied that it has restricted space for pro-freedom parties and electoral analysts said those parties have historically had marginal

Indian authorities have imposed a state-wide internet and phone blackout in the disputed region of Kashmir since the beginning of August, which has seen ordinary people unable to access the news or communicate with people outside the region.

As of September 6, more than 3,800 people - including prominent local politicians - in the region have been arrested, Reuters reported.

Security forces have shot at people with pellet guns and tortured people living in villages known to be hubs of anti-India militancy by beating them with sticks, giving them electric shocks, and filling their mouths with mud, multiple journalists on the ground have reported.

India's crackdown came after it removed a constitutional provision in early August which guaranteed the independence of the Jammu and Kashmir region to make its own laws, and prevented outsiders from buying property in the mostly-Muslim region.

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India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Adnan Abidi/Reuters

India has repeatedly shut down all of these reports, resorting to the widely-used refrain that the journalists were falsely reporting the news, even when there was video footage of the events transpiring. Here are a few instances:

  • After the BBC shot video footage of thousands of people in Srinagar, a major city in Kashmir, demonstrating against India on August 10, the Indian government denied the protest ever happened.
  • On August 10, Indian Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman Vasudha Gupta tweeted that a Reuters report that said Indian police used tear gas and pellets to disperse the Srinagar protests - based on the testimony of a police officer and two witnesses - was "completely fabricated & incorrect."
  • The Indian army denied multiple allegations of torture outlined in a BBC report from Kashmir on August 29, calling them "baseless and unsubstantiated."
  • Kashmiri police shot down a CNN report, also published August 29, which cited a Srinagar resident as saying he was blinded in one eye after being hit by three pellets, and a local hospital's eye unit as saying that it's treated at least 30 victims of pellet injuries that month. Police claimed that there had been "no major injuries to anybody," save for "a few pellet injuries, who were treated and sent back."

India has been screaming 'fake news' for decades

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The Indian government resorting to fake-news accusations is nothing new - in fact, the government and its supporters have used this refrain for years. And it's only getting worse.

In 2014, the Press Council of India - the government's media watchdog - denounced the reporting of mass rapes in 1991 by Indian security forces in the Kashmiri villages of Kunan and Poshpora as "baseless," even as multiple women came out with allegations.

Earlier this year, the Indian government also slammed an official UN report on Kashmir as a "false and motivated narrative" that violated the country's sovereignty. India has for decades maintained that only Pakistan and itself can be involved in Kashmir's issues.

These denials are working in India, where the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is growing increasingly authoritarian.

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Reuters

India's climate of fear

The Indian government is widely believed to employ an army of online trolls who attack journalists and critics online, as well as pressure people into reporting favorable coverage only.

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The internet is often suspended or restricted in Kashmir to quell civilian protests and anti- India demonstrations, which sometimes turn violent. Advocacy groups like India ' s Centre for Internet and Society have described the ban a "blow to freedom of speech" and "legally unprecedented in India ".

Social media analysis suggested that right-wing networks are much more organised than on the left, pushing nationalistic fake stories further. There was also an overlap of fake news sources on Twitter and support networks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The findings come from extensive research in

It has never openly admitted to this, but circumstantial evidence all but confirms it. The government spent more than 52 billion rupees (£583 million) on pro-BJP ads and social-media posts between 2014 and 2018, India's Economic Times reported.

The BJP also hires hundreds of thousands of people to recruit voters via phone and door knocks, ultimately helping build "the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian history," Indian politician Shashi Tharoor said.

"The government denies something on one level, and then its army of trolls and people in [civil] society follow," Hafsa Kanjwal, a South Asia and Kashmir expert and assistant professor at Lafayette College, told Insider.

Video: India has been 'prudent,' not heavy handed on Kashmir, says foreign minister (CNBC)

"Basically if you question that, they say that you're being anti-national, or you're putting India at risk by questioning the state narrative, or that you're falling into Pakistan. They use these age-old tropes to bring people into line."

Insider has received an uncommon number of inflammatory and abusive messages on Twitter and email accusing this reporter and another at Insider writing about Kashmir of publishing "jihadi propaganda" and "fake news," and of being paid to report critical news on the region.

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Insider is unable to confirm whether such messages are in any way directly linked with reports of state-sponsored trolls.

Arvind Rajagopal, a media studies professor at New York University, also told Insider: "I've seen several thousand people being employed to post BJP-friendly messages online and make life difficult for their opponents."

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Civil institutions like universities and newsrooms are intimidated into silence. Researchers have told of advisers not allowing them to say anything too critical of the government, and critical reports being censored.

"Basically the media are terrified now of saying anything the government doesn't want them to say because they get attacked not necessarily online, they get attacked behind the scenes," Rajagopal said. "They get telephone calls from the prime minister's office saying: 'What do you think you're doing?'"

Those who do speak out are publicly smeared in an effort to intimidate them into silence.

For example, Indian investigative journalist Rana Ayyub, wrote a book about a state government cover-up concerning the 2002 Gujarati Riots, which left over 1,000 people dead.

Ayyub described in an interview with the Global Editors Network getting daily rape and death threats, being doxxed, and having her image superimposed on a viral porn video after her critical work was published.

Kanjwal said: "The government finds a way to send a message across and let people know that if they push back against this narrative, then they'll make it very difficult for them."

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This was fake news that originated from various Hindutva handles and Postcard News , a The fake news was exposed by Alt News in its article after which the channel quietly deleted its This graphic tweet by India Today that subsequently turned out to be fake brought home the dangers of fake news .

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She and Rajagopal both said, in separate conversations with Insider, that they personally know Indian academics who have been smeared or intimidated into silence.

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Reuters

The ongoing lockdown and communications blackout in Kashmir is also making it difficult for reporters to travel around the region and to file stories online.

Ordinary citizens are also unable to access the news online. Shortly after the blackout many didn't even know that India rewrote its constitution, Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah wrote in TIME last month.

"Exerting harsh control over communications is being used to influence the public's impression and experience of governance," Angana Chatterji, the co-chair of University of California, Berkeley's Political Conflict, Gender and People's Rights Initiative, told Insider.

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Greater Kashmir

Trump is encouraging this 'textbook fascist' behavior

Though this behaviour has existed long before Trump and Modi, the US president's arrival on the world stage has encouraged it, experts say.

"There are so many similarities in general between an ideology like Trump's and Modi's, which is exclusivist, relies on fear of the other, which doesn't address real issues that people are going through but distract people," Kanjwal said.

"It's very textbook fascist."

Other countries with strong-willed authoritarian leaders have also launched attacks on critical journalists and intellectuals who they see as threatening their hold on power:

  • Under President Xi Jinping, Chinese officials have routinely clamped down on reporting on the oppressed Uighur Muslim minority by repeatedly denying reports of their forced incarceration and claiming that the detentions are "free vocational training."
  • Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, is one of the world's premier sources of fake news, and hosts campaigns that aim to spread misinformation around the world.
  • Pro-government newspapers in Turkey have published hundreds of false stories and doctored photographs about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's opponents.
  • Critical media outlets in the Philippines, such as Rappler, have been hit with multiple criminal charges and arrests under President Rodrigo Duterte.

"There is a growing authoritarianism within [these] countries that rely on similar strategies of suppressing dissent or trying to undermine these [civic] institutions," Kanjwal said.

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Alt News brings you a roundup of the most telling instances where mainstream media was caught “70 lakh Indian soldiers cannot defeat Azadi gang in Kashmir ” was the statement attributed to Twitter has a strategy for digital transition when the occupant of a position changes to ensure This graphic tweet by India Today that subsequently turned out to be fake brought home the dangers of fake news .

India is replaying Trump's favorite strategy by accusing the media of fake news in Kashmir, where it cut off the internet and tried to silence journalists © Carlos Barria/Reuters; Leah Millis/Reuters; Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Will this ever end?

Experts say these scare tactics are likely to continue in India, where the strategy of cowing critics into silence is working.

Despite being one of the world's largest democracies, a large portion of ordinary Indians tow the party line because of the traditional lack of political discourse in the country, Rajagopal said.

"At some level it's about the latency of India's political democracy and the lack of a deep tradition of debate, arguments, and public disagreement," he said.

"There is a cultural aspect to this conformism, which is basically an unwillingness to publicly disagree and a willingness to bury your disagreement - which is really the response of an old colonized population."

Chatterji added: "Targeting the freedom of the press is a popular tactic used by authoritarian regimes to govern through fear.

"In India, this is likely to continue, and perhaps even escalate, under a majoritarian government."

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Group of 150 black broadcasters call on BBC to reverse ruling against Breakfast host Naga Munchetty over Donald Trump racism row .
BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty, right, was been criticised by BBC executives after she expressed her opinion on racism following a highly controversial tweet by Donald Trump.The group, which includes Lenny Henry and Gillian Joseph from SkyNews are angered by the BBC's decision to criticise Ms Munchetty who accused US President Donald Trump of being 'embedded in racism'.

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