New Delhi/Varanasi, Jan 28: 'Fake news' in local media in countries like Australia are a matter of concern as these are more often aimed at targetting India and the Hindus, and thus ought to be countered on real time basis, president of Australia Hindu Council Prakash Mehta has said.
"When India is growing strength by strength under the Narendra Modi government, there are often propaganda and fake news against India and Hindus in particular, in Australia. Fake news are coming from foreign media, they are in general campaigning against India. We need to develop a mechanism to counter these," Mr Mehta told UNI in an interaction.
"I will give an example, a Sydney-based paper carried a cartoon mocking at India’s solar energy works. What is the basis for this? It is not linked to any political controversy or episodes like beef eating, but it came. They showed solar panels and poor people sitting around. People were shown having no food and some poor people asking among themselves ‘can we have chutney from solar panels’....," said Mr Mehta, who attended the just concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Sammelan at Varanasi.
The chief of Hindu Council in Australia said: "The very intent of such a caricature was not just humour, it was to show Indians and India’s works in solar energy sector in poor light. Look at that, it comes in the context of so many good works being done in solar energy sector".
Answering questions, he said: "On these instances, the Australian Hindu Council had to get into action. We got in touch with Indian consulate officials and reached out to the particular media and tried to counter the motivated caricatures. We countered them not just with a mere rejoinder and statements, we provided them data. We showed what is our food production in India and what is the surplus quantity in many of the essential items.'
To another question, he remarked: "See, essentially it only highlights their intent. They want to mock at India and perhaps it sells. At times, we also get angry. Even if at some international fora, there is appreciation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government, then also there will be news only about negative things".
To another question, Mehta, who hails from Gujarat and is now in Australia for last 25 years, said "more often out of context" there will be reference to ‘mob lynching’.
“They try to project, like a section of media in India, that mob lynching is a phenomenon only under the Modi government. Well, in India they may have intentions. Political parties etc. ..But what benefit a Sydney paper gets. It reflects a misconstrued mindset and then our organisations have to get into action”.
He maintained that it is true the Indian embassy in Australia also counters such wrong news often.
"But our experience shows, there is a special significance in Indians settled or residing in Australia countering such news. A release from the Embassy is perhaps not good enough though at times these are essentials. Countering such motivated campaign by us residing in Australia and professionals and some also citizens of Australia help the national (Indian) cause better," he said.
“I have suggested in a discussion with senior MEA officials and other experts that there should be a window through the ministry so that local Indian residents in Australia are involved quickly to counter such fake news. No amount of countering after two or three days can actually help as the damage is already done," he pointed out.
Answering questions, he cited another instance and maintained in 2017 when Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister, there was a snobbish way of news reporting in a section of media in Australia.
"Without any background check of Yogiji’s education and years in public service, one section reported that ‘an illiterate sadhu from his hermit has been made Chief Minister of a large province in India.
'Then also we countered, we showed them Yogi is also a graduate and no way could be called an illiterate”.
Mr Mehta said: “In most cases, countering such news is always better as individuals. But when the attack is direct against Hindus, we counter these as members of the Hindu Council”.
In this context, he recalled that at one point there were some photographs lampooning Lord Ganesha.
“The theme of the cartoon was food unites all. They showed 10 Gods from different religions and sects and in that Lord Ganesha was showing saying – Let us have more such parties,” he said.
“It was a TV advertisement to push sale of beer and lamb and we countered it strongly. Our view point was please go ahead with the ad but why do you have to show Hindu God. Here again comes the role of the intent of such people”.
"The issue was raised by Indians in a big way. In fact one elected MP Julian Leeser also raised it in Parliament and we protested strongly with the company and later it was withdrawn," he said.
Dwelling on the performance of the Modi government vis-a-vis India's changing image overseas, he said: “It is true during last five years, people and local governments in Australia have started showing respect for India and of course the credit would go to Prime Minister Modi and his assertive and no non sense diplomacy".
He further said: "The designating of the Yoga Day has helped on June 21 every year by the UN has further enhanced the national prestige. You see, Yoga was poplar in Australia as a fitness things for decades, but many did not bother to know that it came from India. Now with the UN move and adequate campaign by the Modi government, the nation's prestige has definitely gone up. Even my neighbours and colleagues show interest about Yoga and their ancient wisdom and literature”. (UNI)