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Harsh Kapoor: (fwd) On India's Foolish Ban on Pak TV

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Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 00:39:23 +0200
From: Harsh Kapoor <>
Subject: On India's Foolish Ban on Pak TV

June 9, 1999
(South Asia Citizens Web)
The Hindustan Times - Online Edition (
Wednesday, June 9, 1999, (New Delhi)


      By Chanchal Sarkar

 AT THIS testing time of warfare and tension the minds and hearts of every
Indian woman and man - and it's the same for Pakistanis - are pinned on the
remote and rugged areas around the Line of Control. Many have their loved
ones fighting there.

 From their own governments they are unlikely to hear the truth of what is
happening - governments suppress truth and exaggerate gains in war time.
And so some bits and crumbs of reality might fall from the broadcasts of
the opposite side, heavily larded, of course, with propaganda and
tendentious untruth. But it is something and it has been crassly unwise to
ban television signals from Pakistan.
 We have been through three full-scale wars without any banning. Jamming
and banning with viewing or listening punished by fines, imprisonment or
worse were practised by Vichy France and totalitarian dictatorships like
Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Democratic countries abjure such
throttling. Its effect is invariably counter-productive.

 Most disappointing is the realisation that those responsible for taking
such decisions are totally unaware of the nature and power of broadcasting.
It is immensely more powerful than Bofors guns, aircraft carriers and
Stealth bombers. For Pakistan, Bangladesh and our other neighbours, India
should have a very well thought-out and programmed broadcasting policy not
just for times of tension and shootouts but very much so for the
roller-coaster years of relative non-war.

 For after all we are getting into the homes, parlours and chabutaras of
people across our borders. Have we really evaluated the effect of the crap
that we are giving them? Or of what they are giving us?
 Pakistan may be engaged in a proxy war but we have become a proxy
democracy. Else how is it we cannot trust our people not be moved by and to
see through the propaganda of Pakistani television?

 I cannot say I watch a great deal of Pak television, but if it is a
matter, as some say, of juggling images around and harping a lot on the
communal issue, I cannot see what would be the gain. Juggling images and
figures is done by all military spokespersons.

 As for the communal issue in a country that has more Muslims than
Pakistan, do the strategists in Pakistan really expect Indian Muslims to be
convinced and to rise in revolt? Their thinking cannot be so infantile. In
fact they must be laughing into their sleeves because India has exposed
itself as insecure. Look at the design for broadcasting to our neighbours.

 It needs psychology, sensitivity, deep knowledge of the people concerned,
and a mix of entertainment, news, drama and discussions. It needs excellent
planners and producers. Such people are not easy to find. To stimulate them
to work creatively is harder still.
 It is criminal to downplay radio. The poor people displaced from Kargil,
Drass, Batalik or Skardu and living either in caves or in uncomfortable
camps are desperately eager to listen to what is going on in the fighting
and to know about their future.
 Giving them radios and broadcasting to them is essential for their morale.

 As for those who complain about the falsehoods in Pakistani broadcasting -
and therefore say that it should be banned - far better to have a
programme, or more than one, pointing out the falsehoods and setting the
record straight.

 What amazed me is that at a meeting of senior journalists the other day
the majority supported the ban.