Monday, August 11, 2008

Putin them in their place

After its coverage of Nandigram and Tibet (note: those links are to my previous blog posts on the subject, and perhaps not very edifying), The Hindu is at it again. While most of the world press, that I have seen, is castigating the imperialist aggression of Russia (still believed to be led, despite his having stepped down, by Vladimir Putin) against small, harmless, democratic Georgia, The Hindu headlined its Sunday edition (which I saw, since we still buy the paper on Sundays) "Russian forces stop Georgian offensive against South Ossetia", and lest any doubt on its stance remain, published a stinging editorial on Georgia's "adventurism" today.

But this time I think the Hindu may have a point: if they are not actually themselves balanced, they may at least be balancing out the rest of the media.

Even the most pro-Georgia articles do agree that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are separatist with a pro-Russian population. They also agree that Georgia was the initial aggressor in sending in troops into South Ossetia. If separatism supported by the population is good in Chechnya, Tibet, and (for much of the western media, until recently) Kashmir, why is it bad in Georgia?

I am nowhere near sufficiently informed to draw a conclusion. But here are two relatively balanced-sounding Western articles (not surprisingly, both are from The Guardian): James Poulos and Mark Almond.

(PS: a nugget for those who were pained at my title. The former Russian president's name is spelled "Poutine" by the French, which is closer by French phonetic rules to the actual pronunciation; as it happens, "poutine" is a harmless Quebecois snack but "Putin", if pronounced phonetically in French, sounds like a rather impolite word. So I wonder what sort of headlines the pun-happy French have concocted on this occasion.)


Tabula Rasa said...

ot - poutine is hardly harmless. it's a killer.

Ludwig said...

> The Hindu is at it again.

You can say that again. Have been noticing The Hindu coverage of Russia and things Russian over the last several months and it's hard not to conclude that most of their "news" reports are written by someone in Vlad Putin's PR organization, one reporter Vladimir Radyuhin in particular. I wouldn't be surprised if the editorial was by the man himself.

There's a slightly scary streak of "resurgent Russia standing up to the decadent West" type thing with nationalist undertones that runs through The Hindu's "reporting" on Russia. Let's see what the future brings.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Ludwig - I think I remember Radyuhin's name in the Hindu since before the fall of the USSR. Maybe he forgot to tell his Chennai masters that Russia is no longer a communist country.

Gautam said...

Rahul: I agree with what you say and the two very reasonable opinion pieces you linked to are consonant with my own limited understanding of the situation. However, note that the Hindu has betrayed its true colours yet again today through its publication of ``Saakashvili as a propaganda phenomenon'' by someone called Andrei Fedyashin, who seems to be RIA Novosti's political commentator.

Quite apart from
being terribly written,
the very partisan nature of the article is obvious from, and I quote from the article:

"In the first days of the South Ossetian war, we did not care to provide elementary propaganda support, that is, register hour-by-hour developments in a chronological order. Instead, our military leaders made vague and intermittent statements from the conflict zone. It was not even their fault — it is simply not their business. The western audience did not see them at all."

and, a bit further down,

"It was clear from the word go that we would lose the propaganda war over South Ossetia to Saakashvili and the United States. First, we have never won a propaganda war. Second, we could not win Europe’s sympathies by definition. When a nuclear power brings its troops to the territory of a small neighbour, it is difficult to support the former. But Europe is sympathising with the Georgians rather than Saakashvili. Backing the underdog is in human nature. However, it is comforting to think that the United States is the only western power to put a bold equation mark between Saakashvili, Georgia, and democracy."

Hardly what I would call independent and enlightening journalism, even if we disregard the use of "we".

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Gautam - well, that's an opinion piece and I don't think those need to be non-partisan. This one wasn't any worse than, say, Bill Kristol's outpourings in the New York Times. But news items are another matter. The Hindu has clearly lost any trace of unbiasedness there, and the editor's opinions dictate the news coverage.