The Kashmir tour of a delegation of Members of the European Parliament has made news for all the wrong reasons. Newslaundry reported on the shady network of think tanks and NGOs that are powering this visit. News websites such as Scroll, The Huffington Post, The Wire, and The Quint have raised questions about the affiliations of some of the MEPs and the “international business broker” who coordinated the “unofficial” visit.
Yet, most television news channels, with the exception of NDTV, continue to paint the visit as some glorious foreign policy achievement for India, sidestepping the questions that need to be asked of the government and the MEPs, who are here in their “personal capacity”.
It’s not surprising then that when a few select journalists (mostly from TV news channels) got an opportunity to question the MEPs today, they downplayed the many controversies surrounding the visit. For starters, the press conference, which featured four members of the delegation – Bill Newton Dunn, Thierry Mariani, Ryszard Czarnecki, and Henri Malosse – was not telecast live, and many local journalists were not even allowed in.
How do you solve a problem like western media?
Anjana Om Kashyap of Aaj Tak asked the first question in the presser. After a generic question about their experiences in Kashmir, Kashyap asked the MEPs: “Are you better equipped now after ground experience to counter propaganda…a large section of the western media has actually connived to portray a very dark picture of Kashmir…are you better equipped to handle them?”
She went on to ask the MEPs to respond to allegations of Islamophobia levelled against some of them. “Unfortunately, this visit has been in the eye of the political storm in India. How do you respond to criticism that a certain NGO has handpicked politicians with right-wing views…or people suffering from Islamophobia? How do you respond to them because as you all told us you have all had a long political career and reached a certain level and have come here to gather your facts…”
At this question, Thierry Mariani, who belongs to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, became visibly upset. “I think if we were Nazi or something like that people in our respective countries won’t trust us…if I can give some advice to some of your colleagues…please study little bit the biography of the people if you want to make propaganda,” he said.
The ABP News reporter at the presser seemed concerned about the problem of “western media”: “Do you think the complete picture of the region which includes Jammu and Ladakh and Kashmir is ever projected clearly in western media… because you talk about stereotyping…what are your views on the projection of the region which includes, I repeat, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir?”
Dunn, the only Liberal Democrat on the trip, said he agreed that the media in the West was not so good at checking or reporting facts. “My son is a journalist…I understand this…you have a very big responsibility to check the facts and report them accurately and I completely agree that our media in the West, in Europe, is not so good at that,” he replied.
Dunn’s son Tom Newton Dunn is political editor of the British tabloid The Sun.
Can you please say All Izz Well?
The Wion News reporter asked the delegation about the plight of minorities in Pakistan. He also asked if the MEPs would help lift the travel advisories their countries have issued for Kashmir. “There are several European countries that have issued travel advisories asking their citizens not to travel to Kashmir valley…you also took a boat ride on the Dal lake. Would you go as a peace messenger back to your country saying that All Is Well in Kashmir and those travel advisories should be lifted?”
Manish Prasad of India TV had earlier asked the classic ‘aapko kaisa laga’ question about the visitors’ experiences in Kashmir.
On the question of the travel advisory, Mariani said: “Of course, we can say you can visit Kashmir but the first condition is…to be safe.”
Republic TV’s reporter wanted a reaction to the killings of migrant labourers in Kashmir. “Do you believe the killing of non-locals has been done to disrupt peace on ground or to foment more trouble in mainland India?” she asked.
The final question, by an ANI reporter, was about Pakistan targeting civilian areas along the Line of Control and how the MEPs saw the issue of ceasefire violations.To this, Dunn replied: “We believe in peace…we believe in peace and talking. That is the solution to problem wherever you look in the world. That’s what we advocate…we deplore violence…and we want an end to it…that’s why we are here.”
Bloody liberal, talking about peace! Did he think he was invited by the Tukde Tukde gang?
You can watch the press conference in full on YouTube.