India's media criticized for insensitive reporting on the Nepal earthquake
TV reports come under fire for parading the efforts of Indian humanitarian aid
Hours after Nepal was shaken by its biggest quake in decades, India rushed to the rescue – its army, air force, and rescue teams were applauded for their nimble and generous response.
But another contingent from India – its media – has provoked a very different reaction.
Thousands of Internet users in Nepal have taken to social media to criticize Indian journalists on the ground who have been covering the aftermath of the earthquake, which has now killed more than 7,300 people.
#GoHomeIndianMedia has been the top trending term on Twitter in Nepal for the last three days, with many tweets branding some Indian reporting as “insensitive,” and “patronizing.”
Some have accused Indian television news programs, freely available in Nepal, of turning its earthquake coverage into a public relations exercise for the Indian government.
Local news channels have been proudly trumpeting that they were the first ones to reach “Ground Zero” and to bring “exclusive” reports to households in India and across the world.
Sunita Shakya, a non-resident Nepali, echoed a similar sentiment in an open letter addressed to Indian media.
“Your media and media personnel are acting like they are shooting some kind of family serials,” she wrote in a post on CNN iReport. “I think you are a human before you become a media person.”
Adding to the fury, there have been allegations about the behavior of journalists on the ground in Nepal. According to one post, a reporter was seen shoving a microphone at a mother who had just lost her son before asking, “How do you feel?”
However, Indian journalist Indrani Bagchi argued that it’s unfair to criticize India’s media with one brushstroke – if it wasn’t for India’s media, many of the stories of what’s happening in Nepal would go untold, she said.
“Indian media coverage has been largely responsible for how the rest of the world sees the Nepal tragedy. Even driven global response. Even if it is slightly over the top sometimes,” she tweeted.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has also praised the country’s media for “bravely covering the disaster from the ground.”
Indian media, especially TV news, has a reputation for sensationalizing stories. And this may be why some Indians have sympathized with the reaction across the border.
India’s former Union Minister, Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “Our media continues to embarrass and dismay India.”