Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has allegedly threatened to cancel its subscription of news agency Press Trust of India for its “anti-national” coverage, The Hindu reported on Saturday.
Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and runs Doordarshan and All India Radio. PTI is a news agency that provides news to subscribers such as mainstream media, companies and several government and non-government organisations. Prasar Bharati is among PTI’s biggest subscribers.
The warning came days after the news agency carried an interview of Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong amid the border standoff between India and China. In the interview on Friday, the Chinese diplomat had accused New Delhi of deliberately provoking the violent clash in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15, which led to the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers. This was the first fatal fight on the Line of Actual Control, the disputed border between India and China, in more than 40 years.
“The onus is not on China,” Sun had told PTI. “The Indian side crossed the Line of Actual Control for provocation and attacked the Chinese border troops. The Indian forces seriously violated agreements on border issues between the two countries.”
In a letter to Chairperson of PTI Board Vijay Kumar Chopra, Prasar Bharati conveyed its “deep displeasure”, adding that the news agency’s “anti-national” reporting makes it no longer tenable to continue the relationship, unidentified officials told The Hindu. A final call on the subject will be taken by the Prasar Bharati soon, it added.
The state broadcaster claimed it has supported the news agency by paying a “huge” annual fee running into crores for years. It also accused the agency of being rigid on the issue of rationalisation of their subscription fee.
Prasar Bharati’s backlash against PTI may also be associated to a separate interview the news agency did with Vikram Misri, Indian ambassador in Beijing, according to The Wire. In a tweet, PTI reportedly quoted Misra as saying that Chinese troops “needed to move back to their side” of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, a statement that runs counter to what Prime Minister Narendra modi said to the all-party meeting held last week.
A controversy erupted last week after the prime minister said that no outsider was inside Indian territory in Ladakh nor had any border post of the Indian Army been captured during the clashes with Chinese troops. However, the accuracy of the statement put out by the news agency have neither been denied by Misri nor the Ministry of External Affairs, so far.
The Press Trust of India, however, called the allegations “unwarranted, unjustified and unfair”, The Print reported. The agency claimed the “one-sided” criticism is being generated because of a “truncated version” of an interview put out by the Chinese Embassy on its website.
“Interviews with newsmakers are routine business for media organisations during which a range of questions are asked,” the agency added. “Some of the comments make news.”
PTI said that a number of questions were posed to Ambassador Sun, including “many that challenged his narrative”. “ However, the embassy has conveniently ignored them and published only three answers as “main points,” it added. “PTI has written to Ambassador Sun to protest in the strongest terms their lopsided presentation of the interview.”