NEW DELHI: Congress and the Left have lashed out at a Group of Ministers’ report on “government communication” that details ways to rein in criticism and deploy the concept of “Pokhran effect” to amplify the Centre’s policies, programmes and achievements.
Addressing a press conference, AICC spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said there is a “government communication report” which was a panel comprising top ministers and functionaries who discussed the ways of controlling the media. She said while one minister suggested keeping an eye on negative influencers, an MP suggested “giving something to the media” while yet another functionary said there were enough means with the government to control the media. She said they also discussed “colour coding” journalists as per their treatment of news.
CPM chief Sitaram Yechury said, “So much focus on managing headlines, spin and PR, all this in the middle of a global pandemic, record and growing unemployment and economic collapse.”
Deliberations of the nine-member group comprising Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, S Jaishankar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur and Babul Supriyo, began on June 14 last year and were intensified in the aftermath of the June 15 Galwan Valley clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in the Leh-Ladakh region.
The report, a copy of which TOI has, focuses on identifying 10 big narratives of the government, disseminating factual news, curbing fake news, and projecting India’s international image.
The report, compiled following six meetings of the GoM and ministerial interactions between media, industry chambers and eminent personalities, contains recommendations including Naqvi’s proposal to identify a “strategy to neutralise people who are writing against the government without facts and set false narratives/ spread fake news”, and Anurag Thakur’s suggestion that “right-wing parties of other countries need to be roped in so that some common ground could be found”.
Hardeep Puri said that “we are in confrontation situation with political interest and commercially-backed interests” and emphasised the “strong need to deal with the international media and shape the global narrative”.
External affairs minister Jaishankar stressed the need to “prepare separate, appropriate and different narrative for international media”, while I&B minister Javadekar said the “narrative is fuelled by around 20-30 people” and the challenge before the government is to set positive narratives regularly. Irani, on the other hand, suggested tracking 50 negative and positive influencers, asking the government to partner with social media platforms like Facebook, Yout-Tube and Twitter and engage with them “informally”.
Communications and IT minister Prasad recommended drawing up a list of media personnel and prominent persons “who are pro our line of thought both nationally and globally”.
“Planned communication is good for normal times but to create Pokhran effect, let Nitish Kumar or Naveen Patnaik say something about it. This is being done by Republic, but Republic is seen as a pariah. Therefore, we need a Pokhran to turn the narrative,” RSS idealogue S Gurumurthy added, a comment Prasad has endorsed, according to the report.
Former Prasar Bharati chairman Surya Prakash also said the communication problem facing the government arises out of “pseudo secularists (who) were marginalised earlier”. “Indian government has enormous power to utilise the position to control them,” Prakash said.