Prasar Bharati threatens to cancel PTI's subscription, accuses news agency of 'anti-national' reportage

FP Staff

India's state broadcaster Prasar Bharati has reportedly threatened to cancel the subscription of privately-run news agency Press Trust of India alleging "anti-national reportage".

The state broadcaster shot off a strongly worded letter to the news agency asserting that its contract was under review, following its "anti-national reportage", reports said.

The news, confirmed by various journalists on Twitter, comes after PTI published an interview of Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong on Friday in the wake of the clashes between Chinese and Indian armies in the Galwan Valley. The article, part of India's largest news agency's syndicate feed, was also carried by several publications.

However, reports say that Prasar Bharati deemed this interview "anti-national".

Livemint, quoted a source at the state broadcaster as saying, "This kind of news coverage no longer makes it tenable to continue the relationship the two had shared for decades, as part of which the public broadcaster has been supporting PTI with huge annual fees running into several crores."

In the said interview, the Chinese Ambassador had claimed that Beijing was ready to "work with India" but the onus of easing tensions rested with India.

"The onus is not on China. The Indian side crossed the LAC (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," he was quoted as saying.

However, PTI had also mentioned India's stand in the interview: "In the course of the interview, Sun repeated the Chinese government's stand €" which has been rejected by India €" that Indian troops are responsible for the Galwan valley clashes, and indicated that the onus was on India to improve the situation in eastern Ladakh."

Prasar Bharati is the largest subscriber of PTI, a not-for-profit privately-run news agency which has over 1,000 full-time employees. It took over the operations of the Associated Press of India from Reuters after India's independence in 1947.

Prasar Bharati, which comprises the state-owned Doordarshan Television Network and All India Radio, pays an annual fees of Rs 9.5 crore to the agency. Reports indicated that Prasar Bharati had broached rationalisation of this annual fees more than once before.

Reports in Livemint and The Hindu along with tweets by several independent journalists claimed the aforementioned article was the cause of Prasar Bharati's displeasure.

However, journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of online publication The Wire, said that the state broadcaster was miffed over a tweet by PTI where the latter quoted the Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Misri.

The said tweet contradicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's earlier statement that "there (is) no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC" in eastern Ladakh.

Firstpost also carried the statement in which Indian envoy to China Vikram Misri had told PTI that India hopes that China will "move back to its side of LAC".

"India hopes China will realise its responsibility in de-escalation and disengaging by moving back to its side of LAC," Misri had said on Friday, adding that "China has to stop the practice of transgressing and trying to erect structures on the Indian side of the LAC".

Misri's statement had come just days after the government had clarified that Chinese soldiers are no longer on Indian side of the LAC.

The statement put out by PTI has neither been denied by Misri nor the Ministry of External Affairs, so far.

PTI, meanwhile, said that the criticism directed towards it was "unwarranted, unjustified and unfair". The comment was not directly in relation to Prasar Bharati's purported threat but was a reaction after several journalists slammed the news agency for giving space to China's propaganda.

The agency told The Print"Interviews with newsmakers are routine business for media organisations during which a range of questions are asked. Some of the comments make news. It is clear that the one-sided criticism of the PTI interview has been generated by the truncated version put out by the Chinese Embassy."