The Australian newspaper reproduced an article that portrayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a poor light, accusing him of ‘leading India’ into a ‘viral apocalypse’.
Facing a barrage of criticism from a number of international newspapers for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, the government hit out at The Australian newspaper for reproducing an article that portrayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a poor light, accusing him of “leading India” into a “viral apocalypse”.
In a letter addressed to the Editor of the Australian newspaper Christian Dore, the Indian High Commission in Canberra said that the article sought to “undermine” the Modi government for its approach to the pandemic, which the government said had been “universally acclaimed”.
“It is astonishing to see that your respected publication has chosen to reproduce a baseless malicious and slanderous article without bothering to check the facts of the case with any authorities in the Government of India,” said the rejoinder, signed by India’s Deputy High Commissioner, who claimed that last year’s lockdown, the ongoing vaccination drive, an upgradation in diagnostics and treatment facilities, as well as India’s “Vaccine Maitri” initiative, where it exported 66 million vaccines to 80 countries (now 95 countries), were counters to the article’s assertions.
The High Commission also said that it was unfair to blame the current coronavirus surge, that has seen new cases in India rise to record levels, on what it called a “restricted” election campaign by Mr. Modi, and “one religious gathering”, referring to the organisation of the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar in April that saw millions of devotees gather over the past month at the Ganga.
It is unclear why the government chose to respond to the article in Canberra, given that it had been reproduced from the original article in The Sunday Times, in the U.K. previously, and is one of the several scathing columns written internationally about the government’s response. On Monday, The Sydney Morning Herald also published a piece, written by the former High Commissioner to India and board member of the Australia India institute John McCarthy that said that Mr. Modi’s government “has not distinguished itself”, by allowing the Kumbh Mela and going ahead with massive rallies as the coronavirus pandemic spread.
“Demonstrating both the government’s desperation and its regrettable inclination towards autocracy, over the weekend it banned on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, social media posts critical of its handling of the pandemic,” he added, referring to the Ministry of Information Technology’s reported requests for social media posts, mostly blaming the pandemic on misgovernance, and showing mass cremations, to be taken down. Other major dailies including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and Financial Times have also carried similar pieces.