'Goodies' for defence correspondents

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by TrueSpirit, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    'Goodies' for defence correspondents


    It’s old hat by now that India has fast emerged as one of the world’s biggest buyers of military hardware and software, spending as it has around $50 billion since the 1999 Kargil conflict on importing weapon systems.

    But an intriguing spin-off of this has being the ethical ripples it has unleashed in the media world, at least for those journalists still interested in holding on to a fast-receding professional code of conduct.

    Defence deals in India, as it is, have always been quite murky. Shady wheelers and dealers lurk about in the corridors of power to "smoothen" the procurement process – remember Bofors, Tehelka and the like. Politicians, bureaucrats and Service officers were always the targets. But now, with India figuring as a major blip on the radar screens of global armament and aviation giants, attempts to co-opt journalists have also gained ground.

    Occasional wining and dining was one thing but business-class "junkets" abroad for hacks are coming thick and fast now. Eager to grab space in newspapers and on television channels, armament majors are doling out the goodies like never before to defence correspondents. What’s a few thousand dollars on journalists, after all, when compared to the multi-million and billion dollar arms contracts up for grabs.

    So, we now have gushing reports, thinly disguised as news, on how one of the six contenders in the "mother of all defence deals" — the $ 10.4 billion one to procure 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft — fits the IAF’s bill much more than the others. Or, how a particular fighter, depending on the last junket undertaken, is the closest India can get to a fifth-generation fighter. All this without any attempt to inject some "distance", "objectivity" or analysis into the "stories", or even telling the readers that the trip was sponsored by the armament company in question.

    Since when did journalists become competent enough to pass judgment on military hardware and software? Should such things not be left to the experts in IAF, Navy and Army?

    But then, some journalists can now even claim to be "fighter pilots", having pulled "awesome G-Forces" during sorties — joyrides, actually — arranged by over-eager companies to gratify wide-eyed, breathless journalists.

    With so much money floating around, there has also been a proliferation in niche defence magazines. A handful of advertisements, paid for in dollars by armament firms, and these magazines are firmly in business. Do these magazines sell in the open market? No, they don’t. It’s considered enough that they reach the military brass, the South Block mandarins and, of course, defence correspondents. That’s enough to rake in the moolah, with "advertorials" in the garb of news dominating the pages of the magazines.

    There is, of course, a counter-argument to all this. It’s argued that "junkets" are an opportunity for defence hacks to "enrich" their knowledge by seeing things first-hand. What’s the harm in going on "junkets", especially since many Indian media houses are notoriously stingy in spending money on news gathering? With opaqueness prevalent in the defence ministry, despite the minister concerned promising "transparency" at the drop of a hat, journalists have to seek other "sources" of news. Often, the companies become the "primary source" of news. If a journalist can be swayed from his "dharma" of being objective by a junket here or there, it is argued, then he or she should not be a journalist in the first place!

    What do you think? Where should journalists draw the line?

    Tailpiece: After experimenting with a "Major" at the helm in IAF, the big daddy of the Indian armed forces, the Army, has now deployed a "Naik" to command the air warriors.

    'Goodies' for defence correspondents by Shoot & Scoot : Rajat Pandit's blog-The Times Of India
     
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  3. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  4. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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