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Chines Funding And India’s Biggest Media Scandal

Prof. Neelam Mahajan Singh

Ist Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru said, “an independent media with all criticism is much better than an oppressed media with all the positive comments”! The Fourth Estate has always been under scrutiny, all over the world. The recent arrests of journalists and their being ‘a Chinese pawn to plant anti government, pro China stories’ has introduced yet another narrative impact on the genuineness of news reports. Since YouTubers are in vogue, even funding them has become questionable! On the other hand, entrepreneur Gautam Adani has bought over most of the media houses. Journalists are reporting pro-P.M. Narendra Modi’s government stories are reported in positive perspective.

No one’s a kid! Everyone knows everything! Now who is Neville Roy Singham? How this man’s companies have rocked the existing media and government’s relationship in India? He is accused of spreading paid news against P.M. Narendra Modi, in relation to China! Neville Roy Singham is an American businessman and a social activist. He is the founder and former chairman of ‘Thoughtworks’, an I.T. consulting company that provides customized software tools and consultation services. He sold a private equity firm for $785 million in 2017. He is allegedly funding a section of Indian media, as reported in a story published in The New York Times dated 05 August, 2023: ‘A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a U.S. Tech Mughal’ by Mara Hvistendahi, David A. Fahernthold, Lynsey Chutel and Ishan Jhaveri. In fact, this story states, “it is part of a lavishly funded influence campaign that defends China and pushes it’s propaganda.

At the centre is a charismatic American millionaire, Neville Roy Singham, who is known as a socialist benefactor of far-left causes”. The point to observe is that Singham works closely with the Chinese media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide. Singham is a Marxist with a global software network. Chinese firms Xiamo and Vivo are in his network. 73 years old, Prabir Purkayastha, founder of NewsClick is alleged to have been funded of nearly Rs. 80 Crores by Neville Roy Singham. An FIR is already registered. ‘A false narrative’ on Govt, vide ‘paid news’ falls in the terror ambit. NewsClick, a small media website is so much in the news! 37 years old H.R. head, Amit Chakravarty is also arrested. Police filed a ‘terrorism related FIR against NewsClick’, which became the trigger for the arrest and the raids on nearly 50 other journalists, writers and others. They are,also alleged to be in nexus of the a ‘larger criminal conspiracy’ involving the ‘illegal infusion of funds by Chinese companies; Xiaomi and Vivo, and the spirited defence of legal cases against these telecom firms by Gautam Bhatia’ is described as a ‘key person’.

The FIR filed on August 17, 2023 names Purkayastha, activist Gautam Navlakha and the US businessman Neville Roy Singham and invokes multiple sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – 13/16/17/18/22C – i.e. unlawful activities, terrorism, raising funds for terrorism, conspiracy and offences by companies – besides section 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between groups, criminal conspiracy). After outlining its principal claims against Purkayastha, NewsClick and Singham – the US businessman whose funding of the news portal through open banking channels now forms the basis for the police case – the FIR says: “It is further learnt that big Chinese Telecom companies like Xiaomi, Vivo, etc. incorporated thousands of shell companies in India in violation of PMLA/FEMA for illegally infusing foreign funds in India in furtherance of this conspiracy.

Further, Shri Prabir Purkayastha, Shri Neville Roy Singham, Ms. Geeta Hariharan, Shri Gautam Bhatia (key person) conspired to create a Legal Community Network in India to campaign for and put up spirited defense of legal cases against aforementioned Chinese Telecom Companies in return for benefits by these Chinese Companies.” Xiaomi and Vivo have a large presence in India, as suppliers of mobile phones as well as investors. Xiaomi also invested a lot of money in Indian startups like ShareChat, KreditBee, ZestMoney. Both firms are currently the subject of an Enforcement Directorate investigation into money laundering and have had a substantial amount of their financial assets in India frozen by the authorities. Xiaomi’s counsel, Udaya Holla, mounted a spirited defence before the Karnataka high court earlier this year but failed to get the company’s funds that had been frozen released. Vivo has been represented in the Delhi high court by senior advocates Siddharth Luthra and Siddharth Aggarwal.

In 2020, Xiaomi donated Rs 10 crore to the PM Cares fund, and is currently “planning massive production units in India”. Vivo, which has already invested Rs 2400 crore in India, is planning total investments of Rs 7500 crore. A question mark is sure to be placed against these expansion plans since the Delhi Police has now placed both Chinese companies at the centre of an international terrorist conspiracy to destabilise India. Elsewhere in the FIR, the police says a “large amount” of Chinese funding was used to publish “paid news” which criticised the policies of the Indian government and promoted the policies of the Chinese, though the FIR does not provide any details of these alleged paid news items.

“In furtherance of this conspiracy to disrupt sovereignty of India and to cause disaffection against India, large amount of funds were routed from China in circuitous and camouflaged manner and paid news were intentionally peddled criticising domestic policies, development projects of India and promoting , projecting and defending policies and programmes of Chinese government.” As was mentioned in Delhi Police’s remand request, the FIR also names a now-defunct WhatsApp group that was formed several years ago, as being part of a conspiracy with Purkayastha to sabotage the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “It is learnt that Prabir Purkayastha conspired with a group namely People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) to sabotage the electoral process during 2019 General Elections. The key individuals of this group who were involved in this conspiracy are Battini Rao (Convenor, PADS), Dilip Simeon, Deepak Dhoulakia, Harsh Kapoor, Jamal Kidwai, Kiran Shaheen, Sanjay Kumar, Asit Das, etc.” Another accusation against Purkayastha and Singham as well author Vijay Prashad is that they along with others “actively propagated false narratives to discredit the efforts of Indian government to contain Covid-19 Pandemic.” In retrospect it may be stated that Indian media is highly polarized between the extreme Right-wing and extreme Left-wing.

Obviously both are planted with an agenda. Free, fair and objective journalism has become a casualty in this division. Freedom of expression and power of the journalist’s pen, has been a guiding spirit for the common man. While the Leftist Group has monopolised the news reports since independence, its important to keep in mind that invisible colonialism by foreign funding does not jeopardized India’s sovereignty. Journalists are up in arms against muffling their voice. Protests and rallies by journalists is rampant. Media Vs. Government; swords are out ! While #FreedomOfMedia campaign is doing a rounds on social circles; it is important that national secrets, national security and government’s confidentiality is maintained. At the same time freedom of expression and independent media are the key factors in a democratic, federal Republic.

(Prof. Neelam Mahajan Singh is Sr. Journalist, Author, Doordarshan Personality, Solicitor for Human Rights Protection and Philanthropist)



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