Indian media’s alleged insensitive and biased coverage of Nepal earthquake has come in for severe criticism, with #GoHomeIndianMedia hashtag trending on Twitter through Sunday.
India was the first country to rush aid to Nepal after a 7.9-magnitude quake on April 25 left more than 7,200 people dead and a trail of destruction.
While rescue effort has been praised, media’s wall-to-wall coverage of the calamity and that of the relief operation seem to have left a bitter aftertaste among Nepalis.
People in Nepal took to social media in droves to complain about what they described as the Indian media’s “insensitive” reportage on the April 25 temblor that killed more than 7,000, devastated infrastructure across the country and left tens of thousands displaced.
More than 128,000 tweets on Sunday complained about and debated Indian press’s handling of Nepal’s worst quake in 80 years that has flattened large parts of this impoverished country and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The development coincided with the observance of the World Press Freedom Day.
Hundreds of Indian mediapersons have been reporting about the tragedy the extent of which is still not known. The criticism on social media will not be music to the ears of them.
Many contended the Indian media was treating its coverage of the quake and its victims as a public relations exercise on behalf of the government in Delhi.
"Some Nepalis, not all, feel Indian media is a bit patronising in their attitude and that is perhaps why such sentiments are being expressed. That is how a section of Nepali media also feels," said Kunda Dixit, a veteran journalist and editor of Nepali Times.
There is a feeling among Nepalese that the Indian media is only highlighting the plight of Indians in Nepal and rescue efforts by teams from the Indian military and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
Twitterati accused the Indian media of being insensitive to survivors, asking them irrelevant questions such as "How are you feeling?" and not helping those needing immediate medical aid. Many tweets reminded the Indian media that Nepal is a sovereign country and not a “satellite state”.
An indian news reporter to a mother who's learnt her only son has been buried under their house. Q. How do you feel? #GoHomeIndianMedia— Prasanna KC (@KC_Prasanna) May 3, 2015
Our Dharahara have been fallen not our sovereignty! Sincerely Nepalese
— ????? (@iGarima1) May 3, 2015
Stop your Media-quake!! We are already in pang by devastating Earthquake and your news are not helping the victims!! #GoHomeIndianMedia— ????? ?????? ? (@artless77) May 3, 2015
In a blog written for CNN, Sunita Shakya, a non-resident Nepalese, thanked India from the “bottom of my heart” for the help it has provided but asked the media to be more sensitive.
“However, me being a Nepali outside from my motherland, when (I) saw your news and news reports, my heart cried and hurt more than those destruction caused by (the) earthquake. Like all the medical personnel are taught and trained for potential disasters in future, as a reporter, I hope there is some kind of training on how to report different events. Your media and media personnel are acting like they are shooting some kind of family serials. If your media person can reach to the places where the relief supplies have not reached, at this time of crisis can’t they take a first-aid kit or some food supplies with them as well?” she wrote.
Ajay Bhadra Khanal, a former editor of The Himalayan Times, said: "The Indian media's aggressive presence and the way they are highlighting only their government's role in rescue and relief efforts has affected the perception among Nepalis of the Indian government.”
Dixit noted that hordes of journalists who came to Nepal from across the world were highlighting the efforts of their own countries but not many Nepalese have an idea of their coverage since only Indian publications and TV channels are available in the country.
"For every negative tweet, there are 10 positive reactions about India's efforts in Nepal. We shouldn't read much into it," he said.
Besides rescue teams and tons of equipment, medical aid, food, water and blankets, Indian military helicopters and planes flew in 23 media personnel to Nepal.
There have been reports in the Nepali media about Indian helicopters and rescue teams not coordinating with Nepali counterparts and flying to places close to the Chinese border. The Nepal Army has clarified this was a mistake and happened because the Indian pilots were not familiar with the terrain.
On Sunday, Indian ambassador Ranjit Rae wrote a piece in Kantipur, Nepal's highest circulated daily, requesting the Nepalese not to doubt New Delhi's intentions in helping its neighbour in distress.
"India doesn't want to do politics in Nepal nor has it done anything of that sort. Such negative reactions at this time affects the morale of those who are working and it is better these rumours are not spread," he wrote.
Full coverage: Nepal Earthquake