Friday, August 14, 2015

Indian Media Watch reports on Indian Newslink

In response to Auckland invaded by shady Indian witchdoctors and palm readers, a recent meeting of Concerned Community Group against this vice in Auckland  was informed that that a formal complaint would be lodged with Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) against a newspaper that gave much “oxygen” to this blaze of deceit, fraud and social irresponsibility.

Below is an excerpt of that complaint, and the first action by the recently launched Indian Media Watch - New Zealand:

I, as the principal of Indian Media Watch, lodge this complaint to ASA against the Auckland Indian newspaper Indian Newslink, its Publisher and Managing Director, Jacob Mannothra and its Editor and General Manager, Venkat Raman for violating the Basic Principles of the Advertising Code of Ethics vis-à-vis items 3 and 4 which read:

Indian Media Watch of New Zealand,  has made its first complaint  to the complaints committee of  Advertising Standard Authority (ASA). It is against the Auckland based Indian newspaper, Indian Newslink for violating some Basic Principles of the Advertising Code of Ethics.
3) No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer. And
4) All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

In addition to above, rule 2 further amplifies above:

Truthful Presentation which says that: Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge

The misleading advertisements, named after deities, with religious photos to con the religious-minded people who are made to believe these frauds possess some divine powers

Exhibit 1: Bhadra Kalimatha Astrological Centre advertisement of July 15, 2015 edition, page 4:
I believe this advertisement gravely violates the requirements of the above principles and rule 2, as it is both misleading and deceptive. It is evident that due sense of social responsibility and duty of care are not exercised by Indian Newslink, which claims to be a leading newspaper for People of Indian Origin. The above are substantiated as follows:

1) Advertisement guarantees 100% lifelong protection. Such guarantee is unrealistic, bizarre and outrageous and is a calculated attempt to trap and rob simple, gullible and unsuspecting clients.

2) Proficiency in crystal gazing has not and may never reach a stage where 100% guarantees can be logically given and promises arising therefrom fulfilled.

3) Advertisement also claims to provide solution on Lucky Lotto. It is naturally presumed that these traders in human misery insinuated that they could predict right Lotto numbers. The great irony is that if they could do it then there was not a need for them to engage in this dubious profession, robbing innocent people. Indeed, if the astrologers had perfected this art, the game of Lotto, as a concept, would have failed.

4) Similarly, other claims are ludicrous, as the dubious practitioners have no business, medical, counselling qualifications or proficiency in psychology to solve every imaginable human problem.

Hence, this advertisement is in breach of rule 2:

It is misleading, deceptive, and makes false and misleading representation. It abuses the trust of people who visit them based on misleading advertisement from a supposedly long-standing respectable newspaper, headed by a supposedly respectable community leader, who sits on law and order advisory panels. The swindlers give deceitful ‘catchy” religious names of Hindu Deities to their fraud. In this case (exhibit 1) the name of a “Bhadra Kali” is used. She is popular form of Devi worshiped in many parts on India, and induces confidence in devotees. Such catchy and confidence-seeking names of Hindu deities mislead, lure and fool the customers in the name of religion.

The witchdoctors claim to have powers to solve  every imaginable human problems. They even claim to have powers to predict Lotto numbers, which they could never use themselves. It was extremely poor judgement for Indian media to accept such misleading advertisement which ended in people being cheated and robbed of money.

Same applies to exhibit 2 (Shri Ram Astrology Centre), 3 (Shri Shiva Parvathi Astrologer), 4 (Om Shivadhurga Astrology Centre) and 5 (Sri Hanuman Astrological Centre). These are names of Hindu deities, which was to delude customers into thinking that they operate with Divine powers. One of the obvious contradictions in their promises was fixing of visa problems, which they blatantly violated, including violation of New Zealand’s taxation laws. Their claim to read the past, present and future was proven wrong, as not one could foresee this avalanche of complaints that contributed to their hasty departure from New Zealand with their loot. They had no Divine powers and their assurances and their guarantees had no value.

Venkat Raman, the Editor and General Manager of Indian Newslink,  during a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) conference in Auckland  in 2012. As a veteran journalist, as he is dubbed, he was a resource person who gave a session on concepts of good journalism. 
Indeed, Indian Newslink, in general, and its editor Venkat Raman, in particular, cannot deny complicity in promoting these god men through his publication, as he is from India and is fully aware of such trickery and fraud. Further, in April 14, 2010 issue of the newspaper, the publication ran an editorial titled: Soothsayers fail to read their own fortune” whereby the editorial claimed the witchdoctors did not know about the Campbell Live sting operation, which revealed their dirty deeds on 1 April, 2010.

It authoritatively queried that somebody who could not foretell their own future, security and wellbeing could not be expected to do it for others. Hence, Indian Newslink publication acted in violation of its fiduciary duty to the public. Instead, it facilitated in running of advertisements that were manifestly false and designed to defraud them. It violated its social responsibility and its claim to being a responsible newspaper and a voice of Kiwi Indians runs hollow and deserving of strongest condemnation.

What is further ironical is that apart from running the editorial about this deceit, the editor of Indian Newslink Venkat Raman appeared on the Campbell Live programme of 1 April, 2010 and slated the activities of these con men. And yet, five years on, he appears to suffer from amnesia and goes on to accept such misleading advertisement for his publication, which, according to news items and people who came forward, resulted in people losing large sums of money, one over $200,000.

The editor of this Indian newspaper, the advertisement of which led to people being swindled, acts as a chosen advocate of Indian community. Reportedly, he sits on Asian Advisory Board of Auckland City District Police, South Asian Advisory Board of Counties Manukau District Police, and the National Ethnic Focus Forum of Police Commissioner. This is a case of conflict of interest of the editor where the employment revenue generation role of his employer conflicts with his community advocate role. Such a scenario brings into question the suitability of such a person to sit on such advisory bodies which are supposed to provide genuine representation and advocacy of ethnic communities.
As the old adage goes, it is a clear case of this newspaper running with the hare and hunting with the hounds
We seek the following from ASA:

1) That all future advertisement of this type, promoting devious and deceitful means be stopped immediately, and ethnic Indian media advised of this obligation.

2) That side stream media in ethnic communities be reminded that they are bound by the code of ethics of their adopted country. In addition caution and a reprimand be issued to Manukau Courier and Apna TV in particular and other ethnic Indian media to exercise caution in accepting any future advertisements for such dubious services.

3) The ASA organise a training and advisory session for ethnic media about such codes and duty of care to the community.

4) The Indian Newslink and its editor/ publisher be asked to run an apology for gross misrepresentation and violation of code of ethics for NZ media and be imposed such other punishment that fits this crime.

Indian Newslink has been trying to reach the pinnacles of media respectability via many activities, lectures, business awards and other public relations events it holds. Its editorials have been singing tones of some utopia of good behaviour and respectability that we need to achieve.

Now, that paper has to walk its talk. It has to answer whether the respectability it aims to project is deserved in light of the revelations here. I will let the public to be judge of this.

What is source for goose should be source for gander as well. And Indian media which have been acting as if they were above reproach need to get used to Indian Media Watch in New Zealand.

Those seeking accountability from others can be called upon to give their own.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is blogger at FIJI PUNDIT, and has worked in initiating Guru Busters movement against fraud witchdoctors and also gave life to Indian Media Watch – New Zealand, which aims to focus scrutiny over Indian media in New Zealand]


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