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"Global media is in a state of flux"


Patrick French, born in 1966, is a British historian, journalist and an acclaimed writer with a long association with India. Frnech opens up to Aditya Raj Kaul
ADITYA RAJ KAUL | New Delhi, August 3, 2012 18:34
Tags : Patrick French |

You’d be one rare person in Britain who has had a brush with politics and journalism,  apart from being a critically acclaimed author, historian and a traveler. What exactly is your profession?
Writer and free agent.

In 2010, you published India: A Portrait which  is one of the best researched and articulate book on India by a foreigner. How difficult was it to study India in such a depth?
It required a lot of thought and a lot of travelling. India: A Portrait was the culmination of several decades of thinking about India and trying to understand what was happening. I did not feel there was another book which did quite the same job and that’s why I wrote it.

The India Site was also launched along with the book. Was it merely for its publicity or to collect the less talked about journalistic accounts of India?
It was partly an antidote to Indian newspaper websites, but really to collect good stories and allow new writers to come forward. I’m particularly proud of articles like India Hacked: Part I by Ulrik McKnight and Kashmir On My Mind by Prashansa Taneja.

The phone hacking scam of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World shocked the world but not many journalists. How do you see this changing trend of media? Are media ethics a thing of the past?
No. Media ethics are more important now than ever before. Readers are sophisticated now – they immediately know the difference between factual reporting, comment and commercial promotion. As a reader, you want to think: I trust this publication, I know this writer.

Do you think the Indian media; especially the electronic media is too loud and aggressive? How would you critically compare it with their counterparts in the UK?
Global media is in a state of flux. We don’t know if newspapers, for instance, will be commercially viable ten years from now. I like the dynamism of the Indian media but find it hard to understand what’s happening on TV. More often than not, more than eight people are talking at once.

You’ve in the past on several occasions written defending the family of Aarushi Talwar who have been charged with the murder of their daughter and domestic help even though there hasn’t been much support to your arguments. How difficult has it been to convince your readers of your views on the issue and do you think there is a media trial as is often alleged with several high profile cases in India?
When you read about a crime in a newspaper, it’s easy to think you know what really happened. But you don’t. You have to investigate it dispassionately and look at the evidence. When the court does the same, I am confident the Talwars will be declared not guilty.

You have written a book about India in the past as well and have been a keen observer of the developments in the country. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of India’s democracy in the present day?
The growth of hereditary politics, that’s the biggest challenge facing Indian democracy. It excludes the vast, overwhelming majority.

How ‘cool’ is it to be a foreign writer or a journalist in India in the present day, since the country wasn’t the most sought after destination in the past?
Very cool. I love writing about India because everyone has lots to say – most Indians have half a dozen opinions before breakfast.  

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017