On 10 and 11 July, the governments of the United Kingdom and Canada hosted a global conference on media freedom, in London. Over 1,500 ministers, diplomats, politicians, jurists, academics and journalists from over 100 countries gathered to avow the world’s commitment to promoting media freedom. Vinod Jose, the executive editor of The Caravan, was invited to speak on a panel discussing religion and media. In his presentation on India, Jose discussed how a long history of religious intolerance has fuelled violence against India’s minorities—as most recently evidenced by the rising number of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits. He noted that hatred for these minorities owed in good part to the teachings of Hindutva ideologues, including the founders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
After Jose’s presentation, Surya Prakash, the head of the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, accused him of spreading misinformation. Speaking from the audience, Prakash claimed that Jose had shown India in a bad light, and insisted that the presentation was inaccurate—although he did not point out any errors. Several Indian news outlets carried distorted reports on Prakash’s remarks, claiming he had “slammed” Jose. None disclosed that Prakash is affiliated to the RSS, or contacted Jose for comment.
Jose wrote a letter to the conference organisers to highlight what this incident and other recent developments say of the state of media freedom and the right to dissent in India today. The letter is reproduced in full below.