Military veterans—who sent a letter signed by 156 retired officers to the President of India on April 11 against the appropriation of the armed forces for political campaigning by parties—have written to global media giant Thomson Reuters complaining against news agency ANI (Asian News International).
On 12 April, a day after the letter was sent to the President and copied to the Election Commission of India (ECI), ANI published that some of the senior signatories had denied endorsing the letter — a move to discredit the veterans’ appeal.
In the letter, the retired officers had urged the President and the ECI “to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”
They also objected to the “completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes”.
Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury SC (Retd) sent the complaint against ANI, an investee company of Thomson Reuters, on behalf of a group of retired officers of the Indian armed forces on April 23.
“We believe that ANI has acted at the behest of India’s ruling party to manipulate quotes and defame our honourable intentions,” says the complaint.
Here is the text of the complaint sent to Reuters against ANI:
Dear Mr Adler, Mr Friedenberg, Ms Carpenter, Mr Austin and Mr Ivory-Harte,
My name is Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC (Retd) and I am writing on behalf of a group of retired officers of the Indian armed forces, to share our concern and anger over the recent conduct of Asian News International (ANI), with which Thomson Reuters has both an investor relationship and strategic partnership over editorial content.
The context of this complaint is ANI's recent reporting on our petition, signed by over 150 military veterans, and addressed to the President of India, to protest the appropriation of the armed forces into political campaigning.
In this context, serious questions arise about ANI's motives and practices in reporting the alleged denials by some senior officers that they had ever signed the letter.
Two recent news reports lay bare the matter:
ANI Tried to Discredit Veterans’ Appeal to President – but Proof Was a Click Away
‘Disgusting’, ‘Skullduggery’, ‘Tricks’: How Veterans Described ANI’s Lies About Lt Gen (Retd) Naidu
I would be grateful if you read it to the end, including the brief note on ANI's National Security Editor and his public political stance. We believe that ANI has acted at the behest of India's ruling party to manipulate quotes and defame our honourable intentions. In our opinion, ANI's conduct tantamounts to being perfidious with a view to influence the ongoing elections, in India, in a biased manner.
In order for us to plan our further action, could you please inform us as to:
1) How Thomson Reuters evaluates the editorial practices of its strategic partners, to the end of assuring journalistic balance and editorial quality?
2) Whether Thomson Reuters evaluated or examined the practices, political affiliations, and reputation of ANI prior to expanding its strategic partnership in June 2018?
3) Regarding the above, if so, what was Thomson Reuters' finding about ANI? If not, on what basis does Reuters evaluate the quality and validity of editorial material received from its partners?
4) Whether Thomson Reuters believes that ANI's motivated misreporting of our genuine and Constitutional appeal meets its own standards for editorial propriety. It is upto Thomson Reuters to evaluate whether such conduct by an investee company meets your mission statement of "....we do business according to the highest standards of ethical and responsible conduct."
Thomson Reuters commands respect and trust the world over, and in recognition of this, we hope for a reply addressing our concerns.
Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC (Retd)
Also read: Stop Use of Armed Forces For Political Agendas: Veterans Write To President, ECI