Sukhmeet Grewal: Beware Of 'The Australia Today', A Pro-BJP Media Outlet
The fact that they are willing to platform RSS rhetoric, and promote it while appearing to be a mainstream and legitimate Australian news outlet, is deeply problematic
May 20, 2021 | 2.5 min. Read | Opinion
The Australia Today popped up at the start of this year as an online news portal covering Australian and Indian affairs. The information available about its origins is sparse. Its About Us section leaves more questions than answers as many of the executive team members listed lead to dead-ends online.
One name that does stick out, however, is that of the founder, Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj.
Bhardwaj is notable due to his relative experience within the Australian news industry, contributing to a variety of well-established news platforms. His work in SBSHindi is of particular notice. SBSHindi is Australia’s premier government-funded multicultural news platform, often lauded for its progressiveness and commitment to the truth.
However, one look at the articles published by The Australia Today would have you question whether Bharadwaj shares this commitment. For a “news” publication that seemingly prides itself on “narrative journalism”, the malicious nature of their articles makes them seem anything but well-researched and accurate.
For example, they spread disinformation regarding the infamous pro-BJP Tiranga Rally in mid-February which was stopped by police for targeting a local Gurdwara. Australia Today instead suggested it was diverted by officials due to threats from “Khalistani elements”. This is clearly contrary to multiple reports on the incident and disturbing social media posts from rally participants themselves.
Most recently, they re-posted an article first published in Trunicle (their motto is “Let us defeat the anti-nationals”), authored by Manisha Inamdar, that attacks journalist Barkha Dutt for her criticisms of the BJP.
Dutt, who recently lost her father to COVID, is accused of being “cunning” and for “using her fathers death'' as “propaganda” and as a way of “undermining the government”. This story and The Australia Today were even amplified by Mohandas Pai and others in the BJP IT-Cell network.
barkha dutt @BDUTTAngered by my outspokenness on global media on the loss of my father to COVID and the systemic failure of the government on the second wave right wing trolls created a fake Australian website just to write about me.This is the priority at this time. A disgusting lack of humanity
While Dutt has had problematic views regarding the Sikh community in the past, personal attacks on individuals who criticise the Modi government are hallmarks of BJP supporters and thus it should come as no surprise that these very same elements have contributed to The Australia Today.
Jay Shah, the president of the Australian branch of Overseas Friends of the BJP, is one such figure who has written for the platform, pushing typical BJP talking points, and falsehoods.
Shah, who holds no formal role within the publication, attacked NSW MP David Shoebridge, labelling him as “Hinduphobic” for calling out the way Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an offshoot of the Hindutva paramilitary outfit RSS, has found its way into NSW public schools. This is a common retort used by pro-BJP mouthpieces when faced with legitimate criticisms.
Bharadwaj may say he is committed to fair journalism and provides access to all who wish to contribute, however, the fact that Australia Today is willing to platform this rhetoric and promote it while appearing to be a mainstream and legitimate news outlet is deeply problematic.
The EU Disinfo Lab found late last year that there is a vast network of fake pro-India media sites, which are eerily similar to The Australia Today, used to spread government propaganda outside India. This game of smoke and mirrors, at its best, is deeply embarrassing, and at its worst, is incredibly dangerous.
While The Australia Today is not named in the report, as it launched after the EU Disinfo Lab report published, readers should apply a critical lens to websites like it before inadvertently sharing their articles.
Sukhmeet Grewal hails from Melbourne, Australia, and is currently studying to obtain his Masters in Culture and the Creative Industries. He is also the co-founder of “We Sikh Justice”, a Sikh youth collective based in Melbourne focused on education, advocacy, and sewa. You can find him on Twitter at @Sukhmeet_Grewal.
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