Category Archives: World

Assange and Anna: How two crusaders lost their sheen

Julian Assange loses the extradition bail hearing.

The famous whistleblower was back in news. Headlines were made, but they were placed differently. The prominence and vigour with which they were displayed almost a year back was missing. What accompanied were reports on how the Australian has become zero from hero.

This wasn’t something that I could have imagined in December 2010. Following Julain Asaange and reports related to him in media with great interest as a journalism student in London to me the man who came from nowhere looked all set for taking the world by storm.

He had information which no one else possessed; had five of world’s most distinguished newspapers working with him not to mention the innumerable followers and donors. Such was the craze that hackers ‘Anonymous’ took down MasterCard and Visa when they decided to block payments made for Wikileaks.

Few days back Assange announced that Wikileaks was forced to temporarily suspend publishing while it tried to secure economic survival. No big outcry, no further attacks. His bail plea was turned down, the print space shrunk and prominence diluted.

Prior to this his one time trusted lieutenants backed out, opened their own platform, the media partners broke their associations while the new ones didn’t have that impact.

Interestingly he even changed his legal team to no great results so far. Now he is trying to reach out to media more something that he completely ignored or did at will.

Still remember a mail from Sunshine press that came in my inbox on March 9 almost after a month of requests which read

Dear Avinash,

Many people are contacting Julian for interviews, so we are having to be selective as he is so busy. He would like to do one in India. Please can you put in a full bid so we have all the information and are able to make an informed decision.

Please let us know:

What your readership is

What the impact will be

What topic you wish to interview on

How long you need it to be

Would you need to take photos

Do you pay a fee for interviews – we are asking this question now as we are trying to raise revenue

Many thanks,


The last bit was a shocker.

A freedom of information activist asking payment for interviews and that is when I started losing interest in the man I was following endlessly for four months.

Now I am abruptly jumping to a different track, but can’t help compare Assange with our home-grown hero Anna Hazare.

The Gandhian Social worker from Ralegaon Siddhhi who did his bit for the society in his own small yet meaningful ways far away from shutter bugs and hype– till he shot to national fame on April 4,2011.

He sat on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and rest as many say is modern-day history.

The nation was caught in Anna frenzy, out of World cup euphoria and tired of reporting on endless scams sections of print media and some 24/7 news channels found a poster boy; that was the beginning of man taking over the mission he set out for.

In the seven months that followed Anna and his team dared to challenge the parliament, followers across the world were showing support. I witnessed a bunch of enthusiastic Indians camping outside Indian High Commission in London braving rains for the entire duration of Part II of Anna saga at Ramlila.

Such was the frenzy that former IPS and staunch Anna supporter Kiran Bedi said, “Anna is India, India is Anna.” Anna followed by his league of extraordinary gentlemen and women could do no wrong.

This is when he too started going down the Assange way in my opinion. After successfully surviving the allegations on Bushans, things started to go downhill.

Their pressing the cornered government to pass their proposed bill by August 30 was something that didn’t go well with many ardent supporters. Burning the copies of bill tabled by government in Parliament and terming it Jokepal followed. This was the beginning of ‘my way or the highway’ attitude doing the movement harm, from then onwards it was always Anna and Co. first with Jan Lokpal taking a backseat; at least in the public forums and memory.

Then spate of allegations against Team Anna disturbed the equilibrium and harmony of the public crusaders; with the team appealing people don’t vote for Congress in Hissar by elections, they grew bigger then their boots and not surprisingly some core team members walked away.

There were wide chinks in the armour. Followed were allegations(that can be read in Shekar Gupta’s comment Holier than Cow) on Team Anna’s integrity and they so far could not stand the heat.

Today even his next fast call or call it threat hasn’t created the fervour it created last time, its like one other news. The man and his brigade seem to be losing the Midas touch.

With both Assange and Anna losing out on the steam shows that when you rise to unparallel heights in public life the true test of your ability is not how you drive the cause but how you manage the situation.

A champion cause will not take you long, it’s the way you conduct yourself that will.

May be its time for both these crusaders to do some serious thinking and may be mend some of their ways, before they become chapters in history instead of creating one.


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Gaddafi gone, but his last moves still haunt

Muammar Gaddafi is dead.

But video clips, photographs of his capture followed by killing bring the disturbing images of his last moments alive. The debate looms large on whether it was required for broadcasters or publications to go over the board with their images and commentary?

This post though delayed by a day is no opinion but an attempt to understand if these images of a blood stained Gaddafi were required or not?

In a situation where the world was looking for whereabouts of the longest reigning dictator gone into hiding, proof was required.

But how much is too much is something that creates a difference of opinion.

A superb slide show in Huffington post ensured that the post isn’t irrelevant even as I write. Front pages of various newspapers worldwide are showcased to show how the news which indeed was the global lead story captured by newspapers.

Headlines varied, “No Mercy for Merciless Tyrant,” “With Gadafi gone, Libya Exhales,” “Don’t shoot,”…..straight ones to some like “That’s for Lockerbie, Yvonne Fletcher and IRA Semtex victims”, “Gadhafi’s Bloody End,” and variants.

To these the pictures add the sense of war or sensation or can’t say what. Some bloodstained face close-up, some with fighters gleefully being pictured with his dead corpse, some showing him being captured and later killed to other gruesome options.

There are others saner versions, soldiers jubilant, Libyans celebrating, archival picture of the colonel with words doing the talking.

The news itself was so powerful that words and pictures were mere add ons, so the question arises, was it required?

One can understand the websites and news channels arguing that apart from editorial lines it was also a case of competition and eyeballs.

In my limited understanding another reason would have been that if these guys wouldn’t have published, still these images and videos would have reached people within minutes via social media.

So was that also a consideration, that when something is already going to be out why not join the party.

Feel each one has its own reason, but for me the gruesome display of war took away sanctity of news and reporting, but may be I am still old-fashioned when it comes to news.

Replies most welcome and appreciated, for I would like to understand why such a reaction.

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May be this is why so many iSad for Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs in dead.

The news is a day old but Jobs is treading worldwide on twitter and I am sure on other social media.

The post comes as an afterthought of an article I read on firstpost. Steve Jobs and social media mourning: Why are we all so iSad?

A valid question, with no clear answer I presume.

From various quarters and on different mediums people are remembering Jobs and expressing. This is why the social grief.

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators says US president Barack Obama which everyone including firstpost publishes on front page whereas a non tech savvy Rajasthan chief minister @AshokGehlot51 also tweets Millions like me, will remember forever #SteveJobs as a legendary innovator who touched our lives. Long Live the ‘ i ‘ man.

While a David Dunkley Gyimah, an Apple Pro and senior lecturer at University of Westminster writes In Memory of Steve Jobs and Apple.

The three though not even representing the fraction of Jobs fans, followers and supporters of the iconic inventor get a medium via social medium to express their feelings for the man.

Even someone like me who has never used an apple product ever tweeted with #iSad for the news of Jobs demise did make me feel sad and #iSad merely for that you become a part of the community that mourns the man online.

The #iSad may well be a fad or following the herd but it also brings some amazing facts which aren’t published.

May be this is why a #iSad phenomenon.

Whatever be the reason, fact remains Jobs will always remain in the hearts of millions and Apple will be his legacy which would be difficult to replicate.

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Obama presses the Tweet button to deal with deficit

Barack Obama is on a tweet spree. “Make a phone call, send an email, tweet,” he said in his bid to garner support to reach a compromise for taking US out of debt.

Unable to reach a consensus on the debt crisis ahead of the August 2 deadline, Obama urged people to Tweet and reach their local congressional member urging them to compromise on the debt ceiling.

The unprecedented move of the American president is a unique combination of sorts; the world most powerful man using one of most public tools to quickly pass the message.

The move also showcases how the most powerful leader acknowledges the real house of power – people.

With every message reaching out to 9,362,843 (at the time of writing) people there was no other way by which the president could reach these many people. Not only that 692,518 people also can directly reach him on his tweet handle.

As a result of the tweet spree by his Obama2012 campaign phone lines of the House were running at peak traffic volume.

The move allows Obama to reach out to the Republicans via people and make his point heard. Twitter gives the president a people’s advantage to convince or pressurise his political rivals and in turn reach Republican supports.

How effective the campaign will be remains to be seen, but the tool of social networking which led to Arab and African revolutions is being used by leaders to establish a connect with their people.

@BarackObama sets the precedent by seeking people’s support via twitter, but its usual for politicians and leaders in west to use this medium to make their stand.

Recently president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez used twitter to work from hospital; the UK Prime Minister though doesn’t have a personal twitter account No. 10 Downing Street has a tweet handle which is functional.

Few months back on news channel Al-Jazeera world leaders like Barack Obama and David Cameron in a series of world view interview were put questions collected using You tube, which they readily answered. Though not a social media tool, the drive allowed people to pose questions in person and seek response via web.

While the west is embracing social media to gauge the people’s moods, politicians in India shy away from any social media.

As the debate in the country heats up over the Lokpal Bill, could the PMO have not used social media tools to gauge what the people think? Why is it that the leaders shy away from meeting the people who matter? Why is it that it takes a huge uproar and public outcry for the PM even address the media?

When I was in India recently I asked a senior Congress leader who has a berth in the Union Cabinet and when asked about use of social media the response was: “Let it be with Shashi Tharoor Sahab, why keep unnecessary headache.”

If this is the attitude that top politicians have, they are light years behind reality.

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Will a warrant suffice to catch Gaddafi?

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo seeks arrest warrants against the Gaddafi’s.

Reports suggest that the prosecutor has termed the father sun duo of Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi as suspects of crime against humanity.

Calling the Gaddafi’s suspects though is legally apt but laughable. The move looks like another not so valiant attempt to put the military ruler down and end the crisis.

The way allied forces have gone about handling Libyan uprising indicates that there isn’t a clear policy or plan in place to diffuse the situation.

The US didn’t join the assault on Gaddafi with its usual fever, the Germans pulled out of the NATO coalition, there have been issues plaguing the allied forces giving the Gaddafi’s enough to play around with.

Even after two months of daily air strikes they haven’t been able to nullify the colonel’s strength to an extent that he gives up.

The Guardian reports that Gaddafi Sr. is looking at a dignified exit and might as well get it.

Media reports do suggest that the step will put pressure on Gaddafi and it makes me wonder if this at all will. Will the mere suspect tag or say even conviction be enough to stop the authoritarian from his barbaric acts? And why only three individuals what about the likes of Moussa Koussa who till a couple of months back were partners in crime with Gadaffi’s?

Do they get away for turning their back on the regimen they were a part of all their lives?

The move to me hints at yet another half hearted attempt to do something, it’s about time to end the statement and settle the crisis or are we looking at another Iraq like situation?

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Kate weds Williams and the world goes crazy

Kate and William are now man and wife.

Add Duchess of Cambridge and Prince to the above mentioned names and the world goes into frenzy over what is termed as the Royal Wedding. Or at least the media makes one believe so.

The Royal Wedding showed the world in the modern era of democracy monarchy still has many takers when it comes to celebrations.

To everyone its own, interpretations of the wedding and the significance of hosting a lavish gala was debated by some, but for most in Britain and elsewhere the well marketed wedding was a get away from the daily dose of gloom.

Marketed to the hilt and planned to perfection, the event made into an extravaganza even in times of austerity.

The Guardian stressed how the Duchess of Cambridge was denied the title of Princess.

It reports:

“The Queen’s conferring of the ancient title of Duke of Cambridge on her grandson just hours before the ceremony deprived his wife of the title Princess Catherine. But she is a duchess, which is several rungs up the social ladder than her standing before entering the 1,000-year-old abbey this morning.”

A hint enough that class still matters in Quality press as in Zone 1-2 circles of London.

Its counterparts in Britain treaded similar lines and speculations depending on their inclinations and those some 7000kms away (read Indian media) though not much aware of the customs, traditions of the British royals were busy debating about the dress of Kate middloeton..err the Duchess of Cambridge, or whether or not she will make it on time and the best was saved for the guest list.

After flipping through some five Indian channels all I could understand that the only call it elite/celebrity guests invited were Sir Elton John and David Beckham with his wife Posh. Rest they and their overseas correspondents were clueless on the guest list.

Barring the report in TOI which talked about austerity and tries to put things in perspective no body in Indian media seems to have any clue, but were busy dishing out the Royal wedding in one of the most trash formats.

The best part of the coverage was when an English news channel anchor asked the guests on air to rest their voices for a while and let people see the Live images. That silence for me was golden, it shoed me what was happening on ground sans trash commentary.

Thankfully unlike the weddings of Indian celebs which last a couple of days, in a matter of couple of hours the Royalty wrapped the show and invited 650 of the 1900 guests for the reception, leaving the rest to devote the rest of airtime, fill reams of newsprint and people like me to blog.

Best wishes to the newly married couple, wake up in the morning and relive the frenzy this time courtesy scribes.

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Libya looks set for a long war

Two defectors in two days, rebels coming under heavy attack, NATO taking on the command and the ever defiant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi- Libya looks set for a long raging war.

Within 24 hours of former Libyan foreign ministerMoussa Koussa defecting to UK via Tunisia, another former foreign minister Ali Abdel-Salam al-Treki is said to have put his resignation. The western leadership looks at it as the weakening of the Gaddafi regimen, which it is. But despite the UN led forces trying their best to impose the ‘no fly zone’ (NFZ) and bombing the settlements they don’t seem like having any major impact on the regimen.

BBC reports on Thursday mentioned that the rebels were fast losing ground and that they were under attack from Gaddafi’s forces.

Foreign secretary William Hauge mentioned that Koussa was offered no immunity and was operating under no pressure, but on will. Koussa who might also face questioning by Scottish prosecutors over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing will try to bargain some security in lieu of trading inner secrets of Gaddafi.

People higher in the ranks and close to the regimen leaving Gaddafi indeed will add pressure on the regimen, but with the west not offering any immunity or security to such leaders, the move will curtail number of defectors.

On the other hand despite being bombed by NATO, which officially took charge of the UN forces on Thursday ‘brother leader’ doesn’t look down and out by any account. It’s been two weeks that NFZ has been sanctioned against Gaddafi who isn’t giving up.

This signal at the failure of international forces which still look out of strategy to end the stalemate, though David Cameron still doesn’t rule out supplying arms to rebels. But the step is still far-fetched and the battle looks likely to go long.

Hauge has said, “Gaddafi must be asking himself who will be the next to go.” Should the West also not be asking itself, how long will this go?

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