Big News: The Indian Media and Student Attacks in Australia

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Matt Wade


By any measure, 2009 was a big year for news in India. And yet the safety of Indian students in Australia ranked among the major news events in India that year. The India-Australia Poll 2013 found 65 per cent of respondents believed the Indian media had accurately reported the problems faced by Indian students in Australia in 2009-10. That implies two-thirds of Indians accepted the Indian media’s mostly negative depictions of Australia. Those who believed the media reporting about Australia had been accurate were more likely to be from large cities, be tertiary educated and have relatively high-incomes. The poll found 62 per cent of respondents thought Australia was a dangerous place for Indian students and that 61 per cent believed attacks on Indian students were motivated by racism. The results suggest negative perceptions about Australia created by the media’s portrayal of the student attacks linger in the Indian community. The timing of the initial attacks, and the imagery associated with them, helped attract and sustain media attention on the issue. The diplomatic tensions created by the crisis highlighted the growing influence of the broadcast media on India’s foreign relations. But the episode also exposed a deep lack of understanding about India in Australia. Governments were slow to comprehend how much damage media coverage of student attacks could do to Australia’s reputation in India.


Article Details

Non-refereed Articles
Author Biography

Matt Wade, Sydney Morning Herald

Matt Wade worked for three years as the South Asia Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, based in New Delhi. He has written extensively about economic, social and political change on the subcontinent and has covered a series of major news events in South Asia including the Mumbai terrorist attack, the Sri Lankan civil war, turmoil in Pakistan including the 2010 floods and Delhi Commonwealth Games. During 12 years at the Herald, Matt has worked as its Economics Writer and Canberra-based Economics Correspondent. Before joining Fairfax, Matt worked in the aid and development field, including a two-year stint based with NGOs in India. Matt is now a Senior Writer for the Herald based in Sydney.