Big News: The Indian Media and Student Attacks in Australia
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.
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