By: Shubham Ghosh
India’s growing economic clout in the world and its progress in technology as well as education are seen with admiration in Europe, resulting in more curiosity and coverage about the country in Spanish media, the head of Spain’s largest news agency has said.
Gabriela Canas, president of EFE news agency, said on Tuesday (14) that India was seen through a stereotypical lens earlier but lately there has been a lot of interest in Spain about the strides the country has made in the fields of science and technology.
“India has become fashionable in Spain,” she said during an interaction with Vijay Joshi, the chief executive officer of Press Trust of India, to discuss possible new exchange partnerships between the two premier news agencies of Spain and India.
“There are themes that have done very well in India. In technology and education there are very visible results. Big companies, big businessmen, CEOs, technology CEOs who have been successful in the rest of the world,” she said.
She added that there is awareness in Spain that India will soon surpass China as the world’s most populous country with a vibrant economy, technology and a pluralistic culture.
Canas and Joshi, both veteran journalists and news leaders, also stressed on the need to break the stereotypes about Spain as a land of flamenco and bullfighting, and India as a country beset by poverty and natural disasters.
Referring to the period of Gen. Francisco Franco’s authoritarian rule from 1939 to 1975, Canas said, “The 40 years of dictatorship in Spain was a social step backwards.”
“There was a consolidation of stereotypes. We are seen as the land of dance, flamenco as if there is nothing else that we have to offer. The progress in the country was ignored,” she said.
“We have changed a lot. We have to inform. It is very good for our progress,” Canas said.
Joshi said exchange of news from Spain to India and vice versa could help break the stereotypes the two countries have about each other.
“I confess that for most Indians the stereotype about Spain is flamenco, bullfighting and the tomatina, which became well known after being featured in a Bollywood movie,” Joshi said.
Canas said Spain had lagged behind France and Germany in terms of investments in science and technology, but that was now changing. “In the last few years, there has been a push towards development. After the pandemic, European funds are going to help us advance more rapidly. The future is in science and technology and women,” she said.
During the interaction, Joshi shared details about PTI’s new ventures to diversify its business, including the recently launched video service and the fact check service.
“Whatever the transformation that may be happening in PTI, our bedrock will remain our emphasis on accuracy and unbiased reporting. That is the core value of PTI and will always remain so,” Joshi said.
In this context, the two news leaders also underlined the need to verify every report put out to subscribers and to expose fake news in these times of high polarisation of the society. “We live in a very important politically polarised world. Social networks immediately report everything without checking the data, and I think a voice of greater reflection is needed,” said Canas.
She and Joshi said the verification of news was “an obligation” and a “duty” for news agencies such as EFE and PTI, and at the same time an opportunity to generate additional income. An example of this is the VacunaCheck campaign conducted by EFE Verifica, the news agency’s data verification team, which in collaboration with pharmacies in Spain combated fake news about coronavirus vaccines.
Joshi pointed out that “verification is much more than an economic issue. It is an essential part of who we are…we put paramount value on accuracy and when we see so much misinformation around us it becomes our duty to counter the wrong news.” Hoaxes in India relate to a range of topics including false news that has the potential to inflame communal and religious passions, according to Joshi.
Canas stressed that in Spain one of the main challenges is fake news that “tries to generate racism.” This fake news is intended to target immigrants, and “I think that in the end it is influencing people’s minds especially in a country like ours with very high levels of unemployment where people see that the immigrants can take away their jobs,” said Canas.
EFE is Spain’s largest and the world’s fourth largest news agency with some 3,000 employees, mostly in Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. PTI is India’s largest private, independent news agency, formed in 1947 as a news cooperative by a group of newspapers.