Narendra Modi and Barbra Streisand: a short story on how not to bury a secret, in 12 newspaper screenshots

Besides all her other achievements, the American singer-actor Barbra Streisand contributed the “Streisand Effect” to the dictionary of the digital age, when she sued a photographer for distributing aerial pictures of her mansion, in 2003.

At the time she sued the lensman, Kenneth Adelman, the photographs had been viewed just six times—twice by her own lawyers—but the legal action result in an avalanche of interest.

Everybody wanted to see how the Malibu mansion looked.

So, “Streisand Effect” is now online shorthand to explain a phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove information—a photo, a video, a story, anything—results in the greater spread of the information in question.

Something akin to that has happened to the Narendra Modi government, which is trying desperately to make the story of “the largest loss of territory since the 1962 war” vanish from media and public attention.


On Thursday, Rajat Pandit, the defence editor of The Times of India, scooped the news that “the defence establishment officially acknowledged that Chinese soldiers intruded into Indian territory in eastern Ladakh in May”.

There was an MoD document, and Pandit quoted from it.

“The Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala (near Patrolling Point-15, north of Hot Springs), Gogra (PP-17A) and north bank of Pangong Tso on May 17-18,” a document, uploaded on the defence ministry’s website on Tuesday, said.

The MoD document and the TOI report clearly, directly and openly contradicted the prime minister who claimed after an all-party meeting in June that there were no intruders on Indian soil.

In the climate of compliance that has enveloped the media, the two-column TOI story would perhaps have been read and taken note, but likely ignored and not followed up by other outlets.

After all, much of the media has been in patriotic denial and the only real reporting of the abdication has come from just a handful of defence reporters.

But after the story was published by TOI, the defence ministry clumsily took down the document.

And, presto, the “Streisand Effect” kicked in.

Virtually every major English newspaper, and even some Hindi ones, report the removal of the document today. In other words, what was sought be buried has been revived, big time.


Hindustan Times


Dainik Jagran


The Asian Age




The Economic Times


Deccan Herald


The Tribune


The Indian Express


The Telegraph


Deccan Chronicle


The Hindu


The Times of India, which broke the story, followed it up on its nation page.


Deccan Herald has an editorial.

As does Deccan Chronicle.


Also read: ‘The information lapse is the greatest lapse for India and Indian democracy’

“Ambiguous. Beseiged. Confusing. Disappointing. Dismaying. Evasive. Frightening. Unpardonable. Unsatisfactory. PM should speak again”: editorials on ‘Surender’ Modi’s cop-out

“India has ceded territory to China”

The veterans who unmasked the Chinese incursions

Stop showing satellite images, TV editors get a nudge

A well-travelled story that goes from Rediff to Washington Post

Press Club of India tears into attack on Press Trust of India

The 15-point memo journos received on what line to push


Jairam Ramesh podcast: ‘In 1962, media was less servile’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.