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Indian journalists flown out to mend relation -

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In the wake of last month's riots by Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney, taxpayers have funded
a trip for Indian journalists to counter a growing perception on the sub-continent that Australia
is a racist country.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: In the wake of last month's protests by Indian students in Melbourne and
Sydney, taxpayers have funded a trip for Indian journalists to counter a growing perception on the
subcontinent that Australia is a racist country.

But a prominent Indian-Australian publisher argues the Government is too late - the damage has
already been done. The publisher says the Indian media should have funded their own trip weeks ago
when the trouble started.

David Mark has the story.

DAVID MARK, REPORTER: Rowdy demonstrations in Australia, loud headlines in India.

INDIAN JOURNALIST: It seems there's been another racist attack or hate crime perpetrated...

INDIAN STUDENT: I was screaming, "Please don't kill me"...

INDIAN JOURNALIST: Another attack, where a 25-year-old Indian student suffered 30 per cent burns...

INDIAN STUDENT: No, I don't think I'll go to Australia after this...

DAVID MARK: A public relations disaster.

PAWAN LUTHRA, INDIAN-AUSTRALIAN PUBLISHER: I think the stories and what happened in Australia as
covered by the Indian media has set the relationship between India and Australia back by a few
years.

DAVID MARK: The attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney in the past two months and their
sometimes violent protests was a big story in India.

MURALI KRISHNAN, EDITOR, INDO-ASIAN NEWS SERVICE: It was front page, prime time on TV, most
channels did play it up. It didn't stop at one or two.

DAVID MARK: Now the Australian Government wants to repair the damage created by the Indian media's
portrayal of the attacks.

MURALI KRISHNAN: Some of the cases we looked into there were one or two cases where there were
racial overtones ... In several other cases we found that it was sheer misfortune that they
happened to be there, when they shouldn't be there.

DAVID MARK: Murali Krishnan is one of five senior Indian journalists from some of his country's
most prominent media organisations now visiting Australia.

MURALI KRISHNAN: That's when the Australian High Commission - the Australian Government itself was
pretty concerned about the incident and flew in a pack of journalists out here.

DAVID MARK: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is sponsoring the one-week trip.

MURALI KRISHNAN: We met up with the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, we met up with the Minister of
Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans.

DAVID MARK: They've met with Indian students, community leaders, teachers and public servants.

Today it was the turn of the Race Discrimination Commissioner.

TOM CALMA, RACE DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER: I wanted to reassure them that Australia is not a
racist country, per se. There are some elements in Australia who are racist - both individuals and
small groups, but we wouldn't say that Australia as a nation is racist.

MURALI KRISHNAN: There's not one particular language the media followed. One or two people may have
characterised it as racial attacks, but the fact is once you came out here, you realised it was not
something which you could read in black and white. There were a lot of contours of grey.

DAVID MARK: Parwan Luthera is the publisher of the Indian Link newspaper and a radio station owner.

PAWAN LUTHRA: It seemed there was a jihad against the Indians in Australia, that no Indian could
not step in the streets without being bashed by white Australia - and that definitely wasn't the
case.

DAVID MARK: Murali Krishnan said the journalist visit allows them to provide a more balanced view
about the lives of Indian students in Australia.

MURALI KRISHNAN: What kind of lives they lead, not just in terms of packing in education, as well
as working hard hours to pay back money taken as loans.

DAVID MARK: But Parwan Luthera says the Indian media should have been more proactive.

PAWAN LUTHRA: Journalists should have been flown over by their own news organisation when this was
hitting the frontline newspapers and the radio and print media in India. That's when the
journalists should have been here to report first-hand and give better, balanced reporting other
than what they picked up from news wires or citizen journalists.

DAVID MARK: He says the Australian Government had no choice but to launch a major charm offensive.

PAWAN LUTHRA: We need journalists her. We need major visits between the Heads of Government between
the two countries. Kevin Rudd has been in power for a while. It's time he went to India, showing
himself to the Indian Government.

DAVID MARK: With billions at stake there's a powerful economic incentive for the Prime Minister to
make the trip to New Delhi.

David Mark, Lateline.