TERRORISM AND THE INDIAN MEDIA

Source: IPF      Date: 09 Mar 2009 13:29:06

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Former CBI Director Joginder Singh

The contemporary society is facing the menace of global terrorism, which has led to the loss of many precious and innocent lives. India is the worst victim of this menace since the last few decades and at this juncture the possibility of its end appears to be quite remote. Moreover, the media, by the manner in which it is treating this grim challenge to civilised societies, far from weakening it, is actually abetting it. This is the context of the book, Terrorism and the Indian Media, by Prof. Rakesh Sinha, Hon Director, IPF. Prof. Sinha is of the view that we have to overcome our personal predilections while reporting on such sensitive issues. Unfortunately, the tone and tenor of reporting in some of the vernacular media inflame rather than cool the passions of the people. After all, the interests of the nation are much higher than all our sectarian, cultural identities.

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Terrorism and the Indian Media is the first publication of the IPF. The book release function was attended by over 200 academicians, journalists, members of civil society and students. The book is a critical appraisal of the coverage of terrorism in English, Hindi and Urdu print media and is an outcome of meticulous research on this subject carried out by Prof. Sinha and his team of researchers at the India Policy Foundation.

Prof. Sinha said that his research indicates that there is a lack of rationality and objectivity in much of the terrorism-related reporting in the Urdu media. However, the aim of the book was not to target a particular language media, but rather to constructively bring these critical issues into the discourse, leading to an improvement in standards of reporting of such a significant issue.

Former CBI Director Joginder Singh corroborated the findings of the IPF research from his experience when he was posted in Kashmir at the height of insurgency in 1988-89. He was of the opinion that vernacular newspapers have a wider reach than English and, therefore, it is all the more important for these newspapers to be objective and correct.

It was a solemn moment when Smt. Maya Sharma, wife of the brave Delhi police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who gave up his life fighting terrorists at Batla House in Delhi, stood up to speak. She was appreciative of the support she received from most of the mainstream media, but was visibly upset with some sections of the media which had unethically and improperly edited out some critical sections of her interviews to present an incorrect picture of the situation.

Alok Mehta spoke on the need for a media regulator to maintain certain fundamental ethical standards in the media, especially while reporting on sensitive issues like terrorism. He lauded the efforts of the IPF in bringing such issues into discourse and hoped that there would be more such think-tanks and research institutions to act as watchdogs of society, like in the West.

Concluding the event, Dr. Bajrang Lal Gupta made an impassioned plea for higher ethical standards in the media while reporting on terrorism. He said that incorrect and irrational reporting only aids and abets terrorism.

The monograph was extensively reviewed by established media houses as well as independent readers. However, the response of Urdu media was extremely disappointing. It is really unfortunate that these newspapers and the people closely connected with them chose to respond more in a hysterical than in a logical fashion, with responses ranging from death threats to the author and researchers of the monograph to acting as the victims of imagined conspiracies. In fact, their responses have strongly corroborated the conclusion drawn in the monograph about the Urdu media.