Call to regulate media coverage
of terror strikes
By Madhusree Chatterjee
Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) For scores of journalists, the 60-hour
terror trauma in Mumbai was a round-the-clock professional
challenge. But with many berating the "unbridled"
and at times "reckless" reportage, the question
being asked is whether there should be a mechanism to regulate
coverage of such situations that impact on national security.
independent media observers feel the media had gone overboard
from Nov 26 night to Nov 29 morning and there was a need for
regulation to cover such incidents to beam "sensible
footage which would desist from whipping up xenophobia and
Ninan, a senior journalist and media critic, said: "Channels
beamed footage non-stop (during the Mumbai attack). You should
not have so much of live coverage. Some regulations will have
to be put into place for broadcasters to cover situations
like Mumbai, which was much more than just terrorism. It was
suggested there should be no editorialising while giving news
and "periodic, not continuous, live telecasts, may be
in small blocks on the half- hour."
all footage should be accompanied by time and place so that
viewers know whether the images are fresh or old and no hostages
released by captors should be interviewed," Ninan told
of the diatribe makes sense as the media broke a few rules
to invade victims' emotional space while reporting live -
and making some inadvertent leaks in the process that could
have put lives in jeopardy.
was in Sweden at the time of the attack, but almost every
Swedish channel picked it up. But now that I am looking at
it, I think the situation merits introspection. We have no
crisis management situation," Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata-based
senior journalist, feature writer and human rights activist,
journalism," says Chyetanya Kunte, a Netherlands-based
engineer, on his web blog Nov 27.
one instance, Barkha Dutt of NDTV asks a husband about his
wife who is either stuck or held as a hostage. The poor guy
adds in the end about where she was last hiding. In another
instance, a general of sorts suggests that there were no hostages
in Oberoi Trident. Then Dutt calls the head of Oberoi (live)
and the idiot confirms a possibility of 100 or more people
still in to slay," Kunte says.
observers feel that if the government had wanted to regulate
the coverage, it could have done so, and the media alone should
not be blamed for trying to make the most of it.
navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Wednesday blamed the national
media for irresponsible coverage - calling it 'a disabling
instrument' in a press conference," said veteran Delhi-based
defence journalist Sujan Dutta, who covered the Kargil and
in reality, forces on the ground wanted to take credit. The
Marine Commandos assembled the media in front of Nariman House
and addressed it."
everybody, right from the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Mumbai
police, army and the NSG commandos wanted their 60-hour of
fame," he said.
to the 1999 Kargil conflict and drawing analogies, Dutta said
the Kargil conflict can be divided in two phases - one till
June 23 and the period thereafter.
June 23-24, the army discovered that media coverage had not
been regulated. In fact, the army realised that the coverage
was working to its advantage because of the patriotism and
jingoism sweeping through the country," he said.
interactions with the press in Kargil, the only war to have
been covered by the Indian television live, the army called
the media "force multipliers" - which could be used
for propaganda, Dutta said.
say the media always emerges as the watchdogs' most favourite
whipping boy after every disaster or war-like situation.
as journalist Sankarshan Thakur sums up the debate of freewheeling
reportage in his article, "Kiss media, then kick media"
Dec 2 - "...the truth, though, is that no arm of authority
- civilian or military - seemed to mind."