Ban ‘live’ reporting of hostage rescue missions?

27 November 2008

“Several foreign nationals are trapped in the Taj Hotel Mahal”

“The top management of a multinational corporation was meeting…”

“Terrorists are suspected to be on the 9th floor…”

“NSG troops are about to have arrived in Mumbai…”

“NSG commandos have entered the Hotel…”

Some of the information telecast live by all news channels on yesterday’s terror attack on Bombay.

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: News channels have an objective—to fetch the latest news and share them with viewers, much before a competitor channel does that. But I feel this habit of indiscriminate live reporting, while a combat operation is in progress, can be catastrophic for the success of the military operations against terror.

Let us just think for a while. Do we really need to know everything on a ‘as soon as it happens’ basis? I feel not. Whether NSG commandos have just arrived at airport, or have entered the hotel or are on the first floor or second at this moment, is not necessary to be revealed to the general public on a realtime basis.

Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside.

Consider this. The commandos only know that the militants are somewhere inside the hotel, but the militants know everything about the movements and positions of their pursuers through TV.

Like:

# Who is on their trail (Army/ NSG/ local police, etc)

# What is their ETA (estimated time of arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin)

# Where they are right now, at the main entrance/ just entered their floor

# How is the world responding? Is there pressure mounting on the government to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed (so that they can act tough during negotiation)?

# How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)?

# What has been the impact of their strike-how many police and civilian dead, the current morale of police, who all as been detained/suspected?

# Live visuals of the street-to assess a possible escape strategy

# What information about them the outside world has (which floor they are in, their head count etc. And much more…

In my view, all this information, while useful to viewers and relatives of victims, also helps the terrorists/ militants to consolidate their position and pose a greater challenge to commandos trying to hunt them down and/ or rescue the hostages.

Why is our media helping them by airing live all the sensitive information about the anti terror operations?

The common man does not need to know them on a live basis.

Can’t the information & broadcasting ministry think of banning live reporting during a hostage crisis? Let the channels air the news with a delay of few hours, so that the police and security agencies will have a lead time of few hours, wherein terrorists would be as equally uninformed as they are.

Please note that I am not advocating censorship. I am all for free speech and expression. What I am proposing, is that security agencies should have the power to impose a delay of say three to six hours w.r.t live reporting of anti terror operations.

Let the TV channels record whatever they want, but they should be aired only after a gap of few hours. I do not think anyone loses anything with this.

The movie A Wednesday also shares same opinion. I feel the good old days of oncein a day news bulletin was far better.

What do you think?

(This post is dedicated to all the brave police officials and innocent civilians who lost their lives in yesterday’s terror attack in Bombay)

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