Shooting the messenger is a national hobby in most countries. Most times peace is restored once the heat dies down. But when the authorities stand up in court and say the media is to blame, it is time to take it a bit more seriously.
Several districts of Rajasthan were gripped by vandalism last month when the Gujjars went on the rampage, demanding their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes. The Supreme Court called the violence resulting in the destruction of property a “national shame”.
Now, the Rajasthan Police chief A.S. Gill has told the apex court in a sworn affidavit that the television channels were to blame. “The manner of telecast by 24X7 news channels perhaps was a contributing factor in the wide spread of violence to places beyond those at which blockade call was given,” Gill, Director General of Police (DGP), Rajasthan, said.
According to a report in the Indian Express, the police chief compared the Indian media’s role with that of the US media in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy and pointed out that the US electronic media refrained from telecasting images of any dead body.
He asked the court to take a serious view of the issue “relating to the impact, effect and ethics of the local and national media with reference to these events and incidents” and he underlined: “The telecast did not in any manner contribute in bringing about peace, harmony and amicable relationship between the citizens and the Government.”
Exaggeration and distortion are main charges levelled against the media, but the fact that the TV stations kept repeatedly showing pictures of the violence with the “Live” label on top has got the police goat.