The media coverage of the verbal and physical violence in Bombay over the influx of outsiders continues to draw attention. Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reports that at the Union cabinet meeting on February 14, senior ministers “expressed their outrage” at the reporting which some of them felt sparked panic and led to a mass exodus from the metropolis to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Cabinet sources told IANS that once Railway Minister Lalu Prasad raised the issue, some ministers described as “irresponsible” and “provocative” the media coverage of the MNS protests that began Feb 3.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil pointed out that television news channels had been beaming pictures of sporadic trouble frequently giving a “false impression about the violence and thereby creating panic”.
A cabinet minister told IANS: “For once, every minister was furious and everyone agreed that the media coverage caused more trouble.”
One minister felt that it was the media that made Raj Thackeray, “a person who tried to strengthen his party by dividing the country,” into a hero.
“The media should not forget its social responsibilities when it reports such events. It is high time that there should be some control over such reporting,” a minister told reporters on condition of anonymity.
In The Indian Express, Peter Ronald DeSouza, director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, writes that the media coverage raises doubts about “the role of the press as a sentinel of freedom, of news not massaged, of media as the mirror of reality”, and goes so far as to ask if fighting for media freedom has proved to be futile.
“Is this then the same free media for which we fought the Emergency? Thinking about this question I have the sinking feeling that the ground has shifted, that the moral reasons on which we fought for a free press are no longer so clear and firm. The story of the frog and the hot water keeps coming to mind. Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will jump out. Immerse it in a pot of lukewarm water, and put the pot to boil, and the frog will remain there quite unaware that it is being boiled. Which frog is the media today? Which frog is the reader-viewer today?”
Read the full story: Who’s that in the mirror?