It’s one of journalism’s oldest questions: should journalists in the line of duty play a part in unfolding news events?
Should they be the eyes and ears of their audience at all times, as expected of their profession, regardless of the situation? Or, are there occasions when exceptions can be made like, say, a life at risk?
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta, MD, while reporting from Iraq in 2003, conducted an emergency brain surgery on an Iraqi boy. Yesterday, in West Bengal, two senior BBC journalists helped broker a compromise between the State government and Maoists, leading to the safe release of an abducted police officer.
The policeman had been kidnapped after a raid on the police office three days earlier and held him hostage demanding the release of 14 tribal women.
According to a report in The Times of India, the BBC journos stepped in and acted as “facilitators and served as a bridge between the rebels and the government” when the leader of the Maoists Koteshwara Rao alias Kishenji, refused to deal directly with State officials.
“Initially, the government was a bit confused. On Wednesday morning, they sought our help. Having worked in the North-East for several years, I have been involved in facilitating several such hostage negotiations. We wanted to start a dialogue immediately but couldn’t since we needed at least one government official to participate but there was none,” the BBC’s veteran eastern India correspondent Subir Bhaumik is quoted as saying.
Subir Bhaumik later reported the story of the policeman’s release for the BBC without mentioning the role played by him in it. All’s well that ends well, of course, but what if the journalists had been caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the State police?
There is also a strange irony in the involvement of journalists to secure the policeman’s release from the grip of Maoists. In late September, a top Maoist leader Chattradhar Mahato had been nabbed by police who were dressed up as journalists of a Singapore TV station. The impersonation had led to an outcry among journalists.
Photograph: courtesy Subir Bhaumik
Read the full report: Journalists brokered cop’s release