Tag Archives: Sushma Swaraj

‘Media irresponsible in Kishtwar coverage’

The incidents in Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir on the eve of Id, the culmination of the holy month of Ramza, leading upto Independence Day, occupied plenty of media attention, as the BJP smelt political capital ahead of general elections.

The State’s chief minister Omar Abdullah sparred with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Twitter; her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, was disallowed from visiting the spot, and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, weighed in.

The issue threatened to get out of proportion till it was overtaken by other incidents.

The media doesn’t quite come out smelling of roses in the entire episode, writes Zahir-ud-Din, an editorial consultant with the Kashmir-based English daily, Kashmir Reader, in Deccan Herald:

“Contrary to established precedents, the media also behaved irresponsibly this time. Chief Minister’s statement (spelling out the number of Hindu and Muslim casualties) was carried prominently by all the newspapers. It became a Hindu-Muslim issue.

“The media in Jammu Kashmir has matured enough due to two decades of bloody conflict. By and large the media have behaved responsibly.

“For example, the Chittisingpora massacre was reported by one of the leading newspapers of the state without mentioning the faith professed by the victims. The intro of the story read: ‘Amid shock and utter disbelief the people mourned the killing of 35 Kashmiris at Chittisingpora, a hamlet in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.’

“Similarly the 1998 Wandhama massacre was reported with utmost responsibility.

“What, therefore, happened this time? Why did mediapersons resort to reckless and irresponsible reporting? Why was Chief Minister’s irresponsible statement carried prominently? This type of reporting is a serious offence under Section 153-A of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and if law is allowed to take its course, all the newspapers that carried the statement and the Chief Minister himself can be booked.

“A senior journalist while commenting on what he called ‘molestation of journalistic norms and ethics’ said a victim is neither a Muslim nor a Hindu.”

Read the full article: The ‘Bhoots’ of Bhunzwah

Advertisements

EPW tears into TV’s ‘hawks, hotheads, hysteria’

The Economic & Political Weekly has an editorial in its January 26 issue on the dangerous role played by Indian TV channels when the news of the beheading of an Indian soldier on the border came in two weeks ago.

“Television news,” says EPW, “is fast becoming the most dangerous extremist in India’s civil society.

“It has not just been the reporting of news but rather the sustained and well-planned build-up of a mass hysteria over the issue. It is not just one, or a few, channels which are guilty of this. With a few, and notable exceptions, television news channels and anchors have competed with each other to get people angry and hysterical.

“Stilted news, half-truths, outright falsehoods, a careful selection of “opinion makers” and “experts” who push hawkish positions and a shrill intemperate language have all been deployed each evening in a calculated move to ratchet up anger in the drawing rooms (and by extension, the “street”) and thus enhance viewership.

“In this particular context, the television channels have single-handedly built up a serious, yet minor, issue into a national hysteria. The parties and politicians of the right – from the Shiv Sena who collected a bunch of stragglers to attack Pakistani hockey players to leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj who demanded 10 Pakistani heads for the one soldier who was beheaded – merely took up the issue which was built up from scratch by these television channels.

“There are various reasons given for this behaviour of television news channels. These include the overcrowding of the television news space with more channels than are sustainable with the concomitant pressure on finances requiring increased advertisement revenues through higher viewership, which lead to the need to constantly create sensational news to lock in viewers.

“Television news channels are not only competing with each other for viewers but with general entertainment channels, sports channels and even non-television events as they try to get more eyeballs. Many of these pressures on television news are not unique to India and different media cultures have found solutions to this in ways that address their specific contexts. However, the Indian television media seems to have decided to use shrill chauvinism as a way out of this.

“The Kargil war of 1999 first illustrated the potential for such a business strategy but it was the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008 that finally seems to have convinced India’s television journalists of the profitability of rabid demagoguery. There is nothing inevitable about this business strategy and those who have initiated it and been its willing purveyors have to assume responsibility.

“As various people have already noted, by getting coerced by television news’ manufactured hysteria and sending back the Pakistani hockey players and postponing the agreement on visa-on-arrival for the elderly, the Government of India has allowed its foreign policy to be held hostage by Indian television media’s dangerous chauvinism.

“There is no easy way out of this dead end that we appear to have reached. Government regulation of media is dangerous and unacceptable, but equally so is a media that often outdoes India’s virulent right-wing in stoking xenophobia.

“Can we think of creative methods of oversight on the media which do not involve government or corporate influence? Or perhaps, should we reclassify television news channels as general entertainment (of the “Big Boss” reality television variety) and deal with it accordingly?”

Read the full editorial: Frothing at the mouth

Also read: Is news TV becoming a national security hazard?