Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Media Responsibility in the Age of Terrorism


The 21st Century the new age of Terrorism has brought significant challenges to modern mass Media in maintaining their role and responsibility in the public sphere। Terrorism has changed from the hijackings and hostage taking situations through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, to the global, sometimes indiscriminate attacks of the past five years। At the same time the role of the media has changed, with instantaneous global news। Media especially Television is primary source of public knowledge on every aspect of social issues. Terrorism is not a national problem but it is a global problem. Media reporting of such social issues is useless without the understanding of news reporting process and its various influences on Public opinion and behavior. Public understands the “Terrorism” on the structural attributes of news and contributions of the news Channels they make to public understanding the word ‘terrorism’. Today content, language and presentation of ‘terrorism news’ has created a”Theatre of Terror” in the minds of public.

“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation,
Even among people who should know better”
George Orwell
The language which media uses to report the terrorism and their actions is extremely important as it sets the parameters for public discourse. The visual media and terrorism have mutually reinforcing relationships, which needs to be broken to the detriment of the latter. An active element in democratisation of any country is an active engaged press that can uncover and analyse issues that have been sensitive and silenced.
How do Indian media behave in this atmosphere of global fear? How do media cover the issues of extremism and terror on a national local as well as global scale?

For instance, without underestimating the trauma caused by the terrorist attacks on 9/11, it is plausible to assume that the impact would have been very different had the TV networks not endlessly broadcast the images of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Because there were no images of the downing of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania and no dramatic footage of the plane crashing into the Pentagon building, they are not etched in popular memory the same way as the attacks and collapse of the Twin Towers are.
Nearly 40 years ago, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) assembled 60 international television networks and blew up three hijacked, but empty, Boeing aircrafts at Dawson airfield in Amman, Jordan, it became obvious that without the media coverage of it would be reduced to what it actually is a low-intensity and indiscriminate violence perpetrated by a small number of non-state actors with limited resources and reach.
But the news Channels coverage of Mumbai terrorist attack may have jeopardised the efforts of the police and other security personnel to carry out the rescue operations to flush out the ten terrorist. Many of these channels wilfully forgot the distinction between good journalism and sensationalism, with the result of that the terrorists, who were engaged in a deadly 60 hours long close quarter fight with NSG commandos, may have got important information from the live coverage and were able to prolong their activities. Without analysing the sensitivity of the matter and news value one by one all channels provided help to attackers and simultaneously created the “theatre of Terror” in public mind. While all the terrorists are well equipped with sophisticated devices such as satellite phones that enabled them to communicate outside world and thus receive vital information. Some channels showed the positions and movements of the security forces that were stationed out side the building even they broadcast the movements of the NSG commandos. The statements of masses in “Shapath against Terrorism” which is broadcast later by one another channel was a public discourse which aroused due to various influences of earliest reporting of attacks. All this also showed the race of TRPs which went out of control.
Investigations in to the Terrorist attacks of September 13,2008 Delhi serial blast, December13, 2001 parliament attack, july11,2006 attack on Mumbai life line, lose of life in Malegaon, or Samjhota Express in Hydrabad , Jaipur ,Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi proves not only the system failure but also reflect the media spectacle that had not done little else other than fuel public hysteria. Serial bombs that are targeted on vital nodes of a city civic life are intended to produce the kind of effect on an average citizen’s psyche as “Shock and Awe”. And media is not behind in this action they played a major role.
Who is “Kasab”? What he did? What his related organisation can do? How he is to be transferred from one jail to another and how he was brought to special court? .All these questions can be easily answered by a class second student. Is it a media positive and sensitive or responsible role?
Now is a time to observe all terrorist activities and take it as a wake up call to review our way of conducting our responsibilities. Reporting of events should be factually confirmed, and sources of their information should be reliable. India is a country which commands the second-largest population, biggest democracy, highest number of scientists and engineers, and is one of the world's major economic, industrial and military powers. But that is perhaps not as important as the experience India has in dealing with international and cross-border terrorism, emanating from neighboring countries and from the Middle East.
One-upmanship and sensationalization of these terrorist stories could lead to disastrous consequences to public peace in India. It is the responsibility of the media to find differentiating lines between disseminating the news and spreading the message of the terrorists. Enjoying the liberty of expression, Media must restain from taking sides and using provocative language and photograph to attract large audience. Media must contribute to strengthen the democracy which is under threat. Media must understand that only democracy has provided them Freedom of expression and this freedom has to be handled with care.

1 comment:

  1. mam , really a very informaative article ...
    interestingly urs articulation....
    will definetly not comment on the issue as u hv reaaly presented in the manner which it shud hv been treated but one thing definetly i wll like to add from my side..(though the article is complete in itself) DEMOCRACY is defined i think journalism can too be defined as OFF THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE and FOR THE PEOPLE i guess thts wht people like to see and hear ....sensetionalism is the way of presentation today ..thts wht people are liking in this age of technological expansion.....