ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Manufacturing Confusion

It is clearly time for television news channels to turn the judgmental gaze inward.

Sitting in judgment over the actions of public figures and demanding accountability on behalf of their viewers and readers is a prerogative that the media has been traditionally exercising and often to great effect. It, especially the electronic media, did that again when heavily armed terrorists held Mumbai to ransom for nearly 60 hours beginning on the night of 26 November. A few hours after the attacks began, commentators and senior journalists on television zeroed in on those whom they considered the main culprits: our incompetent, self-serving politicians. All the news channels constantly commented upon “people’s anger” against politicians and the demand for answers expressed through short messaging services (SMS), blogs, emails and t wit ter and t hat culminated in a 20,000 st rong protest march in the city. At the same time however, the same forms of communication are being used to castigate television coverage of the crises. In fact, two online petitions demanding a code of conduct for television reporting and greater sensitivity from its practitioners (one of them seeking to be turned into a public interest litigation), have been attracting thousands of signatures over the past few days.

The main criticism is that the almost round-the-clock coverage of the hostage crisis at the two five-star hotels and the Jewish centre actually helped the terrorists and their handlers to glean important details of the security agencies’ strategy and moves and the intrusive questions asked of relatives as to the SMS and phone calls received from the hostages led to the latter’s hideouts becoming known and hence their deaths.

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