Breaking Newz! Mumbai 26/11

After feeding information to the public, 24 x 7 x 100 channels by the media for about a week, the high profile hostage by terrorist inside the Taj Hotel, Oberoi and Trident, attack at the Nirman house and popular joints like the Leopold cafe, the breaking news of the Mumbai terrorist attack subsided into debates and analysis. Risking their live to report the news ‘live’, many journalist and reporters, most of them women, were at the very spot covering the entire episode only to receive a feedback of ‘irresponsible reporting’ as the top news gradually move onto the sidelines.
Bravehearts who gave their today for Mumbai’s tomorrow, top policemen - ATS Chief Hemant Karkare ,Assistant Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamthe, Encounter Specialist Vijay Salasar and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan were given the nation’s highest honour and salute, while cash compensation in the form of condolences were offered by politicians to the grieving families. The episode also led to the resignation of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Maharastra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Candle lights and solidarity meetings were held across the country, including socialites and celebrities speaking out on terror a.k.a terrorism. Mumbaites stands in unity during this time of crisis. Coping with sadness, evolving into anger, people call for action.

At the end of the second day hostage, November 28, Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai (enforcement) issued an order, under Cable Television Network (regulation) Act 1995, section 19, to all the city based cables and multi system operators to black out the news channels all over the city as it did not adhere to the programme code. The order empowers the authorised officers to block any television programmes that are likely to disturb public tranquillity. According to the statement given out by the police to the media, the transmission and live coverage of actions taken by the police against the terrorist is causing impediment in the police action and several operational difficulties.

The whole Mumbai episode and the debates that follow questioned the role of the media and ultimately an imposition of the Cable Television Network ( regulation) Act 1995.In India legal imposition or new legislations after every incidents and attacks were not new as Arundhati Roy said , at the Chingari Award ceremony in New Delhi on December 5, 2008, legislations would be imposed and new laws would be enacted after every incidents, but not for any of the terrorist or the perpetuators, but for people like herself. True to this the legal impositions and questions raised after the Mumbai attack, were actually meant for those young reporters and their transmission network, raising eyebrows over ethics and the responsibility of the media.

Many times media and media personalities are sandwiched between security concerns and information. In a state like Manipur, media houses were under constant pressure. Publications were stop for days due to threats from militants. For eleven days, since November 19 till 30 there were no publication in the capital of Manipur in protest against the killing of Konsam Rishikanta a reporter with the Imphal Free Press in November 17, 2008. The local channel Information Service Television Network – ISTV was banned from telecast in 2004 after the killing of Thangzam Manorama and the subsequent protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958. Reference to the Editorial the Imphal Free Press dated December 4, 2008 on media crisis retrospect, in conflict there is a tendency to presume that a deserving person get killed and there is an indifference of the people exposed to such conflicts and brutalities. Till today neither the underground claim responsibility nor the police came out with an encounter statement over the death of Rishikanta in Imphal. In fact had any of those reporters been killed during the Mumbai attack, obviously neither the terrorist neither the security personnel would claim responsibility, nor can they be held responsible?

In an attempt to provide information, particularly the urban electronic media with their elite audience, and being the first experience for many, reporters were enthusiastically detailing minute to minute information for the viewers glued onto the screen. Of which this has also formed an opinion that the information was more beneficial for the attackers. Admitting that the reporting was immature, Rajdeep Sardesai ,Chief of CNN – IBN during the discussion in media under scrutiny mentioned that in the recent Mumbai attack there were no media briefing room with the security forces nor media management strategy. He further added that information about the attack came from the security, not that the media just landed up there.

Many stories would have remain untold, many memories lost had not the media been there throughout the 60 hours Mumbai ordeal. In fact it was only after the national media carried the news and pictures of the naked protest of July 2004 by the Manipuri women in front of the Kangla Fort in the heart of the capital Imphal that generated the attention of Delhi and many outside the state got to know of Manipuri women. Bomb blast and terror attack are gaining momentum, there is no city or towns left in India with no record of serial blast. Fear and insecurity looms among citizens across the country as the Mumbai terror dust slowly settles down. It is time that blame game are no longer played, and the citizens, the security, politicians and the media come together and fight in unity against the threats to our secular fabric.

The Imphal Free Press, November 2008

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