JournalismPakistan.com November 4, 2016
Live coverage of terror events and the compromise of ongoing operations is now a global point to not just ponder but evolve into creating a balance between the right to allow dissemination of information in real time and aiding and abetting the enemy by providing helpful data on what’s going on to winkle them out.
Banning NDTV for 24 hours for its coverage of the Pathankot attack is a childish, petulant and utterly naïve penalty.
For one, who the hell thought up this novel punishment more appropriate to nursery school? Beside the Press Council, we do not really have any major functional watchdog or body capable of admonishment. The government is often an adversary and, therefore, should not be in a position to take on the fourth estate in an arbitrary fashion which this is.
If it feels that the security of the country was compromised put a criminal case against the channel or the publication.
If you wish to use Defence of India (as in defence of the realm) gag orders then use them in advance. Since there is no clear-cut policy on what constitutes the white line shutting down a channel unilaterally is unacceptable.
As unacceptable as media endangering lives of innocent people held hostage or in the line of fire with a lack of concern.
Create a law that monitors, lays down parameters and establishes norms of conduct in cases where information contrary to safety is controlled.
Afterward, the media can interpret the actions as it feels.
After the dog’s breakfast that was made of TV coverage in the Mumbai attack 26/11 and the clumsy almost oafish manner in which live feeds were offering the killers a ringside view of the ops to flush them, government and the representatives of the fourth estate should have created a caveat, introduced a law.
They did not. Nobody has done anything but talk.
Then you get up one fine morning and decide okay let’s close down a specific channel for 24 hours and show the media we mean business.
It is all so up in the air and lacking in substance to order such a penalty. On what grounds, under what law, what clauses.
At least study other channels. Section IV (A) 9.2 of the CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices (1993) says: "CBC journalists must ensure that any action they take will not further endanger the lives of the hostages or interfere with efforts of authorities to secure the hostages' release. They must guard against being used or manipulated by the terrorists/hostage takers."
• The media need to be accountable for the consequences of their coverage.
• The media should not jeopardize human life.
• The media are advised to co-operate with the government when human lives are at stake in order to bring a peaceful end to the terrorist episode. This is not to suggest that the police or other security organizations should have a veto power over reporting. What is suggested is cooperation and mutual respect and understanding between the government agencies and the media.
• The media should not glorify acts of terror as they glorified the SLA during the Hearst kidnapping.
• The media should refrain from sensational and panicky headlines, from inflammatory catchwords, and from needless repletion of photos from bloody scenes.
You want to blame a media organ for indiscretion and interference in an ongoing operation arrest them, put a criminal case, do what can be done under the law. But do not create a precedent that goes so against the freedom of the press.
Fine them financially but don’t shut for even one minute that TV, radio or newspaper.
You think media itself has not realized that you do not suck out TRPs from an ongoing military initiative. We can police ourselves and we do not need the government telling us to zip it and place a tape on our lips.
If someone errs let’s have the blueprint for the consequences made public.
I am not sure if NDTV plans to carry out the order but take a scenario where it refused to shut down, just said, do your worst, bring in the cops, march us off to court or jail we are not obeying this kindergarten order. The whole fourth estate will plough with them.
Tomorrow the state chief ministers will start doing the same in their fiefdoms. For every little infringement. Oh! You insulted me, I'll shut you down for two days. That guy wrote against me, banned for a week.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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