The whole truth

The Indian media did a good job covering the Srinagar terrorist gunbattle. But some mediapersons behaved badly

Two terrorists holed up in Srinagar’s city centre. Indian police and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel themselves in a sensitive counter-terrorist operation, with hundreds of civilians trapped in and around the line of fire. And as if this were not bad enough, the BSF personnel had to observe ‘considerable restraint and hold back retaliation’ in order not to endanger the lives of the mediapersons who were jostling for a good view. Unfortunately, one TV cameraman received bullet injuries and was subsequently airlifted to New Delhi on an Indian Air Force aircraft. Meanwhile, Pervez Bukhari, Star News bureau chief, who was trapped in one of the buildings, ‘established contact with senior Police and BSF officials over his cellphone who asked him to be patient and evacuated him in an armoured bunker at the twilight’.

It is admirable that journalists put their lives at risk to cover events such as this. But in this case it is evident that at least some of them got in the way. Putting their own lives at risk may be an act of courage but putting others’ lives at risk is simply irresponsible. One lesson from the Srinagar shootout is for the media to put in place a code of conduct that governs their role at such dangerous situations.

That is as far as the behaviour of journalists goes. The media also has another important responsibility — that of ensuring key facts are reported accurately. Leaving out one detail can give a story a very different turn.

When the police picked the bodies of the two militants, send them to the Police Control Room and announced the end of the operation, some people from the surrounding neighbourhoods of Maisuma and Koker Bazar came out on the road shouting anti-government slogans. The police, desperate to wind up the operation, teargassed the procession. [IE]

It happened when over two hundred residents of the nearby Maisuma and Kokerbazar localities gathered at the site and began demanding custody of the slain militants’ bodies. Police declined to hand over the bodies and instead used baton charge and tearsmoke to disperse the crowds. It sparked off anti-forces slogans by the residents of the JKLF chief Yasin Malik’s Maisuma locality. It was during this melee that five to six photographers and videographers sustained injuries and some of them broke their cameras. [Daily Excelsior]

Reading the Indian Express report alone would lead readers to believe that the local residents spontaneously began shouting anti-government slogans. The fact that they demanded custody of the bodies, something which the security forces had no way of obliging, is an important fact that should have been reported. But the Indian Express’s fault looks like one of nuance considering what Reuters had to say:

More than 45,000 people have died in the revolt in mainly Hindu India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. [Reuters]

1 thought on “The whole truth”

  1. Nitin:

    The Daily Excelsior often does a better job of covering J&K than the locals working for the national dailies. What’s interesting about this report is the encouragingly small number of demonstrators, several hundred or so, and that too in Yasin Malik’s neighborhood!


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