Is Patriotic Journalism different from Real Journalism?

December 24th, 2008 - 5:52 pm ICT by ANI  

By Prem Prakash
New Delhi, Dec 24 (ANI): Hamid Mir, Editor of Islamabad based Geo TV Channel of Pakistan who had confirmed the fact that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured in Mumbai during the terrorists attacks on November 26, was indeed from Pakistan, was asked a question by the students of journalism in Lahore to explain the difference between patriotic journalism and real journalism? This is one question that is being raised in India as well following the manner in which reporting of Mumbai mayhem was handled by the Indian Media. India Media allegedly went overboard in reporting the happenings in Mumbai live and round the clock for three days continuously. To keep the viewers glued to the screens the reporting had to have a good mix of emotion. The terrorists and their country - Pakistan — had to be bashed. After the coverage was almost over, question was asked as to whether live reporting helped the terrorists to achieve their objectives? Did the security forces suffer because of the live telecast? To many it seemed that whatever way one called it, “patriotic journalism” or “real journalism”, the coverage during the crucial three days helped the terrorists. Did plain and simple journalism become a casualty? One has to accept that the proliferation of Media globally has led to severe cut throat competition, particularly among the 24 hour TV News Channels. Everyone wants to be first to break the news. And to stay first they need to remain live The events in Mumbai put a severe strain on the news channels. Each channel had to deploy all its reporters irrespective of the fact whether they were trained for such assignments. The seniors in the newsrooms had to depend on young reporters and cameramen. For many of them the Mumbai mayhem was too overwhelming. My mind went back to the manner in which the American Channels had reported 9/11 events and the British channels the 7/7 attacks in London. I was in London when the events 7/7 attacks occurred. Both in the United States and London, the TV Channels reported the events live, but they were restrained. In London no one came in the way of the police and waited for a proper briefing by the Metropolitan Police Chief in the late afternoon after he had gathered the facts. In Mumbai it seemed every one was on his own. You could get any person on the street to comment and push a mike in the face of any policeman or the nearest officer. Media was not to blame for all this. The police had failed to place a forensic cordon and even when it was put, the reason given out was that the authorities wanted to keep the Media away from the harm’’s way! The spokesman of the Government, both Central and State, were nowhere is the scene to guide the media during the events in Mumbai. Where was the Spokesman of the Mumbai Police? The Commanders of the Naval commandoes, the area commander of the Army, told their side of the story as the operations were continuing. The head of the National Security Guard briefed the press when the whole operations were over. . Over the years these press departments of the state government have learnt to work more for their Ministers than the government of the state. No wonder they were absent and not liasing with the Media at all. It was evident to one and all in the very first hour of Mumbai terror attack that it was going to be a long haul. Why did the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India fail to get there first thing in the morning to help the media to report events that had impact worldwide? What was the Defence Press Relations doing both in Mumbai and Delhi when they were aware that army and Navy had moved into the area? We saw the ” parachute journalists” arrive in Mumbai from all over the world overnight to cover the events. Very rightly so; after all many nationalities were targets of the terrorist commandos. One expected some body from the Foreign Office to be present in Mumbai. One heard in dismay the BBC reporting the mayhem by terrorists being called the “militant attack” on Mumbai! The Chief Minister and his Home Minister of Maharashtra sat in their offices to pronounce that “such incidents do happen in big cities”. Thus, in the absence of any authoritative briefing what we had from Mumbai was neither “patriotic journalism” nor “real journalism”, but a lot of breast beating by emotionally charged individuals and reporters. Pakistan is being monitored by world powers, and the information gathered has indicated the involvement of Pakistani forces - what President Zardari called ”non-state actors” in the Mumbai mayhem. The military - jehadi nexus in Pakistan has been in existence for nearly two decades now. The Mumbai attacks took over a year for planning and execution, which was not in the knowledge of the civilian government there. A repetition of Kargil. Truth about who carried out the terrorist attacks in Mumbai would not have been known had it not been for the capture of Ajmal Amir Kasab. Pakistan’’s military -jehadi nexus is a threat not just to nascent civilian rule in Pakistan but to the whole world. The question of “patriotic journalism” has been raised in Pakistan because the army and jehadi elements in that country want to equate the attack on Mumbai as a war like issue between India and Pakistan. . Therefore Pakistani patriots must stand against India and the media toe the national line in defence of the country. If any journalist attempts to bring out the truth as was done by Hamid Mir, then according to the protagonists of “patriotic journalism” in Pakistan he should be ready for ”retribution” - and treated as a traitor in a nation at war There is no place for “real journalism” in Pakistan as propounded by Hamid Mir. The real rulers in Pakistan forget that journalism simply requires honest presentation of the facts as known to a reporter or as captured by a cameraman. Here in India we need to watch that the very high reputation of Indian journalism is not sullied by enthusiastic youngsters or high-pitched emotional commentators. Get your facts and present them in a sober manner so that the people of India are helped in understanding an issue and making up their mind. As a fellow commentator wrote recently whether India and Pakistan go to war or not, the Media of the two countries are perhaps already at war. Is this the situation that the Media of the two countries should be in? It is time that serious practitioners of the profession move in and take charge. (ANI)

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