Friday, September 02, 2011

'Terror' convicts temed as 'servants': Is section of media soft on right-wing groups!

This strangely worded report published in the English newspaper, is a blatant example of double standards in reporting cases pertaining to terrorism and extremism.

Recently, court held two Sanatan Sanstha members guilty of bomb blasts. While many cases involving Hindu and Muslim radicals are currently being tried in different courts, in this case the court gave a verdict and convicted them.

Still, newspapers didn't give much importance to the news. Most papers tried to hush it up or reported it in a manner that the word 'terror' was not mentioned. Particularly, Mumbai-based English newspaper DNA's reports surprised me the most.

I am simply writing my observations here:

1. When police claim arresting a person for terror links, he is often pronounced terrorist even before trial. But on Monday, two Sanatan Sanstha members who were arrested by Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) were convicted by a court. Most newspapers didn't term them terrorist even after conviction. I agree that for the arrest or conviction of some members, an entire organisation shouldn't be branded but this is the first time when those convicted of blasts have not been called terrorists.

2. When I read English daily DNA, I was even more surprised. Its reports doesn't call them militant, radical or extremist. The report terms them as 'sevaks', yes sevaks [that means servants] of Sanatan Sanstha. Whose servants! They were not even volunteers as in that case paper could have labelled them 'swayamsevaks' or even activist. Clearly, the newspaper seems to be so soft on the group.

Or it is to avoid showing affinity to RSS [that generally has swayamsevaks], it terms them as simply 'servants' [sewaks]. There is no need to target or defame the Sanata Sanstha, an organisation which is quite candid and accepted that they were its members and said that the group had nothing to do with the handiwork of the duo. But paper, instead of writing activist, member or volunteer, uses the term 'servant'. Can there be such a mistake or use of the word erroneously at the desk or it was done after thinking over it.

3. A day after conviction, the journalists would have tried to do story about these persons, their backgrounds or why some members of an organisation would go astray. But instead of that, DNA printed a long story that threw light on the group for its wonderful social work.

Hmm. Why should someone be negative all the time and hound everybody! This article was published when the conviction was made but  the next day the court had to deliver the quantum of judgment. One may appreciate that paper has no prejudices against any group.

It is a different matter though that the state government intended to ban Sanatan Sanstha for its alleged role in Goa and Thane-Panvel-Vashi blasts. Hope the paper will continue similar non-biased approach and also write positively about other groups after their members are convicted or jailed (and highlight the social concern of other organisations).

4. Now that the persons convicted of bomb blasts and sentenced to ten years of jail terms have not been called as terrorists, will the paper maintain the same standards of journalism in future. Or will it still call any Muslim or Hindu youth who is simply rounded up, not even jailed or convicted, terrorist!

5. This is the same multi-edition English newspaper that had published Subramanian Swamy's article that put all Indian Muslims under suspicion and labelled the community as prone to extremism and terrorism and what not. The article had put onus on Indian Muslims to prove a whole lot of things. The particular piece has been widely discussed, criticised and even National Commission for Minorities took cognizance of complaints against it.

Just like the newspaper had liberty to publish it, which I support in principle, I too think I can take a little liberty and write about what's going in my mind after reading these reports. I don't know what is going through the minds of those who run this paper or decide the editorial policy.

The little an average reader and Indian citizen like me expects is that the paper should show decent standards of journalism. Either you should don't turn suspects into terrorists or don't term terrorists as 'SERVANTS'. Will servants object to the usage? Perhaps, it's a new style, which they will adhere to in future [for both Hindutva inspired groups as well as Islamist extremists]!

Sorry to say but even RSS mouthpieces Panchjanya and Organiser are [at least] consistent in their policy. On the otherhand DNA sells copies in lakhs [tens of thousands] and I wonder how many readers are mediocre and what percentage of readers are intelligent enough to figure out the unique journalism practices adopted by this great media institution. Pray for me so that my mind could become capable of understanding these issues.

Frankly, I always liked the paper and as a reader felt happy when the DNA made a space for itself in the crowded English market. In Mumbai, the paper has a large circulation now. However, such selective and biased reporting is really upsetting for a reader like me.