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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TV channels injecting hate in society, harming national interest: Created hysteria to gain TRPs over Sarabjit Singh's incarceration and death

Sarabjit Singh's death was an extremely sad incident but the manner in which News channels used the story of an Indian prisoner lodged in Pakistani jail, to rouse passions much before his death [and even afterwards], needs to be addressed.

1. Firstly, the same TV channels never showed any attention when Indian prisoners were released from Pakistani jail only a few months back. The 10 Indian prisoners were released from Karachi's Landhi jail and came here through Wagah.

2. When 311 Indian fishermen were released by Pakistan some months back [in June 2012] there was no coverage in Indian media. Shouldn't there have been live coverage or TV crews ready to get their reaction? Our jingoistic TV channels and even newspapers largely ignored this news. India also releases Pakistani prisoners quite often. But do we see such reports?

3. All goodwill gestures either by India or Pakistan are never shown. Only the bad news  gets telecast. As a result, the perception is created that Pakistan is really our worst enemy and can do nothing good. [Perhaps, channels in Pakistan do the same about India] This hurts our diplomacy and government level efforts.

The cacophony wrongly gives impression that our government is weak and also sends an incorrect message. This puts undue pressure on the government. Rather than peace efforts, this jingoism goes against the interests of everybody.

4. Who fought for Sarabjit Singh all these years? We forget that in Pakistan there were activists who kept demanding his release as well as other prisoners. It is forgotten that Pakistan has a person like Ansar Burney, a former minister, who has the guts to constantly speak for human rights. How may do we have among our senior politicians in India?

5. We forget that lawyers in Pakistan were fighting his case all along. In India, we hound and mock at people who are peaceniks. TV anchors make fun of those who speak sense. Perhaps, Sarabjit would have been alive had the channels not created this hysteria. As per reports, there was hope that after election, the new government would release him.

Surjeet Singh was freed from a Pakistan jail last year
6. Justice Marktandey Katju had earlier also appealed to Pakistan government to release Indian prisoners, and it was his efforts that a Pakistani Dr Khalil Chishti was released. It is goodwill and diplomacy that works, not hate. Hate only begets hate.

7. In the clamour over Sarabjit Singh, our media forgot that sometime back Surjeet Singh was also released from Pakistani prison. There must be ways to secure release through diplomatic channels and other non-government efforts, rather than shouting on TV and preaching hatred. There are numerous others rightly or wrongly convicted in jails but there is no 'TV focus' on their release.

8. Sarabjit Singh's death is unfortunate. If it was a case of mistaken identity, it is even more sad. But the truth is that he was convicted of bomb blasts by a court. In India, what we do to terror convicts? Its not just about  Ajmal Kasab, we also hanged an 'Indian', Afzal Guru, without informing his family. But in Sarabjit's case, he was given funeral with state honours. His kin get job and huge amount of cash.

Pakistan Muslim League leaders on Diwali, seek 'ashirwad'
9. It is a fact that news channels created such a situation that the entire nation was fuming. There was absolute hatred for Pakistan.

In this tsunami of hate, a Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah perished. He was killed in the Jammu jail. Was his death reported by media in the same manner, here or there? Did his kin get any compensation!

10. Few among our TV channels and mainstream papers have their correspondents in Pakistan. We only show stories on our channels that are about the bad aspects of the neighbouring country. Why we never see any other aspect. Why these channels never show Diwali, Holi celebrations in Pakistan? Or any other story except the ones we see that focus on discord and disharmony.

11. The reality is that negative news is carried and amplified to such an extent that it regularly puts our own government on a sticky wicket. Can spies be owned up? No. Stupid TV anchors who 'demand answers' on prime time news, don't realise how their actions, are hurting lives of people and our international relationships.

12. Rather than being journalists, they act as Generals ready for war, even going beyond them in rhetoric. By just focusing on negative, they jeopardise all the peace efforts from both sides. For them news of Pakistani soldiers taking care of a minor girl who had strayed into their territory but taken care of and sent back safely, is not news.

The TV channels love war like situations without realising the effect it has on a large number of people. They arouse sentiments of people by harping on particular issues. It seems that for them, no 'other side' of the story exists.

The goodwill measures taken by both countries should be shown on TV and they must be appreciated, as they can go a long way helping in release of other prisoners and also for resolving other contentious issues in the long run. Unfortunately, these channels try to mould public opinion in the wrong way.

This is the biggest irony of Indian media. Can the state allow the channels to hijack the agenda just because they feel a particular issue can bring more eyeballs and hence more revenue? Time to ponder for all of us.