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Monday, December 01, 2014

Media and national security: How Indian media views Burdwan, Manipur blasts differently

This post once again brings to fore the serious issue that how our media is now viewing incidents of similar nature, differently, and is creating scare in one situation while it completely ignores the other.

For weeks, in fact, two months, everyone on the national security beat in TV channels and newspapers, seem to be talking about Burdwan blast in West Bengal. 

It is being described as one of the biggest issues as far as law-and-order is concerned. Day after day, we see reports about it, the concerns expressed in this regard.

Top officials go to Burdwan [now Bardhaman], politicians take up the issue and media has made it a national security issue of such magnitude, which we haven't seen in the last  year or so. 

It's fine because that's the job of investigative agencies to look into anti-national activities. We all agree that such disruptive elements [like those involved in Burdwan blast] should be chased, caught and completely crushed


However, it is not that fanatic elements haven't died while making IEDs or bombs before in the country. From Bajrang Dal activists in Kanpur to Himanshu Panse's module in Nanded, Maharashtra, there has been a long list. None of these incidents in the past got as much media focus. 

Still, we must welcome the media's seriousness towards it. But, the recent blast in Manipur, remained off the media radar. In fact, after the incident, there was hardy any special stories, capsules or discussions in prime time. It was not even carried in the headlines by 'national' channels.

In one report on IBN Live website, the headline was 'Blast in Manipur kills one'. Read this short report at IBN website at this LINKThis incident was serious, especially, as it happened just before Prime Minister's visit to the region. 

In fact, this report in IBN didn't even mention that the 'person' who died was a child. It wasn't taken seriously, else the report could have been updated, as it happens later in online reports. Other papers, channels and agencies also didn't consider it worth reporting. 

It was a general report with no focus on the organisations or extremist groups involved in the incident. Prime time discussions weren't conducted. If TV has no time or finds little TRP on North East, newspapers could have covered the story properly. But no, there was no interest or focus.

Why? 

Of course, nothing about modules, no suspects, no Terrorism angle, no name of terrorist or extremist outfits or worries about threat to India's security. There have been no follow-up stories either about this incident. Just one Hindi newspaper, Amar Ujala, on its website gave the news some importance. LINK

In fact, we hear nothing about arrests of suspects, which otherwise continues for days, nothing, just nothing. Silence. That's not the first. Of course, we know West Bengal will go to polls 2 yrs from now. We also see other developments. [Also, read the report in Asian Age]

But does it mean that media would take one incident so seriously that it would go on to demonise all Madarsas, and go to obscene levels of reporting. And in a similar other incident, there is hardly any effort to even report it, let alone talk about outfits, ideologies, local factors, law-and-order issues.

The factors are clear. Certain states and their demography, and presence of certain outfits in these regions, stir media more, than say, states that have outfits of different ideologies or even Naxals. The latter may commit even more heinous acts, but they aren't taken seriously. 

No wonder, media's credibility has hit rock bottom. But isn't this too worrying?