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Duty of Electronic Media

Duty of Electronic Media

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Sentinel
Date: May 3, 2002

The recent events in Gujarat have underscored at least one area where the electronic media has a vital duty to perform in ensuring that it does not unwittingly fan the flames of discord rather than doing its mite to defuse tensions. The visual media being what it is, people tend to remember what happened rather than when something happened. Thus, when the same clips of an incident are telecast repeatedly for the benefit of those who tune in later on, people who see the same clip two or three times tend to think that they are fresh incidents that took place on the day of viewing the programme or the previous day. It is, therefore, imperative that the Government make it mandatory for the electronic media to indicate the date of occurrence of scenes depicting clashes between different groups of people or scenes of loot, arson and other such forms of violence. This will enable the viewer to realize without any ambiguity that what is being viewed is really what had happened some time earlier. This is not, in any way, a novel suggestion. Imprinting the date, rather than just using the words "from our files" or something to that effect, is a norm adhered to by quite a few foreign TV news channels. This lends specificity to an event, and leaves no room for doubt about when the event occurred in the minds of the viewers.

That apart, both the electronic and the print media have also to ensure that there is the minimum expected fairness about allegations levelled against the Government by the 'secular' Opposition parties. It is all very well to be swept off one's feet by the claims made by the Opposition that what has been happening in Gujarat against just one community has never happened before in India. This is certainly not the correct position. The Congress, which has led the attack on the NDA Government on charges of rupturing the secular fabric of the country on the basis of what has been happening in Gujarat, conveniently forgets the mayhem and massacre unleashed by its partymen on the Sikhs of Delhi immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. True, it is convenient for the Congress to forget this dark chapter of its history, just as it was expedient for the party to actively work towards ensuring immunity to its culprits from the legal consequences of their actions. In fact, some of the culprits remained Union ministers during the subsequent Congress regime. Cases against the VIP culprits often got withdrawn because key witnesses were threatened with dire consequences if they ventured to testify in court. But how does it become the duty of the media, which generally prides itself on its sense of fair play, to forget what the Congress had done in 1984 at a time when it is taking a holier-than-thou stance in respect of the Gujarat tragedy? Where is the fairness in this kind of amnesia within the media too?

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