Police crying hoarse for the crowd to go back as they want to take control…. Most of the people run back… We can hear the cries, whistles, shouts ……….and suddenly form the corner of the screen we see Barkha Dutt disobey the earnest call of the hawaldaar and walk across to the scene of encounter saying “Though police are not letting us closer to the scene of encounter….but this is NDTV exclusive .”………… Exclusive …huh?Or picture this, a hapless hostage / foreigner escapes from Taj helped by the fire brigade. The emotions on his face reflects, fear, relief, happiness, stress, all in one. His prerogative seems to run for his life, board the first flight into the arms of his beloved wife and kids. But hey, as he scurries across for his life he is intercepted by the terror of the other kind, media correspondent from Times Now. Questions come thick and fast and LOUD !!! “What’s the scene inside? Is everyone dead? Did you see the Terrorist? Was he having 2 eyes, 1 nose, 2 legs ….”. As if this wasn’t enough for this hapless victim of terrorism of many kinds, even before he finishes his download with Times Now, he is yanked by the one and only Rajdeep Sardesai for his channel. Rajdeep barks, “Were you scared? Were you scared? …………”. On the screen on CNN IBN it flashes BREAKING NEWS … Voice of a Hostage !!! huh?
I must say I was glued onto these channels for the 60 odd hours that this carnage was on. And I was bewildered every minute by this ghastly, on your face, over the top, contradictory, irresponsible, ludicrous reportage. Well we all at some point or other mock the Hindi news programs like Sansani and the over the top journalism that has become the face of Hindi journalism. But to see some of the biggest names of Indian journalism take to Sensationalism and what I call “keep-talking-without-breathing-no-full stop” method. So much so, that once I turned off the TV I could hear the sheer high decibel shrieks of Arnab/Barkha/Rajdeep trinity from other TV sets in the neighborhood.
As if the high decibels and oft contradictions weren’t enough, with every passing hour the coverage became more and more explicit like a ball by ball commentary. Like many I started absorbing every sound byte but as the incident prolonged into the day 2 morning and the visuals of NSG commandoes taking positions at various strategic points of the exterior of Taj, I realized …”hey, their body language suggests that they are trying to avoid the vision of the Terrorists inside… but are they really succeeding?”. And then the realization dawned…. To me and not to these news channels that may be we are feeding crucial information to these terrorists. If the interview with the terrorist holed up in the Nariman House as blatantly telecasted by the notorious India TV is to be believed the voice of this Jehadi Rockstar only confirmed our worst fears … “….Aapke channels par hamne Mr. Karkare aur unki taiyari ko dekha tha (Bullet proof jacket…etc.). Unke chehre mein goli maari humne ”.
By day 3 some channels like NDTV and Star NEWS had started using statements like “Not to give away crucial information..”. A realization that came a bit too late. However, Arnab and his shameless Times Now Crew continued beaming the exact numbers and position of Army, Marcos and NSG positions around Trident (“….7 commandos are on the adjacent NCPA building..”). Meanwhile, the other channels started bringing in the high socialites hungry for some cheap publicity – Shobha De, Bachchi Karkaria (looking like a cosmetic factory expressing deep sorrow at the possible death of Sabina Saikia who had apparently come to Mumbai only to attend her daughter’s wedding …..I could never see the anguish, the desperation….may be the high socialites have been trained to hide those), Jawed Jaffery, Anil Dharker, and that big mouth Mahesh Bhatt….. all of whom declaring war against Pakistan, calling for the heads of the politicians ….(Shobha De even saying – “I can’t believe they have done this to the Taj. The Taj is the symbol of affluence and the rich of Mumbai. I have been courted here, I got married here and my daughter’s marriage was supposed to happen here in a month’s time ……………they cannot get away with something like this. We need to retaliate…”). Somewhere here Shyam Benegal castigated Barkha for being confined to the so called Urban Affected areas and ignoring the largest body count area at CST where the victims were the faceless / nameless common man. Suddenly the look on Barkha’s face for a second was that of horror “Of my God…. Have we crossed the line….OMG… did we make it apparent – our bias for the affluent few….. OMG… did we show our true colors…”
Yes, you did !!! There are many ways things could have been different and media could have done it differently:
You could have acted with a bit of restraint, respect and responsibility. This would have resulted in a bit more well thought out editing and only the necessary bits would have been shown to the world. This would have done the job of informing us, at the same time keeping crucial clues, gory incidents (which could propagate fear etc.), insensitive footage (Hostage hounded just after being rescued) could have been avoided.
You could have sent responsible and experienced reporters with clear briefs to the ground zero. The clear brief should have included a clear understanding that “we will in no manner jeopardize the rescue operation by either coming in their way, or by showing uncalled for information without permission”. You could have held back your editors at the center (Barkha, Rajdeep and Srinivasan). Editors on the forefront do not make the correct job of editing …they get emotional and jump into this rat race of breaking news.
You can be less emotional. We can see those crocodile tears, those artificial tremors in your voice and those completely farcical arms around someone gestures. Your job is to report do that crisply, WITHOUT HAMMING and get over with it. I was following the Obama election and 26/11 on CNN too and I must say the professionalism and discipline with which they do their job is light years ahead of our stalwarts.
You could have shown the complete effect of this by including coverage from CST and Cama Hospital and thereabouts. The media completely got hypnotized with the urban glamour of Taj (maybe because it was still on…nevertheless….I felt there was a lot of glamorous people hanging around these monuments which could have acted better for the TRP race). Mr. Benegal’s slap kind of worked wonders because all the channels started all of a sudden focusing on CST and only CST. All of a sudden there were heroes emerging from the announcing section of the station, all of a sudden another footage from another camera came out, all of a sudden we found heroes from the survivors there….
You could have avoided from igniting this Pak bashing and cry for war emotions within people. Your job is to report and not propagate emotions. Prannoy roy coming on air and saying “Let’s say Enough is enough…”. While it does show media has its pull but you mustn’t have forgotten your responsibility.
All in all it was sad to see this carnage of 26/11 carry on for over 60 hours before the last Terrorist was apprehended and killed. Yet our media hysteria made me wonder whether without these irresponsible reportage (exposing all our action plans in advance to the attackers), we might have saved 100 odd lives, we might have apprehended and killed these cowards couple days earlier, we might have had the Rabbi and his wife still alive and Moshe not being an orphan, we could have had Mr Karkare, Mr. Salaskar, Mr. Kamte, Mr. Unnikrishnan, and others living honorably ……………..but then our beloved channels wouldn’t have managed to defeat “Jis Desh mein nikla hoga chaand” in TRP.
Truly Heart Breaking !! If anyone manages to come by this way and reads my blog, my sincere appeal to you is watch 9X news…they at least have some heart, they are responsible and operate with a lot of respect and restraint.