The Live spectacle

The round-the-clock live coverage of the state’s response to the terror attacks in Mumbai has brought to focus the reckless and insensitive attitude of news channels to such crisis. Quite evidently they were competing among themselves with each one of them claiming that “We are the first to have this news or enter this area.”

The media, especially the news channels, was chaotic in its coverage of the terrorist attacks. In their bid to be the first to show a particular picture or tell an exclusive story, they compromised the efforts of the security forces. The second-by- second accounts of the police operation would have even helped the perpetrators to relocate themselves or plan subsequent counter mechanisms. The television crew was on the side of the police, and their coverage showed the steps that the security personnel were taking.

Reporters ducked down and gave sleeping Piece To Cameras with the sound of bullets in the background, as if they were heroes in a thriller movie. The hype factor was never out. Their response gave the impression of “celebrating the tragedy.” Was all this asked for?
One news channel (ZEE NEWS) which was not showing live coverage of the terrorist siege repeatedly kept claiming that “their channel cared about the security” lest the viewers comprehend that they did not have the footage. The repeated claims made one skeptical of the real cause of restrain, so unlikely of the Indian media.

The visuals of blood-stained floors and copses made heart-rending and dismal viewing. The need that the media should tone down their coverage of terrorist strikes was undoubtedly felt. Instead of showing split body parts, they might as well choose subtle ways to showcase vital information.

Time and again, anxious camerapersons and reporters were tripping over their boundary, and security guards had to intervene to send them away. This was more evident on Saturday morning when the siege was over and the NSG platoon was still looking out for booby traps inside the Taj Mahal hotel. Though barred from going near the building, camerapersons and young reporters were too excited to follow instructions. In their race to be the first, they had no time to follow the ethics of their profession.

The media should behave in a way that helps those who are performing their duty. But what we witnessed in the last three days was a situation in which the security personnel were required to tackle the media. The Indian media have a lot to learn from their western counterparts. They need to be reminded of the 9/11 coverage by the American media.

Dipu Shaw
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