He agrees on need to avoid unfounded conjecture
In the wake of the coverage of the Hyderabad blasts, Press Council Chairman (PCI) Markandey Katju has appealed to the media to “exercise restraint in reporting cases of bomb blasts and terrorist cases,” and avoid doing anything which may “fan or promote communal hatred and animosity.”
Justice Katju was responding to a letter sent to him by National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Chairman Wajahat Habibullah. The letter said that “even before the completion of the investigation [in the Dilsukhnagar blasts of February 21] and on the basis of what appears as unfounded conjecture, the media appears to have targeted a particular community.”
Mr. Habibullah referred to an article by B. Raman, a former intelligence official and security analyst, who had written: “It seems to have become the trend that if it is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If it is Muslim, he has to be from the IM [Indian Mujahideen]. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].” The NCM Chairman highlighted the need to discourage such a trend.
Agreeing with the note, Justice Katju said in a statement: “Since an impression has been created in some quarters that most Muslims are terrorists, the police often arrest some Muslims on mere suspicion. Once such a Muslim is arrested, it is difficult for him to get bail…even if he is ultimately found innocent, nobody can restore so many years of his life spent in jail.” There were a large number of cases falsely implicating Muslims, he added.
The PCI chief said that within an hour or so of a blast, TV channels started showing messages or emails sent by an organisation with a Muslim-sounding name, claiming responsibility. This was “irresponsible” as any “mischievous person” could have sent the message. “By showing this on TV screens, a message is conveyed to the viewers, even if by insinuation, that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb-throwers.”
The only way of keeping the country of such diversity united and taking it on the path of progress is “through secularism and giving equal respect to all communities and sections of society,” Justice Katju said.