Opinion » Columns

Updated: August 1, 2010 23:42 IST

Attacks on media on the rise in India

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S. Viswanathan, Readers' Editor.
The Hindu
S. Viswanathan, Readers' Editor.

A growing number of incidents of violence against, and restrictions on, journalists in several parts of India over the past few months has caused concern at the national and international level. July was a particularly bad month for the news media: they confronted hostility and intimidation from the Army, the police, anti-social elements, and militant communal organisations in Delhi, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu.

While Delhi and Mumbai witnessed vandalism let loose by a mob of religious bigots at the premises of two news television channels, it was the Army that imposed severe restrictions on journalists in J&K.

In Orissa, the ongoing battle between owners of mines and industrial interests provided the background to physical attacks on journalists who dared to expose the clandestine operators and their exploitation of the poor and the marginalised.

Attempt to silence the media

In the evening of July 15, a mob allegedly belonging to Hindutva organisations stormed the office of the New Delhi-based TV Today network of the India Today group and vandalised whatever they could reach. The attack was in protest against the telecast of tapes showing “secret meetings” of a Hindutva organisation in which there were discussions on carrying out “terrorist attacks against meetings of Muslims.” Headlines Today, the news channel of the TV Today network, had telecast the video footage.

According to the channel, the video it telecast was extracted by investigation agencies from the laptop of one of the accused in the Malegaon blast case. The Cover Story of the latest issue of Frontline(“Militant route to Hindu Rashtra,” August 13, 2010) provides good insights into the whole episode.

The attackers, armed with sticks, were on the rampage for about 15 minutes, causing damage to glass windows, doors, and furniture. Some security guards and officials were injured. The attackers did not spare the police personnel. Although the TV channel's officials had prior information about the attack and had informed the police, the custodians of law and order were caught on the wrong foot.

Given the nasty circumstances, things could have gone much worse for those inside the building. It was clear that those who had set up the mob wanted to send a message to the news channel. Condemning the attack, the Editors Guild of India pointed out that such methods to try and silence the media would only backfire.

Even as the office of the Headlines Today was being attacked, Zee 24, another TV news channel in Mumbai, came under Shiv Sena attack for picking up the news.

It is well known that communalism and chauvinism of all shades are fiercely intolerant of criticism and dissent. Unless the state ensures that the fundamental rights in the secular Constitution, especially freedom of speech and expression, are meant to be enjoyed by all citizens, they will remain only on paper.

Restrictions on movements of media persons

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed its concern over reports that journalists are facing harassment in certain conflict-ridden States in India, notably Manipur and J&K.

In Manipur, where security forces are involved in a confrontation with several armed gangs, newspapers stopped publication in protest against the forced entry of three gunmen into a journalist's house on July 21 for questioning him about a newspaper report. The print media announced a cessation of publication until the government took action against the intruders.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the State Government had to seek the Army assistance after its efforts to control internal disorder among sections of people failed. The first thing the government did after the Army intervened was to impose severe restrictions on journalists. The officials followed it up by cancelling curfew passes issued to journalists and others. They also instructed the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) not to allow any mediaperson to move around. In some instances, cameras were seized. In protest, the media organisations suspended operations for a couple of days. The protest at a national and international level forced at least a partial relaxation of the restrictions on newsgathering.

Conditions in Orissa have been difficult for journalists wanting to report freely. According to a special report brought out by the Free House Speech, in the current year (2010) 12 cases of physical attacks on reporters, stringers, or photographers have been recorded. The report noted that “the most widely broadcast channels and the largest circulating daily are owned by powerful people. Given this reality, reporting the depredations caused by national and international business houses that have descended on the State to exploit its ample natural resources has become a perilous task.”

In Madurai in Tamil Nadu, the police arrested on July 22 S. Manimaran, Editor, Dina Bhoomi, a Tamil daily, and his son, for publishing articles on the business misdeeds of quarry owners in their newspapers. All manner of grave charges were initially recorded on the basis of a complaint made by an association of quarry owners that the daily had published a series of news items, “false and misleading,” about their business. Illegal operations by quarry owners and the resultant loss of huge revenues to the State exchequer have been reported in the press from time to time. It took protests from several media organisations, and the intervention of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, to have the grave charges removed and the editor and his son released on bail. That the relief came the very next day after the arrest highlighted the efficacy of media solidarity in bringing to public notice high-handed actions by the police in violation of accepted norms and procedures and indeed respect for freedom of expression.

The rise in attacks on journalists in India is indeed a matter of concern. It is also heartening to see more and more journalists and their organisations venture into new areas of investigative journalism, even if they involve more resourcefulness, ingenuity, and risk to limb and life.

Keywords: mediaattackpress freedom

Media should be more Conscious.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Sep 23, 2010 at 15:46 IST

I agree with you, at the same instance, media should really portray the goodness of the society and its attributes as well as it should make sure nothing is conveyed wrongly, disseminated the pseudo facts to the society that will abruptly create a wave against the government. Now a days media is not service, its business and money oriented, always looks forward to increase the readers/viewers. Same has to be accepted as other part.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Sep 23, 2010 at 15:44 IST

I agree

from:  marina
Posted on: Aug 26, 2010 at 14:06 IST

I can provide enough concrete evidence where the electronic media and print media were totally biased against one national party. In fact I can even quote by date but that does not justify the violence. "With Great powers come Great Responsibilities". Indian media particularly Indian electronic media is highly irresponsible, insensitive and completely biased and sold out.

from:  Balaji Rajaraman
Posted on: Aug 11, 2010 at 19:56 IST

The TV media in India needs heavy censorship. I have to say with great regret that I have to block certain news channels from my children for the glaring images they show with such insensitive attitude.

I am surprised by the fact that the editor has ignored the recent beating and severe injuries to the media personal by police in Andhra Pradesh.

Journalism values and ethics are to be taken up seriously the relevant institutions in making sure the debates are not to be shown as boxing rings with journalist promoting animated verbal abuse on each other participating.

There is no excuse to the mobs, police or any other forces to attack or block journalism but before pointing these things the journalism has to come clean and dwell into facts and report only based on facts rather than speculation.

from:  Pavan Peechara
Posted on: Aug 6, 2010 at 09:48 IST

What about every politicial party starting a TV channel, to propagate (dish out) their views and to decry any good deeds of other parties? It's becoming impossible to get a neutral point of view. At least, in this respect, DD (in TN, Podhigai)seems OK.

from:  D. Chandramouli
Posted on: Aug 6, 2010 at 08:21 IST

Apologies for the digress but would like to respond to a post above.
@prasbad i'm not sure if one incident that you named justifies an editorial in a national newspaper.There are thousands of such atrocities heaped daily on the poor,the women&working children in India.They do not get editorials in national newspapers either,even though there are already established patterns in those crimes that do justify editorials.By the way many newsgroups&portals carried the story you named(including several Indian muslims' blogs which condemned the incident).You can either choose to create the 'reality' you want to live in or go out&seek the truth.As for the 'so called hindu terror' as you like to refer to it,well as an Indian citizen 1st&a hindu next,I would like all those outfits to be declared terrorist groups. It's long overdue.

from:  Arpana
Posted on: Aug 5, 2010 at 21:17 IST

if you take the case of the state i live in, West Bengal, you will see that the media is completely polarized. You watch a news channel or read a news paper, all that you get is political propaganda. over here the media does less of reporting an more of gossip. so where is the media's famed neutrality??....they are people who pride themselved as impartial judges of affairs and a damn good ones too..but what happens when they misuses their power to meet selfish ends???

from:  Raktim
Posted on: Aug 4, 2010 at 08:43 IST

Arpana, I agree with you on organizing free conference, but why media has to go to such an extent to ignite the mob mentality in people. I have never seen India media criticizing Muslims, a hand of a lecturer in Kerala was chopped and there were no media editorials including in The Hindu, which writes an editorial for every small events related to so called Hindu Terror.

from:  prasbad
Posted on: Aug 4, 2010 at 04:49 IST

we want educational oriented news

from:  rajeshkumar
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 22:54 IST

very nice report. Attacks on press is condemnable.

from:  abhishek
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 19:11 IST

Attack on electronic media is not at all justified, but electronic media is has glorified crime in a certain manner and have sensationalized the whole manner in which the news on criminals is presented. These ways of news presentation has a greater impact on the crime rate and encourages people to commit more crime. Only speculations are twisted and presented as facts.
The Physical attack on media will be condemned, but who will condemn the attack done by these 24/7 news channels (where Dhoni and Rakhi Sawant have more airtime then the Prime Minister) on their viewers.
I would like to have your views Mr.S.Viswanathan on the atrocities caused by the electronic media.

from:  Anagh
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 18:35 IST

if the media is true with the fact, i do not think they will be attacked. see in kerala, only the truth is written.

from:  kumar
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 16:09 IST

Attack on the media has to condemned in the strongest of terms, there is no two opinions about it. But the media will do better to introspect - "what did I do to bring this upon myself?" There are numerous instances when media has been accomplice to crimes on society. Take for instance the case of Ram Sena conjuring up a riot for the sake of sensation at a cost. Yes, it was the media again the brought it out but it does not absolve it of its sins. But what about the damage done to certain sentiments, who amends those. Or in an entirely different light - At the same time that the PSLV was launched the media was hotly debating the versions of the family of a model who committed suicide and her boy friend's. What are the media's priorities. When was the last time we had serious discussions on meaningful matters. It is not as if all is lost. But go back a decade - Mr. Seshan was painted as being high handed, a law unto himeself. But with the kind of politicians we have and money changing hands for votes wasn't it precisely what this country needed? Who in the media can jsutify their stand on seshan?
Take the case of paide news recently. Who published it - the media. That was the good bit. Which are the news houses that are complicit in this - no, the media is reluctant to publish that, in deferrence to the wishes of their brethren. Whither fairness?
Then why demand respect? Should we not be earning it?

from:  K.Ravishankar
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 15:42 IST

Violence of any kind in a democracy should have no place. The Constitution of India no doubt provides freedom of speech and expression. But I am sorry to say that I have found that the media including the electronic media has been crossing its limits. It is also an open secret that most of the print and electronic media is biased in favour of one party or the other. As a reader, I hate a news item if it contains the reporters views or interpretation. Let the views and interpretations of the media persons be carried separately. I also feel that media must keep in mind the national interests in mind while reporting.

from:  S L Gera
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 13:50 IST

It is highly condemnable that the journalists are assaulted physically but then instead of stoping the publication of the news its best to publish the paper without news and comments carrying only the advertisement.journalists who are reporting through the prism of intelegence agencies need to be condemned also as intellectual dishonest journalists.

from:  Altaf mehraj
Posted on: Aug 3, 2010 at 10:38 IST

K.Vijayakumar,those who feel tried by the media always have an option to come out&share their side of the story too. If these various (thug-)groups don't like what the media has to say about them,all they need to do is organise a press conference.
In a free&just society to which we aspire to,there is absolutely no room for intimidation,violence&physical attacks on the media.The recent attempts of snuffing out these voices is a serious case of alarm.
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

from:  arpana
Posted on: Aug 2, 2010 at 21:11 IST

The electronic media today is the investigator, public prosecutor and the judge at the same time. Trial of criminal cases on television is crossing all limits of legitimate freedom of journlism and is hurting natural justice which even criminals deserve. Verbal violence in the media has to be condemned as vehementally as this article has condemned physical violence against the media. One would look forward to know the views of Mr.S.Viswanathan, Readers' Editor of the Hindu on this.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Aug 2, 2010 at 14:27 IST
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