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Monday, June 09, 2014  

Reporting Rahul’s statement on terror attacks: An instance of bad Journalism?

"We may engineer with somebody’s statement or sound bite in order to make it fit to our space or time. But, in any case as display of journalist’s obligation to the truth, the intent of the statement must be intact and clear from the part that is used. This very first principle of a journalist was openly sacrificed by most TV News Channels of India just to make a sensational stuff out of a portion of the statement."

Basudev Mahapatra

   

The way AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s statement on stopping terror attacks before occurrence was reported by the TV journalists and, also, the way it was presented by Indian TV News channels that it hardly fulfilled any purpose of journalism but just exposed Indian TV News channels’ passion for tabloid journalism. As I myself was present in the session, I was shocked with the kind of reporting of the statement and more shocked that no channel tried to tell the truth and the true intention of the statement. With one channel sparked sensation by manipulating the statement, every other channel just wanted to do the same to steal the show. Even in some channels, the statement was made into pieces and carried one after another in different bulletins throughout the day.

Soon after Rahul's session with media representatives in Bhubaneswar was over, the first piece of statement that appeared in some of the news channels was, "terrorism is something that is impossible to stop". I being the representative of a 24X7 Hindi news channel was immediately asked by my desk about the particular statement made by Rahul Gandhi. As obvious, my reply was 'No'.

Even though I tried to clarify saying, "Rahul never meant that in his statement but what he meant was that it's not possible always to stop terror attack before it happens", I felt I was not believed to be telling the truth. However, I maintained my stand in the live phono I was asked to give instantly.

I soon crosschecked the the video of the Rahul's session with media and found that the piece carried by some channels was an engineered one and was again treated being unfaithful to what Rahul Gandhi meant. Replying to a question whether terror attacks can be stopped before they happen (the question came after Rahul mentioned about the issue of corruption and insisted that strong measures should be initiated to stop corruption before it takes place) Rahul said, “It’s very difficult to stop every single terrorist attack. The steps that have been taken by our government over the last couple of years are quite profound steps - the improvement in our intelligence, the way we did about fighting terrorism, the ideas that we have to fight terrorism at the local level, we have improved in lips and mouth. But terrorism is something that is impossible to stop all the time. There is an attack on Bombay that has taken place. But you will not have heard of all the attacks that will be stopped. So, it is something that we will fight, it is something that we will defeat, and it is something that we work towards. But, it is very very difficult to stop every single attack.”

Further to clarify, Rahul said that he didn’t mean it impossible but difficult to stop. The complete statement hardly found a space in any of the bulletins of a channel. But the piece that was used in bulletins did more often negate to the true intention of the statement which was completely a wrong use of anybody’s statement and an unethical practice of journalism as well.

While the whole statement in its complete form was never shown, reactions on the manipulated piece were taken from leaders of different parties to create a political controversy and add more life to a news stuff that had zero transparency.

We may engineer with somebody’s statement or sound bite in order to make it fit to our space or time. But, in any case as display of journalist’s obligation to the truth, the intent of the statement must be intact and clear from the part that is used. This very first principle of a journalist was openly sacrificed by most TV News Channels of India just to make a sensational stuff out of a portion of the statement.

Such practice will never help in creating a healthy environment for media to grow and exercise its freedom. It may bring some instant TRP and business but, on the other hand, it may also increase the risk of losing credential and trust of the general public permanently.

 

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