Thursday, June 09, 2005

We, the Media

We, the media, don't flog dead horses. When a story dies, we give it a decent burial. When our job is done, we let go.

On June 4, a bunch of social activists, students, musicians, economist, journalist, villagers, political workers were attacked. By AK47-toting cops in plainclothes.

Since some known names were involved, since these were JNU students, outsiders from the capital city, noted economists, English-speaking-media-savvy NGOs - since these people are one of us - we sat up and took note.

The cops filed the FIR, against their own. It took three attempts to meet a senior cop... but still, only three attempts, and he did see them, eventually.

The CM made sad noises. The ex-CM made angry noises. The central government officials made clucking noises. A probe was ordered. A committee was set up. An apology was offered.

We reported the assualt. For once, we (in our limited way) possibly helped the cause by keeping ourselves open to reporting senseless attacks by the police. Then, we reported that a probe has been ordered. A committee has been set up. The guilty would be punished. Possibly.

Our job is done.

We won't ask the rest of the questions.

We won't ask that the guilty cops be suspended, if not thrown out of the force, for overriding their powers, for harassing the very people they're supposed to protect, for not using their brains.
We won't keep a close watch on so-called 'naxal' areas, to check how badly and how often the locals are beaten up, when urbane activists are not around to lend their voices to the protest.
We won't demand that the cops be made to pay for the damage they cause.
We will not even suggest that the state pay up for physical damage and emotional trauma caused by their behavior. In this instance, the cops will not even pay up for the broken bus and the hospital bill, after all the havoc they caused.

They said 'SORRY!' and We, the Media, rested our case.

Ask questions?
But that is not our job.
Let someone go to court and file a PIL. If the state loses, we will write about it as a 'landmark judgment... cops finally made to pay'.

Let a few villagers get beaten up as they peacefully confer about employment draft bills in parliament. When they turn turn militant, acquire land-mining technology and blow up a few cops, then we'll write about 'state atrocities drive common man to take up the gun'. We'll risk life and limb by 'going into the forest' and living underground with those who dare not surface.
Now, that would be a live-wire story, wouldn't it?

And just think of the possibilites of follow-up stories!
Think 'Who supplies the guerrillas their arms?'.... think 'naxals steal dead cops' guns'.... think 'naxals to hold peace talks with CM'.... think 'naxals reject govt overtures'.... think 'violence continues... demand for separate state'.... think 'Naxal group splits'.... think 'a movement betrayed'.

Why flog dead horses? For now, our job is done.


m. said...

it is so refreshing to hear such an honest assessment of reporting in our country. i guess as long as this happens there is always hope. bless you!

ps: may i add you to my blogroll?

R. said...

Journalists are like everyone else.. Not everyone here is an activist, not everyone feels deeply enough to change things around them, not everyone spares a minute of their day to feel for someone else. If reading about violence numbs people i can only imagine how numbing it must be to continuously report it. For a lot of them I guess its a job. Would you blame a man/woman who work in a factory or in the field everyday of not caring abt something that happens in their town? If you did, would you still write abt it?

It took me a long time as a banker to realise that customers were not just 'revenue opportunties' not to talk abt people's/companies' worth as 'wallet sizing'. I do think that a lot of my colleagues still think in terms of a customer being a revenue figure on the monthly tracker, to them its a job.

You care abt those people who died not coz you are a journalist but coz thats how you are. BIG DIFFERENCE.

Annie Zaidi said...

M, bless your swet soul, OF COURSE you can add me to your blogroll!
And r., journalists are people who get paid to ask questions - revealing questions, questions of accountability, questions of relevance and import.
I don't care about journalists not caring. But I care about them not doing their job. Esp those who handle beats like social development/agriculture/power/politics/crime/etc. Actually any beat - crime for instance is not about how many people the cops arrested. It is also about how many cops ought to get arrested. Right? Simple enough - just raise the right questions. And insist that people answer.

R. said...

Agreed. My point was that very rarely do you find people having a passion for what they do or even liking what they do. Don't you get the feeling that a lot of people are just waiting for the next bus out of their current existence? (the mera number kab ayega syndrome)

Short term memory is another new major social problem. Its not restricted to the media and I don't believe the media should be blamed for it. Its a fast paced worlds, ills of yesterday are forgotten today, examples are aplenty, the Bam earthquake and now the Tsunami. Would you believe it that a vast majority of the aid promised to Bam, Iran hasn't been delivered? (Just ask a few friends where Bam is, you'll know the extent of our short sightedness)Today no one is able to identify who is a tsunami victim and who isn't, the aid and rehabilitation is slowly being erased from our minds. Very much like the rehabiliatation of the people displaced by the Narmada Dam construction. Arundhati Roy's book says in the history of dam building about 50 million people in India have been displaced. Where are they?

What is needed is imbibing of social thought in people especially the younger generation. It has to start in schools and colleges. Gandhian ways should be given importance too (not Khadi and vegitarianism, those where his personal choices, we always fall in a trap of lifting a man to the level of a god where we forget what he says and focus on his personal life).

I regret the length of this message, I do ramble on at times.

R. said...

In the second paragraph I meant, the media shouldn't be the only part of the society to shoulder the blame. I believe the media exists in its form because we want it to. A case of the creator blaming his/her creation. (overlook all the grammatical and spelling errors please :) )

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