Kandahar hijack case of IC-814. Most of us will remember the wailing protest scenes of families of hostages that were constantly on our TV screens. In particular Star News then, with the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt, spared no effort to show the distress of families against a very delicate situation facing the government. The emotional drama was played out over and over again till your heart started weeping. Make no mistake; everyone felt the sorrow and distress of the suffering families. But a line was crossed by the media then when the government was faced with a critical situation. A hijacked plane in a hostile territory, surrounded by an enemy nation on our border with little direct access for any strong action. All that would have contributed to the hostage exchange with the release of terrorists then. And consequently political parties will forever have the opportunity to label that act as weak reaction or surrender to terrorists.
None can forget the shoddy journalism of many in the media during the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. Mikes and cameras being shoved into the faces of distressed families or into the faces of those who managed to escape or were rescued.
Then come to the recent case of Maoists kidnapping an IAS officer in Orissa. Once again the emotion-charged distress of families being repeated over and over again on TV. That being done there is again the case of hostages being held by Somali pirates. Angry, annoyed and distressed families over and over again being shown on the screens to vent their anger against the government.
|They keep fear alive...Our media feeds on the tragedy..|
In every such incident of hijacking or terrorism the families suffer and go through immense pain. But does it really serve the nation or decision making to repeatedly show their plight on TV? It would have been enough to show it once or twice. But the endless interviews with families, some wailing, some chest-beating all of it goes on non-stop. One would think rather than wanting to see an end to a crisis the media would like it prolonged so that they can get an extended run on the emotional drama which is all so tragic. Nobody, nobody loves a tragedy like the media does.
Despite the pain that individual families will definitely go through in such situations it is the responsibility of the media to ensure a balance in what they show. Instead of showing wailing families all the time complaining about the inaction of the government they could very well call some strategic experts for discussions on diffusing the situation. A nation cannot make decisions on security, negotiate with hijackers or have dialogues with pirates based on just the emotional state of the suffering families. In the end this is the same media that will bring up the idea of India being a ‘soft’ state and then have more discussions on that.
It is one that thing that our governments have never evolved a clear policy on dealing with hostage situations. The frequent trading of criminals for hostages is definitely not a long term healthy policy for any state. As with the 26/11 carnage who knows, the pirates and the Maoists might have been watching TV all the time. This could well explain why the Maoists kept increasing their demands. Any government has to be sensitive to the concerns of the families of hostages but at the same time the larger responsibility is not to sacrifice national interests or consistently appear to be succumbing to hostage-takers. Lives are lost for many causes. Sometimes the media needs to put the nation first.
Feed a mouse a cookie, the next thing it will ask for milk. And the media is doing a very good job of feeding the cookie and the government will comply by feeding it the milk. A hostage situation is nothing more than good ‘soap’ for our media. Sense and Sensibility, that is for someone else with courage.