Monday, July 18, 2011

Terror - Unintelligent Before, Unintelligent After

By now most people in the world are familiar with the story of the ‘News Of The World’ (NOTW). This tabloid is a grand example of sleazy journalism. Sex, celebrity scandals, phone hacking, sensationalism, rumour mongering – you name it and this tabloid would have it every day. The newspaper wound up July 10 following revelations that their associates had hacked into the voice mail of a murdered teenager. Their CEO and former editor, Rebekah Brooks, who has now been arrested had also admitted to bribing police officials for leaks. Following these events the media empire of Rupert Murdoch (whose group also owns Star TV) has been hit quite badly. While the misdeeds of NOTW are excessive there is no reason not to believe that a good chunk of the Indian media indulges in similar practices, perhaps to a lesser scale. A scoop, a sensational story are dreams of every journalist to achieve stardom. But that is about the NOTW and media corruption. In a grave turn of events the London chief of police, Sir Paul Stephenson, has resigned. Why? There are questions over his links to various journalists and the police bribery scandal. Ring any bells? Anyway, let's get back home.

So given the latest terror attacks in Mumbai how has our media really conducted itself during and after the incident? In a good departure from the past the government and investigating agencies had maintained they would not disclose any information till they have full details and investigations are complete. The news media also patted itself on the back for behaving more responsibly than in the past. They had now turned intelligent enough to have learned from past mistakes. P. Chidambaram stated there was no ‘intelligence’ on this particular attack so it was not an ‘intelligence’ failure. Alright, so we were unintelligent before. What about after? Well, this is where our media starts to replicate NOTW!  

PC and the government steadfastly refused to name Pakistan or any particular group till the investigations are over. So who is the first person our media runs to? You guessed it! Digvijay Singh, the Chief Congress Investigator, who possesses intelligence on every terror attack in the nation that nobody else does. He delights the media by suggesting RSS hand cannot be ruled out to vaguely imply a lot of things. If you know a dog to be infected by rabies would you deliberately feed it and risk your hand being bitten? Well, our media would! So they get a few bites out of DS and allow his ‘dance on the blood floor’. To hell with dead bodies, to hell with grieving families, to hell with the injured, to hell with those who will be disabled for life, to hell with general public sentiments – let’s have some fun and sensational crap from DS. That’s our responsible news media.

Alright, let’s sample a few headlines:

Sify- July 15: Mumbai blasts, first suspects spotted?
TOI-July 17: Police prepare suspects sketch……
TOI-July 16 – Indian Mujahideen duo in focus….
The Hindu-July 17: Police prepare sketch of suspect…
Deccan Chronicle – July 17: Nationwide hunt for IM suspects behind blasts…
India Today-July 17: Mumbai serial blasts: Terrorists rented rooms near targets
TOI – July 17: Mumbai blasts: Cops unmask suspected Opera House bomber
TOI – July 17: Terror chatter intercepted after Mumbai blasts?

I could go on and on and on. All the headlines and the reports in the media clearly indicate the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen. Well, strangely neither the central government nor the ATS have actually named IM. The last headline on ‘terror chatter’ is quite interesting. It has supposedly come from police sources in Delhi. So you see while the official line is no one will named before investigations are complete there are police sources who keep revealing bits and pieces to our media. That’s the strict policy not to disclose anything till investigations are done with. Are police sources in the payroll of our media?

Rakesh Maria, the ATS chief in Mumbai, in his press briefings keeps throwing crumbs to the media to keep them happy. Mind you, he has only given out general information and is doing a decent job in these meetings. His only mistake is taking questions from the hungry wolves. In such situations it is better to make press statements and not take questions. Why? Most questions are likely to be leading questions and invariably a slip or two will result which will then be twisted and sensationalised by the media. Our Police Chiefs are certainly not trained press spokespersons.

So, we didn’t have intelligence before the attacks. But after the attacks the media has more or less connected the dots except actually naming the criminals. And here is the best piece in the whole episode:

Hindustan Times: “ A police constable has been suspended ……for ignoring a 'tip-off' by a citizen over Mumbai serial blasts that killed 19 people and injured over 130, a senior officer said….According to the officer, one Abdulla Latif Rauf Shaikh from Kurla approached Mahatma Phule police station after the blasts claiming he had overheard four persons discussing about the terror plot two days before the incident…..However, constable Prabhakar Bagrao ignored him….”

So we were ‘unintelligent’ before and now we are ‘unintelligent’ after as well.

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