It is strange how media is playing in to the hands of the terrorists; and how the government is doing nothing to correct it.
Every act of terror is a statement. A major component of the modus operandi of terrorist activities is to go for maximum publicity. The perpetrators want the statement to travel far and wide, and the media is meekly obliging them.
Media tenaciously clings to its rights – the right of expression, the freedom of the Press, and thrashes out at the government when it places restrictions in the best interest of its trouble shooting operations. This we saw during the Mumbai terror attack. There are many who believe that the situation could have been handled with much less causality had the media not been so keen on updates which were being fed to the high tech terrorists through cell phones. In the name of the freedom of the fourth estate, the media cooperated with terrorists, without meaning to. Apparently, media’s concern was only with its own inalienable rights. But, if an exercise of their rights can be achieved only at the cost of general weal, rights no longer remains RIGHTS. Rights stops being rights the minute they encroach on the legitimate welfare and safety of others. But with the cutthroat competition that channels and print media face, one up mannish attitude prevails, but no sense or sense of propriety and discretion. Responsible behavior is often compromised. And most of the time, the dramatic and melodaramatic reporting and the clever punch lines which might win journalistic acclaim are also what the terrorists want to elicit from these passionate guardians of democratic rights.
As for the government, it lives in such terror of the media that it refuses to take a firm stand with it. With some elections round the corner all the time, the government will not jeopardize its position by earning the ire of the all powerful media, which can make or break its chances of reelection.
The result? The media becomes partners in terrorism and the government just watches helplessly.
Ideally, when terror strikes as it did in Mumbai and Lahore, the media should refuse to give it coverage. Of course, it should be reported but no visuals, no discussions till the situation is under control. As a matter of policy, refuse to give terror the visibility it craves for. But invariably, what happens, inadvertently though, is the glamourisation of the terror act, and more often than not, the viewer ends up developing a sneaking admiration for the terrorist’s modus operandi and professionalism. This is exactly what the terror merchants want to tell the world. They want to sell the idea of their professionalism and preparedness to take on the world.
On its own initiative, media will not restrain itself to the extent of withholding visuals and emotional reporting by high profile journalists. A national disaster that can enhance its viewership will be looked upon as a kill, as the occasion and moment to attract sponsorship. For the media, patriotism is only second to commercialism.
So the initiaitive should come from the government. It should either take the media into confidence and arrive at an understanding on how it should behave in times of terror strikes, or it should declare a state of emergency as it is constitutionally entitled to do during war time. For terrorism is war. No denying that. Only, the nature of warfare is different.
Needless to say, all countries battling terror or not supporting it, should do this. Nations of the world should agree on this policy of regulating media behaviour during terror attacks in any part of the world. Otherwise, an effort in this direction by one country will be rendered futile. I know this idea sounds wild and unthinkable and naïve. But the way terrorism is growing across the globe, the governments will have to tread hitherto untravelled paths to combat this danger. Depriving terrorism of publicity is not a complete solution, but is definitely a part of it. No stones must be left unturned to drain terrorism of its life blood.