The mayhem in Mumbai: readers react

BY Hoot readers| IN Opinion | 29/11/2008
Was it necessary to provide 24-hour coverage of the hostage crisis? Did it do anything for the viewers, the security forces, the helpless hostages, Mumbai city or the nation…?
Hoot readers write in. Please join the debate.

        A collection of responses from readers watching the media coverage




The mayhem in Mumbai



 A few thoughts on TV coverage, which I thought you could publish and start a debate since I think it is high time we brought under TV channels under some kind of regulation.


First of all, was it necessary to provide 24-hour coverage of the hostage crisis? Did it do anything for the viewers, the security forces, the helpless hostages, Mumbai city or the nation except to make matters worse for all concerned? According to the police, the TV channels had helped the terrorists and were responsible for the death of the Times of India journalist who was staying on the top floor of the Taj Mahal Hotel. At the end of the day, after all the hysteria, the maniacal coverage by the hordes of TV reporters it was the newspapers which gave us a proper picture of what was happening along with some expert views which helped us to understand the gravity of the situation. If you went by the TV coverage it was just another circus for them where the usual shrieking brigade which plays to the gallery by taking to task the politicians, the security agencies, neighbouring countries, etc had a f! ield day –for four whole days.


Why does the police, the army and the NSG, which is very good at picking on drivers in Delhi who stray into the path of VIP cars, not clear the TV channels from the area of operations? In the Western world you will not find TV reporters behaving like fishwives and sticking their microphones into the faces of hostages just released, much less badgering the security forces. The channels were so keen on providing coverage that they were willing to risk the lives of their reporters.


Why is there no code of conduct for TV reporters? Surely, their performance over the past decade has given us ample cause for concern? Why do the channels not give their reporters some training? Instead we are subject to unprofessional, unethical and insensitive reportage, forced to endure the verbal diarrhoea of reporters who come across as extraordinarily banal. I am aware that it is not easy to keep talking intelligently for more than three minutes at a stretch so why go in for an exercise where one is talking mindlessly for hours on end?


Besides, nowhere else in the world, not on CNN (incidentally their coverage was the best in my opinion with a good mixture of analysis and news coverage), BBC, AL Jazeera, Iran TV or whatever) will you find reporters and anchors hectoring and castigating whoever they think deserves to be ticked off. The liberties Indian TV news channels take with panelists, security officials, politicians and viewers is simply appalling.


Unfortunately, it is the senior reporters/anchors who are the worst offenders. We had one editor-in-chief who claimed friendships with one of the unfortunate ATS top brass who were killed in Mumbai. And what does he tell the world? That Ashok Kamte won a banana-eating contest in his college days! Is there no sense of a time and place for such revelations? Is there no sanctity for any of us even in death? Some of his interviews of those who had managed to escape were unbelievably fatuous and inappropriate. "Did you expect such a thing to happen here? (!) Do you plan to come back to India?" God help us all.


Another editor who heads a rival channel and is fond of telling viewers how moral his channel is and believes it is fine to hector those taking a different stance and generally shouts at hapless audiences and junior colleagues was put in his place when two experts he had called in told him all TV channels had played to the tune of the terrorists by their nauseating and endless coverage of the hostage drama.


Sanctimoniousness is sometime harder to stomach than plain stupidity.


Yet another star, famous for her reporting from the trenches, put on a suitably grave expression verging on the tearful, but turned out to be the most insensitive of them all. When she was not busy sticking the mike into the faces of all and sundry, even relatives gathered outside the Taj Mahal Hotel waiting for some news of their kin, she was yelling on camera to fellow reporters ("you shut up") or badgering the security people. Last seen, she had brushed past protesting policemen and paramedical staff at the Taj around noon today (Saturday 29) to show us the sights. "Look at this window, look at the damage here" before she was chased off.   


If TV channels cannot teach their employees how to conduct themselves like professionals, we need to ask the government and the security agencies to do so. This is not the best option but would seem justified in the circumstances. The security agencies also need to be given a code of conduct: where to keep the media and the gawking masses in such situations (at a distance where they cannot do damage to others and themselves) and who should be briefing them and when.


One TV channel told an irate viewer that she had the option not to watch. Is that the solution?


I hope this letter will provoke some introspection and some remedial action. 



Rajalakshmi Rajan



                            *    *   * 


Comments on Mumbai coverage


Watching the coverage yesterday, I am driven to make a few comments. Regardless of how restrained they might have been or said they were trying to be, I feel the media is really damned if they do, damned if they don¿t because they do end up looking very sanctimonious about it anyway. I feel that sometimes we can be a little generous with the praise. But I am not sure whether this is the time...


a.Their tendency to drift towards breaking news and unfolding scenes was very clear -- why didn¿t they have much coverage of the victims of the station attack or any other place but they were transfixed by the two hotels and the Nariman house?


b. After all that, they (CNN-IBN) still aired an mms of the commando operation showing the passages of the Taj hotel etc. taken by a guy who recounted how he had got the pictures. Is that the time to give airtime to people who brazenly defy police orders to stay away, and sneak into the hotel to take pictures?


c. And how can Sagarika Ghose insist on Ravishankar Prasad making a pledge on TV that they would cooperate with the government or some such thing (Late night) -- would she make any other politician do it? And is he the only person to have to make a pledge in the first place?


d. I thought the questions some of the reporters kept asking the officials were a bit too intrusive, and not necessary to be aired at the time. Why do they have to go live with everything...I guess this is the problem with TV.


e. I really think the media has to give a gap of some time and then try to highlight the flaws in a constructive manner - not concurrently with what is happening. I think it is extremely unfair to start heaping all the blame on the police, or opposition politicians or any one group. (I think in general the security in public places in Delhi even when there is no perceived threat is fairly good. Recently I was in Istanbul where there is also a lot of political unrest, and I found that the security even at metro station was very casual-- they hardly checked people with rucksacks.)


But in general I must say that the coverage has brought home to me the terrible realisation that it is indeed a war right in our back yard and my heart really goes out to the police and the security forces, the fire personnel.


Namitha Dipak




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Everybody is an expert


Herald Tribune - Marc McDonald -


Begin Quote -->

"Chrtistine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was careful to say that the identity of the terrorists could not yet be known."

<--End Quote


Begin Quote-->

"This wasn¿t something that required a logistical mastermind," she said. "These were not hardened targets. A huge train station with zero security. Two hotels with no security, both owned by Indians. Leopold¿s Café. How hard is it, really? It¿s not rocket science."

<--End Quote


Begin Quote -->

Fair believes the attacks could be "yet another manifestation of domestic terrorism" that has its genesis in a longstanding institutional discrimination against Muslims.

<--End Quote


The last two statements are fairly strong. I wonder what the credentials of the "expert" really are. That is a very divisive statements that paints a fractured picture of India.


It is obvious that the attack was well planned and logistics were a key. Was it coincidental that they occupied Nariman Bhavan? Obviously this person has no clue or very little of the ground reality.


Taj and Oberoi - not hardened targets? Excuse me! All five star properties in India have been recognized as targets after the Manila (Ayala) incident and Marriott. Security was present - but against the kind of weapons used - inadequate. 


I am quite positive that this the tip of the iceberg as far as bad analysis in the media is concerned.





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