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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > May 24, 2008 > Media: Dismal Coverage of Jaipur Blasts

Mainstream, Vol. XLVI, No 23

Media: Dismal Coverage of Jaipur Blasts

Wednesday 28 May 2008, by Shobhana Boyle

The recent media coverage about the bomb blasts in Jaipur provides a dismal picture of the role that the media has chosen to play on this issue. Extensive visual media coverage focused on drawing conclusions about the motive of the terrorists towards creating religious tension and anarchy in the State. The location of the bomb blasts near the Hanuman temples was highlighted time and again with newspersons interrogating common people and administrative/political personalities on the suspected objective of the blasts for sparking religious sentiments and disrupting communal harmony. Indeed many of the journalists including those credited with experience and repute were seen to be asking leading questions almost persuading the interviewees to commit to a view that the blasts had an objective of targeting a particular community and creating communal discord.

Interestingly what the media and the speakers appearing on the various news channels failed to highlight was that the areas in which the blasts took place, namely, Sanganeri gate, Badi Chauper, Choti Chauper, Johari Bazar, Chand Pole and Manak Chowk have a substantial population belonging to the minority community. Indeed a significant portion of the businesses owned and operated in these areas relating to trade in leather articles primarily shoes, garments, jewellery and food, belong to the minority community.

Terrorism aims at spreading fear and anarchy among people and towards this end terrorist activities are typically targeted at large gatherings. The gatherings thus could be of devotees of any particular faith attending a sacred shrine like in the case of the blasts that claimed three lives and injured 28 people at Ajmer Dargah during the month of Ramzan , or gatherings for weekly prayer offerings as occurred during the Friday prayer offerings at the Mecca Mosque in Charminar, Hyderabad that claimed 15 lives and injured 40 others, or commemorating an annual event as exhibited by the blasts during the occasion of Shab-e-Barat at Malegaon in Nasik Mumbai taking 37 lives and injuring 125 more, or celebrating a festival as exhibited by the Delhi attacks on the eve of Diwali that claimed over 61 lives and injured 210 others and on the Sankat Mochan on the eve of Holi that left 28 dead and injured over 100 or indeed the Mumbai train blasts that claimed over 200 lives and left over 700 more injured.

THESE incidents prove that the objective of the perpetrators in each of these cases has been towards creating an atmosphere of panic and fear. The nature of the gathering has been immaterial to the ultimate objective of causing maximum fatalities. The choice of locations and occasions is a case in point. In these attacks the victims were not differentiated and exempted on the basis of their faith and beliefs. But yes, it certainly more than meets the perpetrators’ purpose when their actions are interpreted as targeting a particular community and in that convoluted sense glorifying their actions as having an ideological base however misguided it may be. This is a ploy that is often successfully used by terrorists in their evil designs and the role played by media as displayed in the recent case only serves to further their interest. The media coverage on the day of the blasts only brought to light how competitive the various media channels have become as they vied with each other in presenting ‘exclusive’ snapshots of the blast sites and attempted to sensationalise their analysis by focusing on the idea of a particular community being targeted.

A sensitive and responsible media can work towards allaying panic among people, and by presenting a fair analysis of events, can guide the public towards responding to such incidents with a balanced approach. The role of the media gains further importance in its contribution towards enhancing the people’s ability to identify terrorist acts as crimes against humanity as a whole and enabling them to make an informed choice for adopting a unified approach to address the menace with courage and solidarity.

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