Press freedom and Assam

BY Pallavi Barua| IN Media Practice | 26/12/2007
Letter to the Hoot: Is it civilized on the part of the Media to resort to such means to ‘sell’ the dead ?
PALLAVI BARUA says freedom should not mean irresponsibility.

Press freedom and Assam




Letter to the Hoot: Is it civilized on the part of the Media to resort to such means to ¿sell¿ the dead ?


PALLAVI BARUA  says freedom should not mean irresponsibility.




 "Freedom of the press is very vital for the country today when the root of violence and corruption at the top is percolating down to all the strata of society." ---- Eminent Journalist Nalini Singh, while delivering her speech on the topic ¿Freedom of the press today¿ during the fourth Dr. Amitabh Chowdhury memorial lecture on December 19th, 2007 in Guwahati.


 However, the question is where to draw the limits of freedom. For, at times, freedom leads to being ¿Libertine¿ in India, especially in Assam. When the Press becomes ¿libertine¿, anarchy is let loose in the society. In order to prove the point, a few examples can be cited.


On December 19th this month, a person by the name of Joy Prakash Bezboruah of Sivasagar met with death when mauled by a tiger from its enclosure at the State Zoo. Pictures of the tiger carrying the severed hand of the victim was flashed again and again by a news channel called NE TV (lets be specific if we are really sincere about ¿Press Freedom¿). This reflects the sadistic bent of this channel. Is it civilized on the part of the Media to resort to such means to ¿sell¿ the dead ?


Again, we can take the example of the Adivasi-locals conflict in Beltola, Guwahati on November 24 this year. The same TV channel overplayed the incident thereby inciting violence among the irrational public, who, unfortunately, comprise a lion¿s share of the State¿s population. Unlike other States of the Indian Union, Assam is a highly heterogenous State. Such irresponsible, politically-motivated news channels run by political aspirants would prove to be a catastrophe for a pluralistic society like that in Assam.


Conflicts are a part of a heterogenous society. And, in a country like India, where Quota politics rules the roost, Reservation is a catalyst for conflict.


We live in a society where there are elements who take off chairs from bus-stand waiting spots. We have individuals who smash flower pots placed on fly-overs for beautification. We have persons who take away the ¿man-hole¿ covers from our footpaths. No doubt, we have people who are distributing pictures of the Beltola violence in CD-format in and around the Adivasi dominated areas of the State to incite communal clashes. Kudos to the NE TV for shattering the social fabric of Assam by repeated telecast of clashes.


There is no instance in any news channel or media outlet in the U.K. where photos of the dead Princess Diana was flashed for the public. At least, the Media in that country have the conscience to respect the dead. Till today, not a single snap of the most photographed woman in the world (Lady Diana), entangled in the crashed car has been telecast in the BBC Channel or any newspaper in Britain


We cannot expect such responsible behaviour in India, more so in Assam where some media outlets are in the hands of mafia men with an eye on MP seats and ministerial posts. Media in different societies around the world needs to be tackled differently. The Western countries can think of ¿Press Freedom¿ because of their more homogenous social set up. The same would lead to ¿Press Libertinism¿, which is happening in Assam presently and is about to destroy the entire heterogenous social network of the State.


Just as a rabies-ridden dog has to be reined in, so also irresponsible, violence-ridden media outlets in the Third World countries (with a massive illiterate population) has to be checked.

Pallavi Barua


December 25, 2007

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