Print media survey on Gujarat coverage

IN Books | 20/06/2002
Print media survey on Gujarat coverage

Print media survey on Gujarat coverage

 

A network of women journalists presents its study of media coverage of the events in Gujarat in English, Gujarati, Marathi, Urdu and Hindi newspapers published in Mumbai. 

 

 

PRINT MEDIA SURVEY:

 

COVERAGE OF GUJARAT EVENTS (FEB 28 – MARCH 15)

 

The Network of Women in the Media, Mumbai (NWMM) is part of an informal national network of women journalists and media professionals. As members of the media, we are conscious of the power of the media, particularly during times of conflict. Increasingly, we find that we have to report on sectarian disturbances or debates about the role of religion in state policy. 

 

At the same time, the concept of the media as an objective observer is under attack both through physical and verbal threats, particularly after the recent violence in Gujarat. Some sections of the media are being accused of being participants in processes that are increasing the communal divide.

 

It is a confusing time. Internally there are competitive pressures in the media; externally the atmosphere of religion-led conflict or campaigns seems to put new pressures on the media’s commitment to traditionally accepted norms of conduct. 

 

We are also mindful of the fact that the print media today is operating in circumstances that are vastly different from ten years ago when the last major communal conflict occurred following the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid.

 

The number of publications has increased. Competition has come from the other media as well. Television, for instance, was a limited player in the realm of news in 1992-3. Doordarshan was firmly under state control and satellite TV in its infancy. There were only two foreign-owned news channels (BBC and CNN), both with an international focus.

 

Today, a large number of homes in Mumbai have access to at least three indigenous news channels, two foreign news channels with a strong focus on the subcontinent and one city channel. Thus television, with its round the clock coverage of Gujarat for instance, changed the parameters of reporting on disturbances that the print media had till now operated under. It turned viewers into participants, in a sense, and brought the issue to the forefront of people’s consciousness. The television camera exposed in greater detail and more harshly the full extent of the communal carnage that was taking hundreds of lives in Gujarat than the print media could have done.

 

At the same time, Gujarat has also demonstrated the increasing physical and verbal threats that media people have to face when reporting in communally charged situations.  During the recent events in the state, journalists have been targeted, by rampaging mobs and also by the police. Instead of coming to their aid, the law enforcing machinery has either been a mute witness, or has actively prevented journalists from doing their work.

 

Why this study?

 

Against this reality, how did the print media respond to the developments in Gujarat?  The NWMM decided that it was important to look at the print media and record what and how it had reported on the Gujarat events. It is possible that a media monitoring exercise after the1992-93 riots in Mumbai would have proved useful for journalists reporting communal conflict situation.

 

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