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Is mainstream media losing its conscience

Is mainstream media losing its conscience

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SHOULD THE media depict the image of a young girl, stripped by some unruly youth in a city
street during the broad daylight? More surprisingly, should the picture of the girl, of course
blurring some portions of it, be printed in the front page of several daily newspapers after days
of the incident? Questions are also raised, why it was not imperative for the newspaper and
television channels to have permission first from the victim to do so? Moreover, had they done
(or would continue doing so) the same if the victim was from an affluent family?
SHOULD THE media depict the image of a young girl, stripped by some unruly youth in a city
street during the broad daylight? More surprisingly, should the picture of the girl, of course
blurring some portions of it, be printed in the front page of several daily newspapers after days
of the incident? Questions are also raised, why it was not imperative for the newspaper and
television channels to have permission first from the victim to do so? Moreover, had they done
(or would continue doing so) the same if the victim was from an affluent family?

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Published by: Waliullah Ahmed Laskar on Apr 12, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Is mainstream media losing itsconscience?
 A debate has been raised on the role of media for showing imageof a young girl, stripped by rowdy youngsters. Mainstream mediawas thrashed by major sections of society for playing the visuals of a humiliated adivasi girl in the name of journalism..
CJ:
Nava Thakuria, 11 Dec 2007 Views:
3733
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Live Debate: Should the BJP and Congress come together?SHOULD THE media depict the image of a young girl, stripped by some unruly youth in a citystreet during the broad daylight? More surprisingly, should the picture of the girl, of courseblurring some portions of it, be printed in the front page of several daily newspapers after daysof the incident? Questions are also raised, why it was not imperative for the newspaper andtelevision channels to have permission first from the victim to do so? Moreover, had they done(or would continue doing so) the same if the victim was from an affluent family?All the debates in public domain of Assam in Northeast India came alive with an unfortunateincident that took place in Guwahati, the prime city of the region, on November 24. It was ausual Saturday morning for the residents of Beltola in Guwahati that grew up with violence atnoon all of a sudden. The city people witnessed a calm procession of around thousandAdivasis (aboriginal), both male and female, from Beltola to Dispur, the seat of political power in Assam. The demonstrators, equipped with traditional bow-arrows, marched to the statesecretariat at Dispur to add voices to their demand for inclusion the community in theScheduled Tribe list. They were hoping that it would benefit the community of tea and ex-tealabours of Assam with the help of reservation policies of the Union government of India ineducation and job opportunities.The on-duty police force initially tried to prevent the demonstrators on the street, which onlyangered the participants. Many of them continued the march. Suddenly, some of them turnedviolent and adopted unprovoked vandalism. “The angry demonstrators started damaging thegovernment city buses, private vehicles parked at roadside, shops and even personalproperties. Even some pedestrians were also not spared by them. Many of them carried their traditional bow-arrows, but few of them were equipped with stick and hammers too,” said aneyewitness of the Beltola incident, who incidentally recorded the visual of the moment with hisnewly bought camera.Soon the protesters faced another batch of police near the secretariat complex and this timethe police with the help of paramilitary forces dispatched them. Facing the harsh action fromthe police forces, which burst tear gas shells to disperse the protesters, the frightenedAdivasis started fleeing back in small groups. But more cruel strides were waiting for thedemonstrators as some local people retaliated by attacking them. For around an hour therewere group clashes in full view of the media persons, where Adivasi demonstrators weremercilessly beaten up by some youths that resulted in death of a protester and hundreds other injured.The demonstrators assembled in Guwahati from different parts of the state following theinitiative of All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AAASA), an influential students body of the state. Initially, the AAASA leaders decided to hold a meeting at south Beltola high school insupport of their longstanding demands. But a section of participants came out for a processionaiming to reach the state assembly at Dispur. And all the unwanted incidents followed thereafter, where one Adivasi named Samson Naguri had to sacrifice and nearly 250 got injured,many of them left in serious conditions, during the mob violence.Amidst the chaotic situation, an Adivasi girl was also stripped off by some rowdy youths. Thegirl, a high-school standard student, hailed from Biswanath Chariali locality in upper Assam.Many local residents however braved to come out and gave shelter to the humiliated Adivasiprotesters and one of them named Bhagiram Barman took the risk of his life and saved the girlfrom further physical and mental assaults. Later, she was handed over to the police. But in themeantime, her naked image was recorded by the media persons and even by some cellphoneholders. And the debates slowly but steadily grew up.The state government of Assam had already received brickbats for the untoward incident fromdifferent sections in the society. The condemnations were poured from the main oppositionpolitical parties like Asom Gana Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist). Condemning the violence, the party leaders demanded the resignation of theCongress-led coalition government. Similarly, a number of social organizations including theNorth East Peoples Initiative, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, Gauhati UniversityTeachers’ Association, Asom Mahila Samata Society, Lekhika Samaroh Samity, GuwahatiSachetan Mahila Samaj with others came out with demands to take actions against thoseguilty of creating the violence and vandalism on the day.A series of citizens meeting, organized by Concerned Citizens Forum, Journalists Forum,Assam with others concluded with strong words of resentment against the Tarun Gogoi-ledovernment and also resolved in a ealin eace and harmon amon the eo le of theBe a Citizen JournalistSubmit News & ArticlesRewards & Recognition
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 State. The AASAA leaders called for a 36-hour statewide general strike, beginning onNovember 26, to protest against the mugging on the Adivasi protesters in Guwahati, which wasbacked by the All Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Union. The All Assam Santhal Students’ Unionalso called another 12-hour general strike.Facing the heat of public outrages, the Assam government ordered two enquiries (one by theadditional chief secretary of Assam and the other to be conducted by RK Manisana Singh, aretired judge of Guwahati High Court. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi publicly admitted that therewere lapses in parts of administrative authority during the Adivasi rally in Guwahati. The citypolice meanwhile arrested three persons (Prasenjit Chakravarty, Ratul Barman and SudipChakdar) accusing them for being involved in the stripping case.The issue was also discussed in both upper and lower house of Parliament in India, wherethe incident was mentioned as the most barbaric episode. The echo of protest was heard inanother Indian state of Jharkhand, one of the source states in central India, where from thelabourers were brought to Assam to engage in tea cultivation during British colonial regime.The leaders from different political parties of Jharkhand, strongly condemned the attack on theAdivasi demonstrators. The prominent political leaders like the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, former Jharkhand chief ministers Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda visitedAssam to conciliate the Adivasis.The trouble torn and alienated Northeast is not a stranger to violent demonstrations, but theunruly situation created on the fourth Saturday of November in the heart of Guwahati city reallyshook the conscience of Assamese community, where Adivasis remained as an integral partof the society for more than a century now. The grief of the local people was later reflected in aseries of public meetings, media columns and editorials of the newspapers published fromthe region. But the coverage of the incident in a section of media, mostly based outside theregion, had shocked the Guwahati citizens most, as they blatantly blame the entire residents of the city for the unfortunate developments that day.Those sections of media, who projected the incident as an unprovoked attack on the Adivasidemonstrators by the residents of Guwahati, remained silent on the braveness of someGuwahatians, who came out to give shelter to the victims. Moreover, the same media spacewas full of the description with images of the traumatized girl, during the chaotic situation.Surprisingly, they missed or deliberately ignored the initiative of the citizens to rescue the girlswiftly. A major English daily published her picture in the front page, even three days after theincident (November 27). A New Delhi based media watch portal also highlighted the issue.‘Should The Telegraph’ have carried a front-page picture of the adivasi girl running naked downa Guwahati street after being stripped by ethnic rioters? It used black strips to conceal part of her nudity but her face was only slightly pixelated. Three readers from Tezpur University said ina letter to the paper that while the strippers showed their barbarism, the editorial board of ’TheTelegraph’ demonstrated its sadism by publishing the plight of the one stripped, narrated by’The Hoot’ in its web page.‘The Assam Tribune’, the oldest English daily of Northeast in one of its editorials, describedthat the media’s handling of the episode (Guwahati violence) as an unfortunate aspect of thetragedy. “When a section of the media continues to come up with the visual of the nakedadivasi girl even after days of the incident, it is evident that their purpose is simply tosensationalize and blow things out of proportion. It is in such times that the responsibility andthe credibility of the media are put to test. A responsible media should act to diffuse tensionand not to arouse passions further," said the editorial of November 28 issue of the daily.“Was there at all any need for the photojournalists to click her naked photograph from the frontand then get it published?" questioned Bikash Sarmah, a Guwahati based journalist. Throughhis media column in ’The Sentinel’, a prominent journalist of English daily of Northeast,Sarmah, however admitted that ’there might be a justification though: that without the visual, theend would not be achieved - of shaking the conscience of the people, of making them aware of such beastly behaviour by a few despite being part of the civilized world, of telling the peoplebluntly as to how some perverts in their midst would bring disrepute to the entire society’.The resentment was too high against the satellite news channels and the cable operators of Guwahati blacked out two channels (namely NDTV and CNN-IBN) for few days. The greater Guwahati cable operators’ association alleged that these channels were telecasting amisinterpreted version of the group clash in the city. "The clashes engulfed not the agitatingAdivasis and Guwahati people as a whole, but only a section of them joined the chaos. But thenews channels went on airing that the residents of Guwahati beat up the Adivasis and alsostripped off many girls, who took part in the procession," said an office bearer of theassociation.Two powerful students bodies of the region namely All Assam Students’ Union and AsomJatiyatabadi Yuba-Chatra Parishad also criticized those media for materializing a gory incidentto their benefits. The leaders of both the students’ outfits alleged that those media groupsrepeatedly depicted the image of the Adivasi girl in an obscene way though they preferred not toreport that the girl was immediately rescued by a local youth and gave her shelter. A studentleader argued, “Media has every right to inform the society about the happenings. But theyshould not take a way that only humiliate the victim again and escalate an ongoing tension.”Shantikam Hazarika, an academician based in Guwahati also stated that some televisionchannels went on relaying the unfortunate episode for a whole day. The news clippingsincluded the visuals of the stripped girl also. "In fact, those channels were cooking up the storysitting on their studios and playing on the visuals of Guwahati violence. Those media werealmost silent on the fact that many local residents came forward to intervene in the violenceand give shelter and support to the assaulted demonstrators." As a Guwahatian I am moreangry with the media than ashamed of what has happened that day, added Hazarika.The debate reached to the New Delhi based satellite channels as well.Arnab Goswami, an eminent TV journalist(editor-in-chief of Times Now channel) raised
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