"Terrorists are suspected to be in 9th floor.."
"NSG troop has arrived in Mumbai…"
"NSG commandos have entered the Hotel…"
Some of the information telecasted live by all news channels on the event of recent Mumbai terror attacks. News channels have an objective- to bring latest news and share with readers, much before any competitor channel. But I feel this habit of indiscriminate live reporting, while a combat operation is in progress, can be catastrophic for the success of any military operation against terror.
Let us just think for a while. Do we really need to know everything on a ‘as soon as it happens’ basis? I feel NO. Whether NSG Commandos have just arrived at airport, or have entered the hotel or in first floor or second at this moment, is not necessary to be telecasted to general public in realtime. Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside.
Consider this- the commandos just know that militants are somewhere inside the hotel- but militants know everything through TV-
- Who is being called (Army/NSG/Marines/Local police etc)
- What is their ETA (Estimated time of Arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin- element of surprise will not there to the benefit of commandos)
- Where are they right now- at the main entrance/just entered/floor
- How the world is responding- Is there a pressure mounting on the Govt to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed? (so that they can act tough during negotiation)
- How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)
- What has been the impact of their strike-how many police and civilian dead, the current morale of police, who all as been detained/suspected?
- Live visuals of the street-to assess a possible escape strategy
- What information about them the outside world has (which floor they are in, their head count etc
- And many more...
Our publicity savvy politicians are also to be blamed for leaking every bit of information to the media.
All these information would help them consolidate their position and pose greater challenge to commandos trying to hunt them down.
Why is our media helping them by airing live all the sensitive information about the anti terror operations? Common man do not need to know them on a live basis. Can’t the I&B (Information & broadcasting) ministry think of banning live reporting? At least the channels should show some responsibility. Let the news channels air the news with a delay of few hours, so that the police and security agencies will have a lead time to finish their task, wherein terrorists would be as equally uninformed as they are. Please note that I am not advocating a censorship- I do not want a situation where Govt decides what to be aired and what not. I am all for free speech and expression. What I am proposing, is that security agencies should have the power to impose a delay of say 3 to 6 hours w.r.t live reporting of anti terror operations, when such operations are still in progress. Let the TV channels record whatever they want, but they should be aired only after a gap of few hours. Few information that generic public should be aware of (areas where curfew is imposed, emergency contact numbers etc) can be aired with permission from security agencies. I do not think anyone loses anything with this.
The movie- A Wednesday, also shares same opinion. I feel the good old days of Once in a day news bulletin was far better. What do you think?
This post is dedicated to all brave police officials and innocent civilians who lost their lives in yesterday’s terror attack in Mumbai
www.smallchange.in is an online initiative on the same issue- you may go and sign the petition there.
Photo from IBNlive. Cross posted on Churumuri
December 19 Update: This report suggests Media is willing to adopt certain self regulatory guidelines.