What Price - Democracy ?

Doom in the world outside, rings music to the media man’s ears – goes the old dictum. The aptness of this adage was on display on those fateful few days, which no Patriotic Indian can ever forget - the tragic events on that fateful night of November 26, 2008. Mumbai was burning, for over 70 nightmarish hours, from a cowardly act of terrorism, on innocent humans which claimed over a 175 lives. Indians, irrespective of their religious or regional identities, were glued to their TV sets praying for the brave security forces to weed out the dark forces, while the news channels went on a frenzy to gain TRP's under the guise of 'Breaking News".

The nation was up in arms – not only against the dark forces of terrorism, but against the Media in general, for not exercising restraint and crossing all lines, telecasting live, not only the carnage as it unfolded, but sensitive, critical and classified operations and movements of the armed forces. Little did they realize, that this live telecast would reach the evil forces as well, giving them immediate updates and information, to plan their next moves.

It was indeed a dark day for Indian Journalism, which clearly tripped over defined lines of journalistic conventions. The mushrooming growth of media agencies was hailed as an example of a ‘Free Press in a True Democracy’. The sprouting growth of news channels by the dozen was welcomed with a hope that the once censored, snail paced, government biased DD news would have alternatives. Little did the Indians bargain for the ultimate price that they had to pay - Security, Pride and Peace.

However, it is absolutely strange, that when a serious issue of National Security is at stake by such live footages of classified information and operations, the Government choose to turn a blind eye. They had the muscle power through the Police and the Army to keep the lens men and their anchors away, they had the powers during such national emergencies to take those who do not comply, to task, and above all, they had the technology to blank out the transmissions. All they had to do was to switch off a couple of transponders on the satellites (satellites serving the entertainment industry is different from the education or communication networks) and all forms of transmissions would be laid to rest. Instead, they chose to condemn the Media interference, through their spokespersons and participating in debates on the same media

Media Freedom comes with a price. Incidents like the Live Coverage of the Mumbai carnage is a classic example of the price the country and hence the society, has to pay to allow uncensored freedom to the media. Such inactions on extremely sensitive issues, is very dangerous to the freedom and democracy of this great country! It is time ‘Governance’ is defined for the Media, or else such irresponsible reporting will erode this country's basic spiritual fabric and cultural canvas.

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