Articles Against National Interest or Military Threat
National interest is the interest of a nation as a whole in matter of defense, economy, foreign policy etc., and is superior to the interests of any sub-ordinate groups or even individuals for that matter. It plays a very important role in the matters of international relations of a country. While the state’s survival is considered primary, pursuit of wealth, economic growth and protection of its culture are also of utmost importance.
History-In the Indian constitution, the phrase “freedom of press” has not been used. However, freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of press. This freedom has been misused by media persons on various occasions in spite of the guidelines put forth by the government. However, the media has certain duties to its people as well. It hopes to have the freedom to inform and be informed at all times. There have been instances when the media has been prevented from doing its duties by the government as well. India is ranked 120th according to a survey conducted by reporters without borders. In this assignment, I shall highlight a few incidents where media ethics have been violated in terms of national interests and military threats.
Godhra riots (2002)
Ethically, media is expected to remain objective about any event while reporting a story. The pros and cons of an incident have to be covered without any kind of bias.
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The Godhra riots of 2002, was one event where the damage could have been minimized by media sensitivity as opposed to media sensationalism. Initially, when a bogey containing Hindu pilgrims was set on fire, there were absolutely no voices of comfort to the families of the deceased from the media or the government. Angered by this, the Hindus retaliated. While every newspaper carried headlines such as “genocide of Muslims” not one newspaper mentioned anything about a few Hindus who risked their own lives to protect the Muslims who were attacked.
In the Godhra riots, apart from local journalists usually more objective in their reports, no English media reporter, thought it worthwhile to look deeper into the events at the Godhra railway station. Nobody came to question possible survivors of the tragedy. Is a coach of Hindu pilgrims even worth the trip? They had to wait for the “elite” to react; they had to receive directives from the politically correct, before taking their pens. Worse, they reported deliberate rumors and made up versions as actual news.
Emergency in India was a 21-month period which was declared by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under the advice of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. During this controversial period, the civil rights of the people were suspended and censorship was imposed. In addition to the common man, the judiciary and the media bore the maximum brunt of the excesses of the emergency. The Constitution, which is the most sacred document of any functioning democracy, was subverted in the most ruthless manner possible.
The fourth estate of democracy i.e. the media was also not spared. Censorship was imposed on newspapers and barring a few, like The Indian Express, no other newspaper had the courage to defy the censorship orders. When the Delhi edition appeared on June 28, The Indian Express carried a blank first editorial and the Financial Express reproduced in large type Rabindranth Tagore’s poem “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high” concluding with the prayer “Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
In fact, Ramnath Goenka, the daring proprietor of the newspaper, explains the ordeal in his own words. “The government, acting under the personal directions of Indira Gandhi, abused its authority and subverted lawful processes to liquidate me and my group of companies economically and make me an object of public ridicule and shame. One of the prime minister’s first acts on 26th June 1975 was to remove her mild-mannered and democratically inclined Information minister I. K. Gujral and replace him with Vidya Charan Shukla, who she thought would better serve her Goebbelsian design.” For the press, the emergency was a cruel reminder that the State can snatch its freedom arbitrarily. Hence, soon after the emergency ended, the Press Council of India was formed whose main aim was to safeguard the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. The emergency was a 21-month ordeal, which finally came to an end on January 23rd 1977; Indira Gandhi called for fresh elections and the release of all political prisoners.
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In spite of hardcore dictatorship and atrocities, the press failed to voice their opinion. Fear made the journalists forget their ethics. They made to stop writing in the name of “national security” but in reality, it was not. The threat to the nation throughout this 21 month period was caused by no one but the Government. The fact that the press did not have the courage to stand up against these atrocities itself shows lack of journalistic ethics. A time when legendary politicians like George Fernandez were arrested and even common man went against the duty, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the media derelicted its duty.
Defense Scam (2012)
When a certain amount of national capital is allotted for defense purposes, one of the major responsibilities involved is to make sure that secrecy of the defense inventory is upheld. This is something that countries and governments take very seriously. So, the 14 crore defense scam was a beautiful way to lay out loopholes in our defense strategies in the open for everyone in the world to see. It’s not a great sign for a developing nation when any random guy sitting in a country thousands of miles away can joke about how this country named India is having problems with protecting itself. Defense is usually analogous to discretion and that was something that was thrown into the trash when both the electronic/print media went into a freak race to, simply put, show off who had the maximum info about our defense secrets and what was wrong with what we had. On a totally unrelated note, a U.S marine was once asked,” How do you deal with whistle- blowers?” He had a simple answer-“We shoot them in the mouth”.
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The media frenzy that followed the 2g spectrum scam assured a nice little spot for India on Time magazine’s Top 10 Abuses of Power list. A second spot, to be precise. Although it’s not uncanny for any news medium to rip open a case of this magnitude, the attention surrounding the 2g spectrum scandal did manage to cast a permanent shadow over the fate of some of India’s largest telecom establishments. The Stock market was hurt at a time when it really couldn’t take any more blows and the politico-business idiocy of the nation was laid out for a session of international level lampooning which may continue for years to come.
In today’s world, media has become highly sensationalized. Amidst the desperation to gain fame and profits, the press is forgetting its commitment to the readers. There are many examples that can be handpicked from the past where the ignorance of the media has caused a threat to national security. News reports continually focused on each and every move of the terrorist attacks at Taj and all the other areas of Mumbai. People remained glued to their television sets as the dreadful drama unfolded on television. While brave officers lost their lives, television journalists held microphones before distraught people to know their reactions. Every minute, channels gave ‘live coverage’ about Mumbai’s 26/11 terror attacks. These abstained the pace of the rescue operation.
Media can be a powerful tool to help people in a time like this. Media plays an important role when it comes to asking for help for the needy, flashing news about the status of the rescued people and such issues that can help improve the situation or help people in need. However, giving a minute-by-minute coverage about important activities by the security services is surely not a wise move and can never be justified.
Media can move mountains but only if the journalists really want to do so. It is important that the media learns from its mistakes from the past and become more responsible, especially in times where there is a threat to the security of the nation. The Indian society is so diverse that even the slightest of mistake in use of words can hurt the emotions of the people. The journalists have to remain objective abide by the media laws and do not forget their work ethics.
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