This letter originally appeared @ www.thehoot.org TheHoot.org on Oct 24th 2009 [Participants in the hostage handover?]
The behavior of the media in their coverage of the Atindranath Dutta release has me confused. News Channels on the one hand are protesting that the government is negotiating with terrorists. On the other hand, they were falling all over themselves to play a role in the hand-over of the hostage.
With so many journalists present, it would have been impossible for the para-military forces to engage in a counter-offensive with the Naxals, without putting the journalists at risk. The state government had no choice but to stand by and watch as the media took the bait, hook, line and sinker from Naxals. I cannot put this down to the media being naive.
Correspondents on the ground have been far more sensitive, intelligent and “journalistic” in their approach to stories than their counterparts in the corporate studios. This time however, these correspondents were more than willing to engage not as observers to the hostage drama but as participants in the hand-over of the hostage. There was nothing “humanitarian” about their participation. Their biggest contribution to the hostage drama was in making it impossible for the government to play hardball with the Naxalites. The Naxals did this by spoon feeding the media and keeping them one-step ahead of the government. The media was used and manipulated into weakening the government ability to engage with the Naxals. The media, in my opinion, could not have been oblivious to this. The media was more than happy to be used.
October 23, 2009