Is media resorting to self-censorship on Ayodhya?

The run-up to the court verdict on the title suit in the Ayodhya dispute has seen plenty of activity built around the media. The News Broadcasters’ Association—the body representing private television news and current affairs broadcasters—has issued a set of four guidelines to all editors of member-news channels:

1) All news relating to the High Court judgment in the case should be verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgement uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation.

2) No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgement before it is pronounced ; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.

3) No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any new item relating to the judgement.

4) No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgement.

Citing the size of the court room, the media (print and electronic) have been kept away from the compound of the Allahabad high court, and the court has gone so far as to say that the media must not speculate about the verdict till it has a copy of the operational part of the order.

Now, the Union home minister P. Chidambaram has urged the media to “reserve judgement and not make hasty pronouncements.”

While the precautions are no doubt understandable given the preciousness of human life, a good question to ask is, is the Indian media resorting to self-censorship in order to present a better face? In the process of doing so, is it allowing itself to be told what to do and what not to do, thus depriving viewers of what they should know?

If all this passes muster in the name of “self-restraint”, where does this self-restraint vanish on normal days? Is the NBA’s call for self-restraint now an admission of the utter lack of it on regular days?

Was the killing and mayhem that followed the demolition of the Babri masjid by Hindutva goons, while BJP leaders watched in 1992, squarely a fault of the media? Conversely, if the media weren’t around for this and other stories, would India be a land of milk and honey?

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

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6 Responses to “Is media resorting to self-censorship on Ayodhya?”

  1. Rowdy-Ranga Says:

    its high time that they put in a Gag Order on the media…. With the Music background they make it look like a thriller movie rather than reporting news..

    cant wait to see how the media will go ga-ga over this ruling.

  2. Anonymous Guy Says:

    The guidelines seem fair.

    In a country where many people have no civic sense and start rioting/destroying property at the drop of a hat, anything helps.

  3. Anand Shankar K N Says:

    This is simply an admission of guilt- they do not exercise restraint on a normal day. Remember the reporting of 26//11? Remember exit polls, opinion polls? Media definitely hypes up every small issue and so these guidelines bring out what the media has failed to do all these years- provide news that is correct and not speculate. It comes to its own conclusions on every issue which might spark off tensions and they are known to quote people out of context or use just small sections of the actual quote to reach some weird conclusion just to add spice to their news presentation.

    They must present facts, events as it happened and offer an unbiased opinion which is not what the media does these days and hence these regulations have become a necessity. We need to seriously think about how the media behaves these days, perhaps once the ayodhya verdict is done, they will do some soul searching.

  4. karihaida Says:

    What Madam wants the media delivers

  5. M Vijapurkar Says:

    I am not sure if there would be a restraint.

    Last night, CNN-IBN had a half-hur show, anchored from Ayodhya by Sagarika Ghosh and it was touch and go with regard to the advisory.

    A young thing from a Hindi news channel asked me if I would like to be on a panel on the day of the judgement. She and her office was unaware of the advisory because “our Delhi HQ did not tell us anything about it!”

    Restraint comes rarely and with difficulty to the media, especially the electronic.

  6. twistleton Says:

    Wow!
    If only they did this everyday

    The media may atleast be stopped from doing harm, since they don’t seem to be doing any good.

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