Media Under Pressure: CNN News 18 Drops Explosive Encounter Story; NDTV India 'Punished'
NEW DELHI: “Q: Should we keep any one alive?
A: No not at all”
“Kill them all”, “If they are not dead yet kill them all”, “Game is Over, All 8 will have to die now”, “Don’t hesitate, finish them all” are just some of the phrases that were flashed by CNN News 18 across television screens. The channel said it was playing wireless exchanges between the Police Van and the Police Control Room as the eight alleged SIMI suspects were killed in an encounter that has raised serious questions of fair play. This audio tape with incriminating evidence as per the news telecast by the channel follows a short video clip of the alleged encounter earlier. This was widely circulated, shared by most television channels and was available on Youtube. The men were seen as unarmed, and the video had the cops pumping a second round of bullets into an inert body of one of the victims,
Serious questions were raised as a result about the encounter being fake, with opposition leaders and the media demanding an impartial enquiry.
The wireless exchanges obtained exclusively by CNN News 18 went several steps further as the above quotes show. And virtually established through the conversations that the police on the ground had been directed to eliminate all the suspects, and ensure that no one lived to tell the tale.
A citizen on YouTube has however, ensured that the story is not completely lost even though it never did make it to prime time:
As the word spread of the new ‘evidence’ and more and more persons switched on to the channel that seemed to be defying the current television norm by playing the tape, the news was seemingly suddenly dropped. The channel cut to what it described as #OROPDeathPolitics and the big headline story disappeared as if it had never been telecast.
There was not a word of explanation, not even a blurb to indicate that TVNews 18 had been playing the tapes of the wirless exchanges for at least an hour if not more, raising questions arising from the exchanges, and calling for an independent enquiry into the death of the 8 undertrials.
It was bold journalism in these times, and raised eyebrows within the journalistic community. In fact even as a journalist informed this reporter of the news breaking on the channel he added, “surprising that they are actually showing all this. It is enough to place the government in the dock now.”
The surprise ended a little later with CNN News 18 taking the news and the tapes off the air with coverage moving to OROP. A blockbuster story by any journalistic standards was dropped, without a word of explanation. It is as if it never was with viewers coming on to the channel after 620pm or thereabouts not even getting a whisper that the channel had actually got hold of tapes that confirmed police collusion in wiping out eight suspects.
CNN News 18 is owned by Reliance industrialist Mukesh Ambani.The story disappeared just as the anchors and the news team were building the story, and the evening campaign on these sensational wireless exchanges. It was taken off air shortly after the channel had Minister of State for Home Affairs Kirit Rijiju came on to say that he could not understand why such questions were being raised, and that scribes would do well not to question the police and the authorites on their work. The anchor came back on to play the tapes and raise the questions when suddenly...poof… it all vanished without a trace.
Meanwhile NDTV India that has been under the government scanner for a while has been served a show cause notice for its coverage of the Pathankot terrorattack. An inter ministerial committee of the Information and Broadcasting ministry was formed to look into these allegations, and recommended that the Hindi channel of NDTV---becoming increasingly popular because of an independent anchor---be taken off the air as a punishment for a day on November 9. If this happens---the news was not confirmed by either the government or officially by the channel---this will the first ever such action against a broadcaster.
The committee that was set up predictably recommended that crucial information about the Pathankot terror attacks had been telecast by the channel and that this could have been picked up by the handlers of terrorists to “cause massive harm not only to national security but also to lives of civilians and defence personnel.”
Reports suggest that the channel in its response to the show cause had said that the information put out on the channel was all in the public domain, and that the committee’s was a case of what it termed “subjective interpretation”. The committee did not agree that the material had been printed by newspapers as well.
The committee has now recommended that as a punishment the channel be taken off air for a day.
The Citizen has received the following tweets in response: