Chief Justice Against œPervasive Media Coverage Of Terror Attacks

"Pervasive" media coverage of terror attacks came in for sharp criticism by Chief Justice of India Justice K G Balakrishnan on Saturday who said it could provoke a disproportionate level of anger and irrational desire
chief justice against pervasive media coverage of...
PTI November 21, 2009 17:06 IST

"Pervasive" media coverage of terror attacks came in for sharp criticism by Chief Justice of India Justice K G Balakrishnan on Saturday who said it could provoke a disproportionate level of anger and irrational desire for retribution.

At the International Conference of Jurists on Terrorism, which began in Delhi on Saturday,  there was some drama when the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to India staged a walk out when former Union Minister Ram Jethmalani accused the Wahabi sect of being responsible for terrorism.

"While it is fair for the media to criticize the inadequacies in the security and law enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility that the resentment fuelled by media coverage can turn into an irrational desire for retribution," Justice Balakrishnan said.

 He said one must take note of the fact that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens  has also been considerably amplified by pervasive media coverage.

"The proliferation of 24-hour news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a wide audience within a short span of time," the CJI said.

Cautioning media about the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage of terror attacks, he said, it can provoke a disproportionate level of anger among people leading to irrational desire for retribution.

The CJI  said if terrorists attacks were attributed to individuals belonging to a certain ethnic or religious community then it may result in unreasonable discrimination and retaliation against ordinary members of that community. 

 "We must take note of the fact that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by pervasive media coverage.

"The proliferation of 24-hour news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a wide audience within a short span of time," he said.

Justice Balakrishanan said while it was fair for the media to criticise the inadequacies in the security and law enforcement apparatus, there was also a possibility that the resentment fuelled by media coverage can turn into an irrational desire for distribution.

"For instance, if terrorist strikes are attributed to individuals belonging to a certain ethnic or religious community, then the same may result in unreasonable discrimination and retaliation against ordinary members of that community," he said. 

The CJI said that such a trend was clearly visible in the United States aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and have been cause of the communal violence in many instances even in India.

At the conference, senior lawyer and former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani  ruffled feathers by terming the Non-Aligned Movement and Panchsheel as "evil" in the presence of President Pratibha Patil and several international dignitaries, but the government quickly responded by rejecting his views.

"Non-alignment is evil, Panchsheel is evil. You have to align with forces of good to combat the forces of evil...India and its foreign ministers must learn to reassess the doctrines of past," he said. 

He said India's foreign policy establishment should be courageous to shun country's relationships with its enemies.

 Law Minister M Veerappa Moily responded saying that India's commitment to NAM "would not be shaken by any country or any individual. Views expressed by my senior colleague Mr Jethmalani are not the views of the government. And we entirely disagree with the views expressed by him."

Jethmalani alleged that "Wahabi terrorism" indoctrinated "rubbish" in the minds of young people to carry out terrorist attacks.

It was unfortunate that the entire Islam as a religion was being blamed for terrorism, he said, adding that "there are also Hindu terrorists and Buddhist terrorists."

  When Jethmalani was delivering his address as the president of All India Senior Advocates Association, President Patil and Moily were seen exchanging notes.

 Referring to Jethmalani comments, Justice Awn S Al-Khasawneh, a judge of the International Court of Justice, asked him not "to make sweeping statements." 

Jethmalani lamented that India had friendly relations with a country that supported Wahabi terrorism.  Following Jethmalani's speech, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Faisal-al-Trad was seen walking out of the conference, apparently taking offence at the remarks.

Organiser of the event Adesh Agarwala said the Ambassador had walked out but returned after Moily's statement that the views expressed by Jethmalani were not that of the government.

      

 
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