Before landing in India, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a nine-hour visit to Bangladesh where he asked the media to not report on terror attacks. “It’s easy to terrorize. Government and law enforcement have to be correct 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But if you decide one day you’re going to be a terrorist and you’re willing to kill yourself, you can go out and kill some people. You can make some noise,” Kerry said in Dhaka.
“Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn’t cover it quite as much. People wouldn’t know what’s going on,” he added. Kerry’s comments came in the backdrop of the French media deciding against publishing the names and photographs of terrorists in July. The move intended to prevent slain terrorists from garnering posthumous glorification.
Prof. Biswajit Das felt that it is not news about terrorism but news itself that terrorizes. “The way the news is framed because of certain vested interests may terrorize a section of people,” said Das, Director at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia.
He pointed out that instead of discarding the media’s role in highlighting terror incidents, the real question should be around the manner in which the media frames the debate and sensationalism in reportage. “Ideally, media should not highlight names because we have seen in the past how certain communities have been attacked deliberately,” he said.
Senior journalist NK Singh opined that Kerry’s advice was not appropriate in the Indian context. “Media cannot refrain from reporting on terrorism because such coverage alerts the public as also the government regarding the magnitude of terrorism,” he said.
Lack of reportage would lead to the political class taking a casual approach towards terrorism, Singh argued. However, he warned against the media making heroes out of terrorists. “So far as the conduct of media is concerned, India is at a completely different stage of public information delivery mechanism,” he added.
Kerry’s comments may be relevant for the United States but they do not hold much water in our country where a state government had previously let off terrorists before elections to win a few votes, he concluded. The people should be made aware of such dangerous political designs.