The Ayodhya verdict is being seen as a major threat to the peace and harmony of this country. States are on high alert. The forthcoming court judgment is being anticipated with some nervousness by the residents of Ayodhya and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh, where the state government has requested 35,000 added paramilitary police to deal with any disturbance. To add further pressure the timing of the judgement might coincide with the Commonwealth Games. Schools, colleges and institutions all across the country have decided to remain closed on this day and the common man has decided to stay home and follow this whole incident on TV.
An important question of the hour is - who are we afraid of? What is the greatest threat to the secularist fabric of this nation today? Is it the Hindus, who demonstrated their rage when the mosque was demolished? Is it the Muslims, who have been denied justice for a long time? The answer is neither. It is the media that is to be feared at this hour! Let the high court decide the good and the bad. But it is media, that is, and has remained ugly for quite some time.
Let’s roll back. In early March, 2001, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) staged a protest in Delhi against the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. Rumours circulated that copies of the Quran were being burnt at this meeting. VHP denied the rumours, but media aired them anyway. A rage erupted after Friday prayers all across the country. More than a dozen died in Kanpur. It was not Hindus or Muslims who killed them. It was the media!
One year later - In early March 2002, Gujarat was imploding in the wake of the Godhra incident. People were being slaughtered. Buildings were set alight. In one such building, a media representative claimed that the burning of Quran had been physically witnessed. The truth was that in midst of the blazing building, other items were consumed by the fire including books. So what was the purpose of this moron specifically referring to the burning of the Quran? This only added more fuel to the fire, scars of which can still be seen in the faces of innocent people who lost everything they had in those bloody riots.
26/11/2008, Mumbai - The way the media covered this whole ugly incident live, created fear and mayhem across the nation. Ask anyone who was glued to their television at the time and they will recount how the attack was gratuitously exaggerated. Had the media learnt no lessons from the Kandahar and Gujarat fiasco? It was their coverage of the Mumbai attack that provided terrorists across the border with live visual feedback for their direction of operations!
Is there no authorized body that regulates the media of this country? Are there no rules or code of conduct on reporting sensitive issues? By the way, there are no rules that govern media, but there are guidelines. Recently, the News Broadcasters' Association (NBA) issued specific guidelines to its member channels covering the Ayodhya verdict. They advised that the telecast of any news should not be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.
No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the judgment and no visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgment. There should be no speculation about the judgment before it is announced or of likely consequences after the verdict, which could be provocative. Over the years, the media has consistently proved to be the most unethical body in the country. Can we expect the dirty ratings-hungry media to follow these guidelines to keep the situation under control? Now that's a million dollar question, the answer to which the country of a billion awaits.