Media’s Must Step Forward

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After the end of the Cold War, when the Spy vs. Spy, one-up-man-ship game between the Western Bloc (read USA) and the Eastern Bloc (read USSR) too became somewhat redundant, in a letter to the editor to the Time magazine written half in earnest criticising the CIA’s diminished role and its increasingly sloppy performances, somebody wrote that the media is doing a much better job in investigating matters of public interest than the intelligence department and for this reason it should be disbanded. The anecdotal remark rings yet again in another corner of the world – Manipur, and in a different context. Over a month and a half after the reported arrest of the chairman of the UNLF, RK Sanayaima in Dhaka, the government has not even been able to, or else interested in, verifying of the news. It continues on as if nothing happened and has not denied or acknowledges the news. At best it has been ambivalent, saying Bangladesh government has not communicated on the matter. Would anybody doubt the matter is not trivial for a place like Manipur, torn by violence for decades with no end in sight still? The facts of the matter in the reported arrest can have a serious bearing on whether the state finds a path to peace or else remain in a state of perpetual conflict and chaos.

The anecdotal jab on the CIA has another part to it. This is where the relevant advice is for the Manipur media. If the government is unwilling, the media should shoulder the responsibility to dig out the news to the extent it is mandated to. Since individual media organisations in the state would not have the resource to send their own journalists to Dhaka, the All Manipur Working Journalists Union, AMWJU, and other related bodies such as the Editor’s Forum and the Manipur Press Club, should pool in resources to send some journalists to follow up the news. So far, the information has been from secondary sources, and such a journalist team from the state should at least be able to give a clearer picture of what the truth behind the arrest is. It is interesting in this regard that the Associated Press, AP, the American news and photo agency, has a history as we are now suggesting AMWJU should do. Associated Press is a news cooperative formed in the spring of 1846 by five daily newspapers in New York City in order to share the cost of transmitting news of the Mexican War by boat, horse express, and telegraph. The success in its first project ensured the news agency’s continued existence and indeed phenomenal expansion. Necessity, after all is the mother of invention. This is the occasion for the AMWJU to also come up with such an invention, and who knows, like the non-profit AP, where member newspapers contribute to as well as use the news it generates, the AMWJU can have a different wing doing a similar service for the media in the state. If not as grand, it could in future at least send journalists to important events anywhere in the world with contributed money – the London Olympics in 2012 for instance.

It is absolutely confounding how the government can remain silent on the matter for so long, knowing full well this may be an opportunity to build a key bridge which may ultimately lead to a light at the end of the tunnel. In any case, since insurgency has been always treated as an internal turmoil rather than an external war, the government is obliged by law to establish the veracity of the news of the arrest, and if true, have the arrested man extradited to India. Thereafter, the law can take its own course to deliver justice. But no government worth its salt can afford to simply abandon the issue where it is now, and expect the issue as well as public discontent on the matter to wash away on its own. It is not a question of any support for the cause the UNLF chief stood for that we are talking about, but of the discharge of an important governmental responsibility in ensuring the law of the land is what determines government action under all circumstance. There is time yet for the government to make the move to show it is earnestly pursuing the issue. If not, in the interest of news, for the issue is of extreme news value in Manipur and indeed the entire Northeast, the media must take up the responsibility of doing the necessary and mandated investigation. It must get the Bangladeshi official version of the episode and bring the matter to a conclusion. This is all the more necessary because the Northeast does not make news and it would be unwise to simply wait for another report from the Bangladeshi media or the metropolitan media in India, to know of whatever development there has been in the month and half that have gone by.

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