Leader Writer : Paojel Chaoba
The functioning of the Media is to disseminate news, to cover events, investigate, observe and to make copy without prejudice. There are no friends or foes and impartiality is the main principle that a publication must bank on for credibility, anything else would border on being unethical.
Truth be told, the media organizations of the State suffers constant harassment from state and non state actors, editors are given death threats and news offices have been ransacked on many incidents in the past. The Media has to walk the tight rope with the precision of an acrobat when there are many shaking both ends of the rope.
When caught between the proverbial Devil and the deep blue sea situation, the ultimate resort of state media is to cease publications and to protest, the fruitfulness of such protests remains questionable on whether justice has been done or not. Past incidents involving media persons being assaulted by police in the aftermath of the July 23rd Khwairmband Bazar incident led to similar protests demanding ‘cleansing’ of the Police Department. After a few days, the home department issued a notice that the SP’s of two districts have been transferred. The Media on the response called off the strike whereas the transfernever actually took place.
The recent incident of arrest of Sanaleibak editor A Mubi on grounds of having links with a certain UG outfit caused an uproar among the journalists’ community of the state. Another 6 days went without publication of newspapers, demanding his unconditional release by the home department. Finally, the editor was released on bail and a General Body meeting held by the journalists approved on the grounds of release. Another decision was taken to boycott news of the achievements of the Police, the Congress and CPI until the charge against the editor has been dropped. The decision remained in effect and programs of the MLAs of the Congress party were not covered, until a recent news about the portfolio reshuffle of Cabinet Ministers made the headlines of all the papers. IFP carried the news in the interest of our readers after finding out that the other papers were going to publish the said news, that was at 1 am in the morning as the news was left out earlier in respect to the decision taken by AMWJU.
The question still stands on the what grounds the news was eligible for publication according to the resolution taken by the scribe’s body. The senior authorities of the journalist’s fraternity would know better and the decision would have been taken in the best of interests.
Still, the media community needs to rethink certain decisions and look before we leap as expected from an intellectual circle of the society. Going headlong into a maze without knowing the way out may somewhat lead to an embarrassing situation. The experience and knowledge of veteran journalists are much valued by all sections and tendered respect accordingly. It will be in the best of interests if we try not to lose that respect.
The conflict situation in the state hardly needs to be addressed, as all sections are suffering and not only the media. As there will certainly be black sheep’s in all organizations, the media too has its own as none is perfect. The elected, judiciary and the executives have theirs too, the media also referred to as the fourth estate and the ‘watchdog of the society’ must sacrifice sentiments on grounds of neutrality and cannot act like a pressure group. Otherwise a situation might arise on the need for someone to watch the watchdog. Manipur is a democratic state and though many wrongs are committed within the system with such black laws as AFSPA, 1958, one must have faith and remember that justice and truth must at last prevail. The cause of Irom Sharmila is the strongest non violent form of protest against the violation of human rights, she has etched her place in the annals of history through her commitment and principles and made her stand against insurmountable odds. The public in respect to her dedication have followed her with faith.
The media needs to introspect that if Sharmila had broken her fast, what would have been the outcome and would the sentiments of the public have remained in such a manner. Everyone has their place and responsibility in the society and the media also needs to act within the journalistic ethics as expected and not always with a “In Rome do as the Romans do” attitude.