India's media blasted for sensational Mumbai coverage
With tensions running high between India and Pakistan, the press is being urged to quit fanning the flames.
Emerging from decades of government control and regulations, India's media are quickly evolving into a boisterous, zealous fourth estate, most observers agree. But coverage of the 67-hour Mumbai (Bombay) terrorist attacks has caused unprecedented condemnation, especially toward 24-hour television news channels. Critics describe it as "TV terror" for showing gory scenes, being too aggressive, and often reporting incorrect information as fact.
"They don't need to apologize as much as they need to introspect – figure out how to operate in a time of crisis," says Dipankar Gupta, sociology professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
On the evening of Nov. 26, well-coordinated attacks against two five-star hotels, a hospital, a popular cafe, a railway station, and a Jewish center brought the financial capital of India to its knees, leaving at least 171 dead and more than 230 injured.
In the following days, critics say, many Indian journalists were overly dramatic, sensationalist, and quick to report live "exclusives" of unconfirmed rumors. Many say TV anchors, who are minor celebrities in India, were overwrought with emotion and were quick to blame Pakistan for the attacks.
"It's high time we realize and accept that we are at fault," said Shishir Joshi, editorial director of Mid-Day, a Mumbai newspaper. "We did well getting into the line of fire, but from an ethical point of view we screwed up big-time."
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