So why did the Indian media choose to ignore a huge human tragedy which, by virtue of its proportions, has to be considered “breaking news” by any objective criteria, asks KALPANA SHARMA
Posted Wednesday, Aug 11 23:50:10, 2010
On August 6, the BBC carried extensive reports on the terrible floods in
That evening I checked the main news bulletins on three English news channels, Times Now, NDTV and CNN/IBN. There was not a word on any of these channels about the devastation in our neighbouring country.
The next day, August 7, I checked five Mumbai editions of English language newspapers ' The Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, DNA and Mint—as well as The Hindu on the net. Barring The Hindu, the only Indian newspaper with a correspondent in Pakistan, not a single paper even mentioned the floods although all carried news of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to the UK and his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
By August 8, some reports did appear but more often than not they emphasized the political angle, such as the criticism in
So why did the Indian media choose to ignore a huge human tragedy which, by virtue of its proportions, has to be considered “breaking news” by any objective criteria? Going by a traditional understanding of events considered newsworthy, any natural disaster affecting such a large population anywhere in the world would fall into this category. Disasters closer home merit even greater interest. Hence
One could argue that floods are an annual phenomenon in vast swathes of the subcontinent and a media now obsessed with the exceptional or sensational is bound to treat such events as routine. Indeed, two years ago the floods in
Yet one cannot fail to notice that torrential rain and mudslides in
Even when reports appeared, they spoke of an angle that presumably would interest Indian readers, such as “terror” groups collecting funds for relief efforts much as they did for the
Does this, in fact, illustrate how the media on both sides of the border contributes to a narrow and limited picture that remains firmly fixated on the areas of dispute and conflict whereas our two countries, virtually joined at the hip, share much more in common than we care to admit? The aam admi and aurat have similar problems. The natural environment is a mirror image in some parts, not to speak of overlaps in cultural heritage. Yet there is precious little of this other
If we read reports about the devastation caused by these floods, the problems of getting across relief, the misappropriation of relief funds, the efforts of civil society groups and the disappointment and anger against politicians, we would realise that our experiences during such natural disasters is not that different from theirs.
What is different is the trenchant and frank criticism of their leaders. We tend to be far more polite. Read Café Pyala for a brutally frank take on current developments in
“So Zardari was an insensitive ass. But is that such breaking news that the media focus shifts entirely to undermining him? Were he not the president, would the suffering of the affectees of the biggest floods in
Clearly, politics and entertainment and politics asentertainment have become far more important to media on both sides than the sudden and perennial tragedies that affect millions of ordinary people.
I want to end this column with a quote from Basharat Peer's searing “Letter to an unknown Indian” in the Economic Times (
“When pain makes it difficult to articulate coherently, quiet remembrance helps. Like many other Kashmiris, I have been in silence, committing to memory, the deed, the date. The faces of the murdered boys, the colour of their shirts, their grieving fathers — these might disappear from the headlines, but they have already found their place in our collective memory.