Hyderabad, April 7 (IANS) Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju Sunday said media was spreading communalism by its irresponsible reporting of terrorist attacks.
He vowed not to allow the media to spread communalism in the interest of the nation.
He was addressing a symposium on ‘Reporting terror: How sensitive is the media’ organised by The Hindu in association with NGO Help Hyderabad.
“Whenever bomb blasts take place, within an hour or so many TV channels say email has come or an SMS has been received from Indian Mujhideen or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul Jihad. They take some Muslim name. SMS can be sent by any mischievous person. This kind of reporting sends a message in the country that all Muslims are terrorists, demonizes the entire community and promotes communalism,” he said.
“Do you have freedom to promote communalism,” he asked while stating that no freedom is absolute and that it comes with certain reasonable restrictions.
Describing poverty and discrimination as main causes of terrorism, Katju said unless these two problems were addressed, terrorism can’t be eliminated.
He said the 21st century would witness struggles by people for a decent and dignified living as 80 percent of people remained poor despite the potential of the modern industry to create enough wealth to ensure a decent living for everybody.
“If a man is unemployed, he will have only two options. Either to commit suicide or become a criminal or a terrorist. Unless the poverty is removed, even the police force and the military can’t tackle terrorism,” he said.
Katju said Muslims in India had a sense of great injustice in all sectors like bank loans, jobs and even houses on rent. He called for following the policies of “great emperor Akbar and his successor Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru” to keep the country united.
The PCI chairman said 80 percent of Hindus and Muslims in India were communal and this was having an impact on all sectors, including media. He claimed that even elite were communal and castiest and pointed how elections to various bar councils and in universities are fought on caste lines.
Claiming that there was zero percent communalism in 1857, he said the British made Hindus and Muslims fight each under their divide and rule policy.
He clarified that he was raising voice for the justice to minorities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Katju said the British created a fake country called Pakistan to keep Hindus and Muslims continue fighting each other and to prevent India from emerging as an industrial giant.
The former Supreme Court judge predicted that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would re-unite in 15 to 20 years to emerge as a powerful, modern and secular country.
“You can’t have a theocratic state in the subcontinent which has tremendous diversity,” he said while calling Pakistan a mad house where dozens of people get killed in bomb blasts every day.
Katju called for an amendment to the PCI Act for to impose fine and suspend licenses of newspapers violating journalistic ethics and to bring TV channels under its ambit. “I met both the prime minister and leader of opposition in this regard but nothing has happened.”
Siddharth Vardarajan, editor of The Hindu, also decried the trend in a section of media to jump to conclusions about the identity of the culprits immediately after a bomb blast or any terror incident.
He said media organisations, specially TV channels, indulge in speculative reporting under the veil of anonymity.
NALSAR University vice chancellor Faizan Mustafa said media through its irresponsible coverage of terror acts was promoting and aiding terrorism. He said media was helping terrorists achieve their objective of gaining wide publicity.
Civil liberties leader G. Haragopal called for a debate on the causes, origin, dimensions and consequences of terrorism so that society is educated and strengthened.
Cyberabad police commissioner D. Tirumala Rao advised media to desist from aiding terrorists to achieve their objectives through propaganda of their deed and fear.