Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistan custody: Somebody, mute the media!

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First Published 28, Feb 2019, 7:50 PM IST
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Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistan custody somebody mute media
Highlights

The moment of silence, as far as Indian media was concerned, was on Tuesday when Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was imprisoned by the Pakistan authorities. It was an occasion for reflection and quietude. But the media muffed the occasion by its blundering blabber. It played India right into the hands of India’s enemies

In the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon there is a time-honoured tradition: the moment the chair umpire says, “quiet, please”, the crowds just stop their noise. Even the commentators, who are supposed to enlighten the TV audiences, mostly don’t talk when a rally is on.

In cricket, the incessantly talking commentators generally go silent when the bowler is about to deliver the ball.

In golf, the commentators discuss in barely-audible whispers, and when a player is about to putt, they pipe down.

Also read: Imran Khan buckles; Pakistan to return Abhinandan Varthaman under pressure

The point is even when it comes to action-packed events, there are moments that call for silence and solemnity. It allows everyone around to take in the action, understand its essence and make their own judgement.

The moment of silence, as far as Indian media was concerned, was on Tuesday when Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was imprisoned by the Pakistan authorities. It was an occasion for reflection and quietude.

But the media muffed the occasion by its blundering blabber. It played India right into the hands of India’s enemies.

It was a sad contrast, even as Abhinandan was holding his nerve, saying nothing to his Pakistan inquisitors, here back in India the TV media guys were putting out all the details of the detained man in unthinking abandon. They gave out his squadron, the aircraft he flew in, his family details. Except his Aadhaar number everything was out in the open.

It was insensitive and silly. The worrying part is that it is media irresponsibility that keeps helping Pakistan whenever there is a flashpoint between the two countries.

The Kandahar hijack drama readily comes to the mind. India gave in to the demands of the terrorists because the mood of the nation was swayed by the emotional pictures of the relatives of those in the aircraft. The media then chose to interview the aggrieved family and friends of those in that flight and play the dramatic pictures incessantly. The government of the day took the cue from those images and quietly acquiesced to the whims of the terrorists. It was classic example of agenda-setting by the media. But it is the government that is still left holding the can for that fiasco.

The Agra summit between India and Pakistan was also famously undone due to the shenanigans of a few channels, and the sly old fox Pervez Musharraf took advantage of that. The summit failed spectacularly.

At the height of the Mumbai terrorists’ attacks in 2008, the ultras hiding in the Taj Hotel were planning and plotting their moves based on the crucial bits of information that media were carelessly and thoughtlessly feeding in their telecasts.

It was alleged that during the Kargil War one woman journalist’s presence helped the Pakistan army zero in on the location, and bomb, an Indian post. A senior commander lost his life in that attack.

As you can see, there is a clear pattern in almost all of these. It is the Indian media that is letting the country down.

That  Indian TV journalism lacks heft and sensitivity is well known. But it is shooting itself in the foot even on matters of national security is troubling.

Even on social media platforms, some of these TV journalists were heightening the emotion with their ill-advised tweets and posts. Their bitterness and antagonism for Narendra Modi had grown such that they wouldn’t mind seeing India suffer.  It was not impossible to feel that some of these journos were actually happy inside that Abhinandan had been captured because it gave them a stick to beat the Modi government with.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

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