Scroll published a story which exposed the ‘un-ethical journalism’ being practiced by India Today anchor Rahul Kanwal. The story laid down details of how Rahul covered a ‘mock-drill’ of conflict between Naxals and army. The video had ‘Reconstruction’ written in a corner. Still, Rahul didn’t manage to explain to his audience that the video was of a ‘staged conflict’.
BBC Correspondent Salman Ravi has criticised this style of “embedded journalism”. He said that speaking to army personnel during tensed situation is not ethical. Rahul’s show which runs with hashtag #JabWeMet was termed as #JabWeFakedJournalism. Here is the Facebook post of Salman Ravi which not only questioned Rahul’s ‘kind of journalism’, but criticized it too.
These people make our task difficult and dangerous. He is making a mockery of all those who are risking their lives in the conflict zone. He is, at the same time, also making a mockery of the men in uniform that he is accompanying. A mockery of their sacrifices.
Is this sham just for the sake of TRPs ?
Covering the conflict zones for almost three decades, I can still not think of doing something like this. In all these years, there have been many occasions, that I was subject to frisking and harassment by vigilante groups, police and even armed Maoist squads. I also faced detention from both the sides. Not to talk about the humiliation and threats that followed.
(If you google – Open letter to BBC Correspondent Salman Ravi from Maoists you can imagine the difficulties of reporting from such area. Reporting truth and not fiction and stage-managed reports for TRPs or trying to be a hero)
At BBC we reporters have been trained to report as it is and not to manufacture news. We stick to the strict guidelines of ethics by reporting both sides of the fence. The BBC spends a lot on its reporters so that they get their fact right and cross check them before going on air or publishing it. These are the values that we have been carrying with us.
I did not make news out of it knowing well it is a part of professional hazards while working in such areas. Even during this tour, covering the elections, I was stalked. Followed by unidentified men. The front glass of my car was broken. Police was informed verbally. Unidentified bike riders suddenly overtook my car, took pictures and sped away. Still I did not make news out of it.
There was an occasion during this tour when I happened to reach a spot at a wrong time in Bijapur when the security forces were trying to defuse powerful land mines by exploding them. It was a dangerous situation for all of us there at the spot.
I was asked by the commandant who was leading the operation not to film the moment they were exploding the powerful explosive. I abided by what they said. I did do a walk-through at the spot with their permission.
But, I did not speak to anyone of them who were tensed due to the situation and the threat to everyone’s life who were present at the place where help couldn’t have come even after hours.
I feel hurt with this kind of journalism. So do many other serious and upright journalists here in Bastar who have been risking their lives to bring out the real picture that the sponsored and embedded journalists para-dropping from Delhi will never do.
Even on Sunday, a group of local journalists in Sukma were detained for several hours and humiliated by an armed group of Maoist rebels. On Sunday itself a BSF jawan deployed for election duty in Bastar’s Kanker died of heart attack due to stress. And, Mr. Kanwal is making a mockery of this conflict.
Maybe Rahul Kanwal’s next venture could be an expert book.
Let me suggest the title of his book – Udta Bastar.
Or Maybe- Doobta Bastar ….
For God’s sake….
What say ?
As my former Reuters colleague Krittivas Mukherjee rightly says, Kanwal should have put the hashtag as
- Salman Ravi