The crisis-time media: come on, man; grow up

The so-called “revolt”, gunfire, massacre and bloodbath at Bangladesh border guard headquarters would surely change many aspects of the country’s security policy forever. While we mourn for the deceased army officers and feel enraged at brutality of those involved, it is also a time to rethink many aspects of our national life.
One of the significant aspects was the role and contribution of the media, especially the television channels. The journalists were seen working around the spot day and night. Despite their best effort to cover the incident, they left loopholes in their work. The media has also been criticized by many people for reporting in favour of the BDR soldiers busy killing many army officers and their family members. This warrants a clarification. On the first day of the attacks, no-one – absolutely no-one – realized the scale of bloodshed inside Peelkhana premises. There was no way to obtain the information on what was going on in there. Apart from those sounds of explosions, gunshots and mortar shells, as well as smoke, it wasn’t possible for anyone to get any information on the incident.
Having said that, this brutal incident has shown a few things related to the media, warranting attention.
First, how safe were the journalists who were covering the incident. They were seen on the streets filming where BDR soldiers were firing. The journalists from foreign media such a BBC and Al-Jazeera were seen wearing bulletproof gears. None of the TV channels and newspapers has probably ever thought about it, not to speak of the journalists themselves. One of the TV reporters was seen entering BDR headquarters with her camera crew when men with arms were firing guns. She spoke to a few “mutineers” with their face covered. Was she wearing any bulletproof vest? No. She must have received kudos from her journalist colleagues and became a hero, but just thing: what would happen if a bullet had hot her? One has to remember journalism is not any kind of heroism. A journalist’s personal safety is paramount during his/her work.
I’m sure Bangladesh’s newspapers as well as TV channels have never thought of this. They even never thought of buying a few bulletproof gears for journalists covering incidents during a crisis. I guess it’s time they thought about this.
Crisis-time reporting has more aspects to consider. One of the TV reporters was seen talking to a lady who was hiding inside the BDR headquarters. The reporter could establish contact with that lady. That’s fine. But he was asking the lady about her location; he even asked her the room number she was hiding in and how many persons were there with her. What was he thinking? Did he tell her that he was live on air? Did he forget that the soldiers who were shooting down officers and their families would be watching TV at that time and trace her? This report showed how that correspondent lacked the basic sense of journalism. Well, you cannot also blame the reporters alone. The news organizations they work in have absolutely no editorial policy. The news organizations don’t even organize trainings for their newsroom people. There’s probably a common perception that journalism doesn’t require any training. That’s not true. You need to train for everything, for god’s sake. There’s a lot to under in journalism.
Let’s tell you about another experienced TV correspondent:
When the troops were entering the BDR headquarters on 27 February 09 to run their search-and-rescue operation, many on Bangladeshi TV channels started reporting that the army was advancing with tanks. This led the home minister to say something – she alerted the journalists at a briefing, saying that they weren’t tanks, but APCs [armoured personnel carrier]. Interestingly, one TV correspondent was present at the briefing and used the minister’s video clip in his report later. The reporter began “his” report, saying that “the army went into BDR headquarters with ‘tanks’. He was committing the same mistake in his video report that the home minister corrected.
Come on, man! Grow up.

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