The team found that media invented its own ways — unprofessional indeed — to report on the clashes and that such reports were one-sided
Manipur has turned itself from being a theatre of the absurd to the playground of the grotesque. A chief minister who has proved to be an abject failure in keeping his constitutional vow to protect the people under his care continues to be in the seat of power is the absurd; the grotesque comes in the form of a first information report against a fact-finding team of editors deputed by the Editors’ Guild of India and the president of the body for “trying to instigate more clashes” in the state.
The state has been on the boil for the last four months. Ethnic clashes have killed more than 160 people and displaced thousands; residential homes have been vandalised and educational institutions and places of worship have been set on fire. Many still live in refugee camps. But the government there would want the world to believe that it is business as usual in the border state.
The report of the team sent by the Editors’ Guild exposed one too many shortcomings in the state that a democracy needs to ponder over and make amends for. They essentially relate to the need for the system to be impartial, whether it is the executive or the media, which is often termed the fourth pillar of democracy.
The team found that media invented its own ways — unprofessional indeed — to report on the clashes between two prominent communities and that such reports were one-sided. It has also made the stinging criticism that there are clear indications that the leadership of the state became partisan during the conflict. With the communication systems, including the Internet, in total disarray, the media relied almost entirely on the narrative of the state government, it has stated.
The government has every right to counter the report with facts and prove the editors’ team wrong. Slapping criminal charges for reportage is an undemocratic, illogical and unjust act and crass misuse of power and the law. The government must drop the case. Instead of shooting the messenger, it should read the message.