Deliberate distortions

The language that helps them define things their own way


The kidnapping and murder of three youth in the Machil sector at the hands of troopers has once again showed how deftly words are used to reduce the impact. Language plays a very important role in media. Often the way words played by newsmen skip common scrutiny. And when it comes to the conflict area where there is always the tag of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ word jugglery is craftily and extensively used. Kenneth Burke rightly remarked that language does our thinking.
Once the news came out that the killed ‘Lashkar militants’ were ordinary people newsmen, some out of habit, but most, intelligently came up with ‘fake encounter’ headline. Even the fake is put in commas. Using the word fake encounter means where a ‘criminal’ is killed as he is considered detrimental to the State. And this can be defended which has happened in the past. 
When police or troopers claim that they killed so many militants there is hardly any quotation marks or the use of alleged word. Instead when the same police says that the three men were kidnapped and murdered by the troops there should have been no quotas and no use of alleged word. However, everywhere in India the quotation marks and the word alleged were profusely used despite police’s repeated claims. 
Then there arises another question which only few journalists dared: which arms did troopers show to the media and who supplied it to them and where from the Pakistani currency came? Do troopers deliberately show less weapons and ammunition when they get hold of it during raids to use it later for such murders and kidnappings? Mir Ehsan of Indian Express got an award when his organisations stood up to him in exposing farce surrender drama enacted by troopers’ in 2005. In any case the Major indicted in kidnapping and murder of three youth will not be prosecuted as he is out of Kashmir border. His three collaborators, who are all Kashmiri, would be tried.  
On 4 June NDTV in its 10 pm programme ‘Left Right and Centre’ held a 20 minute discussion on troopers’ impunity in killing Kashmiris.  The host started with the word ‘aberration’ to define the killing of Kashmiris at the hands of troopers. Throughout the discussion this word was repeated. Paradoxically the channel was running scroll showing cases where troopers were held guilty but not prosecuted. Aberrations happen once or twice they don’t become routine.
   Three days earlier the same news channel at prime time hosted Israeli envoy on the show.  The envoy was selling the story that their troopers were first ‘attacked’ in the aid ship Freedom Flotilla which was heading towards Gaza. The anchor tried hard to sound that it was not a PR exercise, which actually it was. While the media channels like Aljeezra and most importantly BBC did question why the Israeli commandos attacked the ship at first place, NDTV overlooked that fact.  Strangely the channel did not rope in any expert and politician to counter the envoy!  In the background the footage released by the Israeli authorities was being played. Repeatedly. There was no mention that footage is an Israeli handout. Instead the anchor said ‘its clear army personnel were attacked’.  There were artists, journalists, intellectuals including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor on board. From Prime Minister to spokeswoman of army to envoys Israel used the word ‘disproportionate force’ to convince the world community that they came under ‘attack’ which resulted in the killing of 9 peace activists in ‘defence’. But BBC and Aljazeera refused to use this word while NDTV thought otherwise.
In fact NDTV, which is considered a benchmark in television journalism in India, is becoming what the reputable journalist Robert Fisk says, “There is no battle between power and the media. Through language, we have become them.” This according to Fisk is preposterous journalism. 
  Newsmen in India use tautology to defend the crimes of troops in Kashmir. Barring Siddharth Varadarajan of the daily ‘The Hindu’ no Indian newsmen used the word kidnapping and murder. Instead, as is their wont, they give little coverage to it including ‘The Hindu’.  A Mumbai based newspaper DNA on 3 June came up with a report, “Removing army from North Kashmir has helped militants”. Tacitly this report was a damage control exercise. Economic Times, the sister publication of The Times of India, on June first came up with the editorial on the Machil killing with interesting headline: “Vultures try to feast on fake encounter”. The pun was on Hurriyat Conference. The ET editorial was more of a political speech than a journalistic endeavour.  While the most read English daily of India, ToI, relegated the news.
Deccan Herald, the only other paper to come up with an editorial, wrote: “India must understand that its tolerance of encounter killings and its reluctance to act against corrupt army officers, all in the name of not undermining the morale of the armed forces, is in fact eroding their image and credibility.”
And it is this image and credibility that got dented when Canada refused a visa to paramilitary trooper for being ‘barbaric’.  With allegations ranging from molestation by Lt Gen of his colleague’s wife, to involvement of three Lt Generals and a Major General in the Sukna land scam to auto thieve gang headed by the former Lt Col and to the child pornography by a serving Lt Col, media is waking up to these issues. But come Kashmir news is diluted and distilled to suit political interests.That makes all the difference. 

Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST

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