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Dear Friends

Pls. excuse me if I am raising this out of turn, but since we have some 
journalists on-board I wanted some reactions and initiate debate on a 
code of conduct on news/media reporting while ensuring that "Right to 
Information" is not infringed.

Primarily of concern to me are

a. Discipline in Reporting Facts

b. Segregating Opinion from Fact

On both of these counts I see today the editorial boards of most major 
newspapers in India terribly lacking. The editorial boards and any other 
responsible entities have conveniently ignored these 2 facets of news 
reporting.

A glaring example is todays coverage of the burning of the missionaries 
in orissa. a glance at the headlines of the various newspapers.

Indian Express   (fine- just factual)
Sunday, January 24, 1999 
Missionary, sons set afire - Srimoy Kar & Bijay Chaki   

The Hindu (fine-too)
Australian missionary, sons burnt alive
Date: 24-01-1999 :: Pg: 01 :: Col: d 
By Our Special Correspondent 
BHUBANESWAR, Jan. 23. 

Deccan Herald (check this out - Bajrang Dal)
Bajrang Dal men set ablaze Australian missionary, 2 sons 
DH News Service 
BHUBANESWAR, Jan 23

Deccan Chronicle (curious leap - "parivar")
Parivar men torch Australian missionary, sons
Bhubaneswar:

Perhaps they are not to blame because the Orissa Chief Minister beats 
them all at it when he says -

Indian Express
Sunday, January 24, 1999
47 arrested in connection with Keonjhar killing 

When asked if he suspected any particular organisation behind the 
incident, Patnaik told newsmen at Manoharpur village last night "why are 
you asking me ? the people were telling you that after committing the 
crime the culprits were shouting Bajrang Bali Ki Jai--you have heard 
that". 

What beats me is this
- the irresponsibility with which 
   - journalists
   - politicians
  are vying with each other to catch "attention", "create a stir" and
  make "political capital" even before an investigation has taken place, 
facts have been established beyond doubt and judicial process
has been initiated.

Its precisely this kindof vitiated twisting and extrapolation of facts 
which is blowing issues out of proportion, creating a mass psychosis of 
fear and playing into the hands of those who stand to gain from these 
dastardly acts.

In this context I would also like to bring out some of the out of 
proportion news reporting by foriegn media on these incidents. CNN & The 
Washington Post in their coverage of the "Shiv-Sena Violence" & 
"Violence against Christians" have loosely used language. This is very 
evident in their lumping of "Hindu Fundamentalists", "BJP", "Hindu 
Nationalist Government" to be synonyms. I dont have specific clippings 
at the moment but I shall mail them once I get them. Well they are not 
so much to blame because the national media has fared no better in its 
reporting when it conveniently lumps eveyrhting anything as the 
"Parivar".

So much so for discipline in reporting, one major aspect of treating 
opinion as different from fact is not just ignored but abused often in 
the national media. Most the major newspapers on the web have separate 
sections for Opinion & News. But the opinion section seems to be only 
for articles where individuals express their viewpoint on issues. The 
newspaper itself is free to mix opinion with fact as it wishes in the 
rest of the section. In this context it may be pointed out that the 
Washington Post has an "Omsbudman" with a responsibility to keep a watch 
for these kind of trangsressions.

Having made the case, I now invite opinions on what should the policy be 
on ensuring news reporting in media is responsible and accurate.

cheers
shashi

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