Experts call for balance in Anna protest coverage


New Delhi : Amid increasing debate on the role of the media in covering Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption protest, experts have stressed the need for more balance and objectivity and the need to eschew biased and sensational reporting, particularly by television.

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“There is a need for more balance and objectivity in the media coverage of Anna Hazare’s protest. The media has been uncritical of Team Anna and the unreasonable statements of his associates,” Siddhartha Varadarajan, Editor, The Hindu, told IANS.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni had questioned Hazare’s remarks that media and his supporters were like a family and wondered if the agitation was being fostered by the media.

Varadarajan described Anna’s demand that the government pass the Lokpal Bill by Aug 31 as unreasonable and said that it undermined parliamentary procedure. “A standing committee is examining the Bill,” he said. “The legislative process can go along with Anna’s agitation.”

He further said, “I am disturbed by the cult of Anna being promoted by electronic medium. But the print medium too needs to introspect on the issue.”

Echoing similar views, senior journalist Prem Shankar Jha said there was need for more balance between news and analysis. “What is passing off as analysis on TV is a fight between the representatives of political parties,” Jha told IANS.

According to Jha, the print medium has been more balanced in comparison to the electronic medium in the coverage. “There is repetition and exaggeration on TV,” he said.

Media experts have called for greater objecivity and balance in the coverage of social activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption stir.

Commentator Sanjoy Hazarika, drawing special attention to the role of television, said that the media’s alleged nexus with politicians and corporates should be probed.

“Public anger is usually directed against the politicians,” said Hazarika, who has worked with the New York Times. “The focus should now be on the alleged nexus between the corporates, media and the politicians.”

He argued that similar agitations in the past have had little effect. “Neither is the media looking at the process nor does is it have an open mind,” Hazarika said.

“If the media levels allegations, the other side should also be given a chance to defend its position,” senior journalist Bhaskar Roy said. “Media should act responsibly while reflecting reality on the ground.”

The comments follow the impact of the media attention on three-year-old Charvi Chawla, who reportedly broke her fast only when Anna offered her water.

However, a section of opinion maintained that media coverage of the Hazare protest is not deliberate and is guided purely by popular demand.

“The coverage of Hazare’s protest is neither intentional nor planned,” group editor Shravan Garg of Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar said. Garg expressed hope that the Anna frenzy will come down as the media has already started analysing its role.

“Tomorrow if another big event unfolds, the media will switch over to it,” Garg told IANS. “The media is just catering to popular demand. Public sentiment is against corruption, which is getting reflected in the media.”

Noting a difference in the nature of the print and the electronic media, senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta said, by and large, the TV channels tended to respond somewhat hastily to populist mood.

“They want to provide ammunition to support their coverage and take a little liberty with objectivity,” Dasgupta said.