Nothing Official

Updated: Dec 1 2008, 05:08am hrs
As Mumbai was hit, the nation watched in dismay. The role of media in reaching out to people and acting as a hub of dissemination of information was evident and at times criticised by some.

With respect to dissemination of a news of such magnitude, former Director General, Punjab Police, KPS Gill, points out that there is no set mechanism for information flow. It varies from situation to situation and place to place, though the Government of India has set up a publicity department to disseminate information to the people and press.

As a senior official in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting confirms, Ministry of Home Affairs releases its official stand on issues of national concern to the media and people irrespective of the form, through the Press Information Board. They have officials who are authenticated and authorised to speak on the subject.

He further adds that that these days, the media does not wait for the official version to come out. They have their own set of informers and systems in place. As was manifested in the case of Mumbai terror attacks wherein according to sources, Minister of State, Home, Shakeel Ahmad and Shri Shriprakash Jaiswal were attending a wedding reception when the media had already broken the news, thus bringing to fore that the flow of information is not always via the government, and it can be a coordinated effort or at times the media can even help and break a news.

Essentially law and order is a sate subject and the state government immediately informs the Home Ministry of such a happening. In the case of Mumbai, we could notice that their was no line of hierarchy that was strictly followed while talking to the media, as media was on the spot and amidst live action. Generally, officials of the DG rank and above are authorised to speak to the press. During the Kargil war, one noticed officials of the Defence Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs holding joint briefings, also briefings were given by the local commander on the ground. Because of operational difficulties, the media is not always involved in certain delicate situations, and the flow of information is regulated by the government as it takes control.

Sarika Malhotra