The line between journalists and citizens

Kalpana Sharma poses an interesting question in her piece Journalists as citizens.

Should we as journalists just watch and record what is happening? When your duty as a citizen calls upon you to act, you must set aside your supposed “impartiality”, if indeed there is such a thing, and intervene…

When the Sri Rama Sene in Mangalore proudly proclaimed that their purpose was served by the repeated telecast of the pub incident on January 24, when five women sitting in a pub were molested and assaulted even as the camera kept recording every blow, the Indian media should have paused to think.

When a six-year-old girl was tortured by two UP policemen for allegedly having stolen a small sum of money, in full view of television cameras recording every blow, the media should have paused again.

This is something I’ve thought about: should journalists intervene and provide help directly or should they record the event and help indirectly? It’s a difficult question to answer.

One point to consider is that if the people feel that journalists would interfere then they may not be allowed to be there in the first place. A lot of the access that journalists get is because of their impartiality and because they are observing and reporting. If they are seen to be interfering, then they might lose that access. And that isn’t good for journalism as a whole.

But as Ms. Sharma says in the article, there are other ways to help: journalists can call the police or alert someone in the government or even other media persons.

It’s a tough choice and in the end it depends on the person and the situation. It’s definitely not as simple as some people make it out to be.


2 thoughts on “The line between journalists and citizens

  1. There exists a thin line between sensational news and sensationalising news. Our media folks have definitely found the way to do the latter. I personally have read of journalists leaving their cameras to serve the suffering – I don’t know why the media folks continued to reord what was ongoing without whatsoever attempts to help the poor girls being beaten. There was yet another email floating around in which a journalist was criticized by the army for giving away sensitive information about war zone activities while broadcasting the story. Even during the coverage of Mumbai during the terror attacks, the media was happily disclosing the strategy of the law enforcement officers. All that one had to know to figure out what was going on was to just watch TV.

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