What prime time news won't reveal about Pathankot terror attack

Kishwar Desai
Kishwar DesaiJan 09, 2016 | 10:56

What prime time news won't reveal about Pathankot terror attack

Perhaps some day a book will be written on Pathankot, a significant space in the long history of India-Pakistan relations, following the Partition. It was handed over to India, clearing the route for a corridor to Kashmir, and the wound has festered ever since, in the hearts and minds of those who could never reconcile themselves to this division.

And so every now and then, the borders between the two Punjabs will erupt in fresh terrorist assaults, just as the borders along Kashmir erupt. These are serious, long term issues of intelligence and careful manning. There is no doubt that there are misguided efforts to foment trouble in both Punjab and Kashmir - possibly by non-state actors, and it would be surprising if the government is unaware of it. However, yes, as with most of these incidents where terrorists look like any one of us, it is difficult to immediately spot someone who might even be dressed (as apparently they were in this case) in uniforms.  


Given the complicated situation, how much does the media really know? And should it have felt emboldened to give a blow-by-blow account on what was undoubtedly a top secret operation meant to flush out terrorists from an air base? And how much of this information is authentic in the first place? There are many troubling questions. Yes, there are channels and newspapers which were and are reporting "responsibly", but there were also plenty of others who just decided to raise the decibel levels and begin to conduct their own inquiry regarding who the "terrorists" were and what was their motive.

In this world of instant news, should a high-security operation like this been constantly discussed, or should the media now begin to draw a line between what affects the country's security - and the news fare that we must indeed learn about. And should there be a more detailed investigation conducted at a later stage, when more information is available?

Or am I being old fashioned and regressive?

Because, in these days of transparency, nothing is sacrosanct? And should we, the news consumers and citizens, have the right to an immediate, if somewhat incomplete and often erroneous idea of the situation at "ground zero".


The fact that there has been such confused reporting on the Pathankot incident makes it obvious that the press has been trying to pick up information from its own sources attributing some amount of bumbling to the government. Inferences are also being made about the involvement of drug cartels and so on.

Without much clarity on the big picture - security issues, foreign policy, relations between the two countries - everything has become fair game. Yes, ours is a chaotic democracy and it is fair to question. But not everything about this operation will be known for a long time.

So should it be assumed that journalists and media must have instant access to all that is going on - even at a sensitive air base? And should doubts be constantly raised about the veracity of the information being put out by the government?

These are troubling questions - and we will need to see a change in the coverage of terrorist attacks. In the meanwhile, one can only hope that there is some empathy for those who thanklessly patrol our borders, and undertake other gruelling security measures. They must not be demoralised.


And shouldn't the talks between the two countries be allowed to carry on, without being derailed? Because that is precisely what the terrorists would want!

Last updated: January 10, 2016 | 21:57
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