Journalism in Goa

About journalism and media issues in Goa... all views welcome. Everything but slander can be discussed here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Broken peace... fact-finding and the media

Supreme Court lawyer and human rights campaigner Nandita Haksar's (et al) just-released report 'Broken Peace: Fact finding report on the first communal violence in Goa' is now available online, for those interested:

PDF version (with annexures):

Plain-text version (without annexures)

Incidentally, the report makes some references to the media. It seems to have however overlooked the role of a section of the media in fuelling rumours that could have aggravated the violence.

Some of its references:

Page 2 of the Introduction: Thanks Preetu Nair for introducing the team to people who proved valuable in its investigations. Thanks Sujay Gupta of the Gomantak Times for inviting Nandita Haksar to participate in the discussion on communal violence.

Page 3: Subhash Velingker ... has a regular column in the only Konkani daily, Sonarprant (sic). Unfortunately, the editor of Sonaprant claims he is both secular and leftist. But many Goans, including Ramesh G Naik and Dr Pratap Naik SJ have expressed their concern about the growing communalization of their society because of the language issue (and) have expressed their anger at the Editor for publishing the vicious anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim articles by Subhash Verlingker. Father Pratap Naik, a linguist and in-charge of the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr wrote to Ms Sonia Gandhi informing her that the Sonaprant which is owned by Dattaraj Salgaoncar, mine owner and staunch Congress supporter, was sowing seeds of communalism and linked it to the violence in Sanvordem-Curchorem....

Page 20: The next day the newspapers reported that an illegal mosque had been demolished by some miscreants. Niraj Naik's SMS-based news service reported on March 2, 2006 at 10.29.07 IST: "Miscreants demolish disputed masjid at Goddemol, Sanvordem last night. Five arrested. The masjid was declared illegal. But court had stayed its demolition."

The language of this short cryptic message needs to be analyzed. The word "disputed" seems to suggest that it was a dispute between Hindus and Muslims which there is none. No one has disputed that the structure belonged to the Muslim community. Everyone agrees that the land on which it was built was government land. And that the structure had been there for more than three decades. It is true that the structure was illegal in so far as the land still belonged to the government on record. However, in addition to the mosque which was demolished there are on the same land a temple, hotel, a house constructed by the Sarpanch Baptist Fernandes within 150 metres of the madarsa-mosque that was demolished....

Page 48: The arrest of the Kashmiri "terrorist": When we asked how come the police told the media within minutes of arresting a man that he was a "terrorist" and subjected him to a trial by media, the SP (South) said that the media "happened to be present at the railway station" when the arrest took place.

The man arrested was not given an opportunity to call a lawyer and the media presumed him guilty even without any evidence. The media reporting and the attitude of the police had the direct result of putting fear into the Hindu minds in Curchorem. They became victims of politics of fear. The Hindu professional who had initiated this peace initiative told us he lost five friends who called him pro-Muslim and have stopped talking to him.

The challenge before the Goan civil society is to first acknowledge the ugly reality that the Sangh Parivar along with the Congress party are using the war against terror for their own electoral politics and communalizing the society and state machinery. This has resulted in the large part of the media to become party to this insidious politics, leaving very little democratic space for open discussions and debate. The only way to save Goa is to fight the politics of fear and speak out against all those who are responsible for trying to turn Goa into another Gujarat....


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