CJI slams media coverage of terror attacks

Last Updated: Saturday, November 21, 2009 - 21:03

New Delhi: Cautioning media about the
ill-effects of unrestrained coverage of terror attacks,
Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Saturday said that it can
provoke a disproportionate level of anger among people leading
to irrational desire for retribution.

Speaking at an International Conference of Jurists on
Terrorism here, he said if terrorists attacks were attributed
to individuals belonging to a certain ethnic or religious
community then it may result in unreasonable discrimination
and retaliation against ordinary members of that community.

"We must take note of the fact that the symbolic
impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens
has also been considerably amplified by pervasive media
coverage.

"The proliferation of 24-hour news channels and the
digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing
images and statements reach a wide audience within a short
span of time," he said in his address to the two-day
conference which was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil.

Law Minister Veerapa Moily and eminent jurists from
various countries were present.

Justice Balakrishanan said while it was fair for the
media to criticise the inadequacies in the security and law
enforcement apparatus, there was also a possibility that the
resentment fuelled by media coverage can turn into an
irrational desire for distribution.

"For instance, if terrorist strikes are attributed to
individuals belonging to a certain ethnic or religious
community, then the same may result in unreasonable
discrimination and retaliation against ordinary members of
that community," he said.

The CJI said that such a trend was clearly visible in
the United States aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and have been
cause of the communal violence in many instances even in
India.

He said that legal response to terrorism must be
founded on a rational understanding of the underlying causes
for such extremist behaviour.

Knee-jerk responses such as clamping down on civil
liberties or a spate of arbitrary arrests and increased
surveillance over citizens can prove to be counter-productive,
he added.

In such an atmosphere, the CJI said it is only through
calm deliberation and mutual tolerance that the legal systems
of different nations can work together to tackle this problem.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, November 21, 2009 - 21:03

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