London attack coverage

March 29, 2017

Four people were killed and scores injured when an attacker plowed a car through crowds in central London before attempting to storm the Houses of Parliament. The London assault came on the one-year anniversary of the ISIS bomb attacks in Brussels, brought carnage to Westminster, the heart of political life in Britain. The attack was condemned in the strongest possible terms by the international community including Pakistan. The coverage of the attack and its aftermath by the British media groups should be taken as an example by our local media groups. The coverage by all major British channels was calm and appeals were made to remain calm. Everything was reported after confirmation and the death count was only aired after it was officially released. Eye witnesses were also interviewed in a manner that it didn’t spread panic. The whole tone of the coverage was somber.

In contrast last month’s insensitive coverage after the Lahore’s Defence Y Block Market explosion added one more chapter to the all ready length book of electronic media’s irresponsible role in Pakistan. Approximately an hour and a half about the blast at the Y Block Market news channels reported that there has been another blast in Lahore, this time in Gulberg. Some outlets reporter that the blast targeted the franchise of an international food chain, another said the blast occurred after police stopped a car, if that was not all one news channel went to the extent of saying that the blast has happened outside a girls college in the area. Fear gripped the city as the media outlets frantically reported that the second blast has occurred; phone lines were choked as people helplessly tried to get in touch with family and friends in the area to inquire about their well being. Imagine the state of mind of parents who had kids studying in the college. It is unthinkable to even perceive what these families went through. Around ten minutes later the news was conveniently withdrawn and it was reported that there was no blast and it was just a rumour.

It was bizarre to even figure out as to how almost the entire electronic reported a blast when no such thing had happened? Media’s role should be to spread calm and aware the public regarding how to react in the face of such a threat, but instead of playing its due role our TRP’s obsessed electronic media tramples upon even basic ethics. On one hand media groups are seen reprimanding government officials from issues ranging to ineffective response to terror attacks to unethical behavior while at the same time the media groups themselves go around spreading panic due to irresponsible reporting.

All media groups must devise a strict set of protocols and educate the staff regarding how to report and disseminate news in such an instance. Reporters and newscasters in particular should be trained to effectively provide news when faced with any tragic event let alone a terror attack.

Pakistani media groups can learn a lot from International broadcasters on how to cover such incidents. The media can no longer hide behind its claim that it’s still in the learning phase. Sensationalizing terror incidents is the last thing any media group should do.

The sensationalism when it comes to news coverage needs to end.