SC slams TV channels for live feed

Terming the coverage of the 26/11 Mumbai attack by Indian TV news channels as "reckless" and "gory", the Supreme Court Wednesday came down strongly on the broadcasters for their treatment of the carnage and said they had jeopardised national security for their commercial interests.

The stinging observations by the bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad came as the court maintained the death penalty for Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught alive.

Ripping into the minute-by-minute coverage of the "enemy action," the bench held that "by covering live the terrorist attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause". The channels, the judges said, "were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy".

Backing the contention of security agencies and the evidence they had gathered, the court said that the live telecast gave the attackers an edge as their handlers in Pakistan watched the movement of security forces and alerted the terrorists by phone.

It underlined that all channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments, including the positions and movements of security forces.

The court said that while it might not be possible to ascertain the actual casualties due to this coverage, it was "beyond doubt" that it made the task of security forces "not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky".

The bench said that any attempt to justify the conduct of the channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be "totally wrong and unacceptable" in such a situation.

These shots and visuals could have been telecast after all the terrorists were neutralised and the security operations were over, the court added. "But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels," it said. The episode had harmed the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within, it added.

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