The Naxal Movement and the Role of Media in Reporting Terrorism

Terrorism has been a disease that has plagued the world for centuries now. Its nature has changed over the years, but its goal has remained constant- furthering a cause by use of violence, hate and, the spreading of fear. Several terrorist organisations have sprung up over the years that have extremist religious and political views and, attempt to brain-wash the common public to further their agenda. Political unrest has been one of the most crucial contributing factors to the formation of terrorist groups. Fringe groups have snowballed into larger terrorist organisations that continue to wreak havoc in various parts of the world. The most infamous terrorist groups include ISIS, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Rise of The Naxal Movement:

In India, the Naxal movement has given rise to a group of feared militants called the ‘Naxals’ or ‘Naxalites’. They are considered a far-left radical group of communists, which believe in the Maoist ideology. Their formation was a result of the split in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that also led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). The initial uprising started in a small village in West Bengal, Naxalbari , but has spread to other states of the country including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh etc. What caused this uprising? No movement of this nature arises in isolation, multiple contributing factors work together. Many years of oppression at the hands of landlords caused the tribals, Dalits and labourers to revolt.

Though the Naxalite movement continued to be fragmented in separate small groups, after 1977 three organized political formations – CPI (ML)- Liberation, CPI (Maoist) and CPI (ML), have emerged with their distinct programmes, policies and strategies of revolution. Although all of them share the broad ideological goal of overthrowing the government and capturing of state as a prelude to revolutionary restructuring of society, their strategies of achieving it, in respect of mobilization of people, role of armed underground cadre, participation of people in their actions and solving people’s grievances differ.

The Dalits, in the absence of opportunities for wage employment elsewhere, are dependent upon the landowners for providing them avenues of livelihood in the rural areas. The conditions generated by this relationship are extremely exploitative. These include payment of very low wages, long hours of work, debt-bondage, control over produce from owned land, if any, humiliating treatment and physical assault in the case of non-compliance of employer’s orders. This continued exploitation led to an eventual outburst and the Naxals decided to take matters into their own hands and fight for their rights by going against the system.

Media and Reportage:

The media, being the watch-dog of the society plays an important role in giving the viewers the right kind of information about terrorism and the impact it has on the world. With the advent of the electronic media and modernization of the print media, the coverage, influence and reaction time of the media has improved substantially. Live updates are constantly brought to the public to keep them informed. Despite this, there is often a lot of controversy surrounding the kind of reporting the media does. Biases and subjectivity are often discussed and the question that frequently arises is: Can the media objectively report an issue as sensitive and pertinent as terrorism or will they resort to tactics and gimmicks to keep the viewers engaged?

The Naxal issue has plagued India for quite long now and therefore the reportage linked with it has also been extremely varied. The Sukma attack, for example, got some widespread media coverage. While this is important, what is also crucial is that the media begins to responsibly provide some solutions to battle this ever present obstacle of terrorism. Considering the widespread reach and resources the media industry has access to, they can bring about some important reforms.

Contrary to this, there is another question that arises: Is the increased coverage of the Naxal movement fuelling its growth by further politicizing it? Naxal activity is often violent and disruptive and the media thrives on such kind of news, therefore they rush to cover it and generate a buzz. They need to refrain from such unnecessary sensationalism.

What important steps can the media take to ensure a balanced coverage? Since the print media has more time to publish news, unlike television channels that need to constantly provide ‘breaking news’, the more traditional print media outlets can take care and precision while sending out their reports on Naxalism and other terrorist incidents. The digital media should be careful while publishing sensitive information and make sure they get all their facts right before putting out articles that might cause a panic among the citizens.  Considering the media has such great amount of powers, they must refrain from amplifying and sensationalizing news relating to acts carried out by terrorist groups. Media reportage of terrorist activity should in no way harm the national security of the country. In the search of ‘scoops’ the press should not in any way undermine the very nature of a democracy. The media must effectively deny terrorists a platform for publicity and, avoid glamorization of terrorist blasts and attacks.

The media must work towards boosting the morale of the security forces and the government that is trying to combat the problem of terrorism. An affirmative media policy must be created by the government and it must be based on transparency in governance and free-flowing access to relevant information. The government itself should engage, encourage and enable the media to carry out informed, fair and balanced coverage of crisis especially terrorism. As for the media themselves, they should implement self-restraint policies. A self-regulating code of conduct should be promoted at all costs. By doing so, the media can effectively deal with the issue of covering terrorism without furthering the agenda of terrorists and also successfully keep the people informed.

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