Sunday, January 08, 2006

Biased or Inaccurate Reporting?

Read two contrasting articles about the killing in Orissa (12 tribals and 1 policeman) at a protest by tribals against a TATA Steel plant construction.

Article 1: 12 killed as tribals, Orissa police clash

Article 2: People's Version Of Kalinganagar Firing

Both the articles are reporting the same incident, but very different conclusions can be drawn by the reader.

From Article 1:
The tribals allegedly started pelting stones at the security personnel. The police tried to disperse them by firing tear-gas shells and rubber bullets but the protestors retaliated with arrows.

They caught hold of Constable Gopa Mohanty and hacked him to death. Then, the police opened fire. Director General of Police Suchit Das said police had to open fire as the situation was getting out of hand.

From Article 2:
On seeing the beginning of the work, approximately 100 tribals gathered, and a four member delegation was formed to go and talk to the district officials present at the spot. People say that the four member delegation went to meet the district administration, and many of the tribals assembled there followed them at a distance. As per the warning given to the administration, many of these people were armed with traditional weapons. When the group of tribals reached the ditch dug to erect the boundary wall, and were about to cross it, they heard the police sound a whistle, and saw a policeman pull a rope. The people say that after this there were large explosions in the ditch and two persons fell down dead. There had been no warning and no indications from the police before this happened.

Simultaneously tear gas, rubber bullet firing and actual firing started. Chaos ensued, with people running helter and skelter. Even the unarmed local policemen panicked at the firing and the explosions, and people say that in this panic one or two policemen fell into the boundary wall ditch and were injured by the tribals in the heat of the moment. On hearing the sound of explosions and firing, more tribals from the nearby settlements rushed to the site and started stone pelting and firing arrows inspite of the continuos firing by the police.

Of the several questions raised about the incident and an enquiry committee etc, am not sure why always the police (in this case 12 platoons, the collector and the SP) are protecting and acting for the big fish (Tata Steel) and never for the affected (who have the most legitmate case either for or against any project).

But that aside, a few questions that come to mind are: what role is media playing in all of this? Are they too siding with the big fish and spew out biased reports? and how as reader, one believe several of the conflicting reports? and whether always an enquiry committee report is what will tell us the true picture?

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