WHILE LEADING INDIAN newspapers and news television channels, including The Times of India and NDTV, consciously decided and declared that they will not be using videos and images from the videos of the Indian pilot now in Pakistan custody, some other media houses went ahead splashing the pictures of the bloodied pilot on their front pages and television screens.
Clearly, Indian media has trouble in coming to a more evolved understanding of ethics in use of imagery and visuals even in cases that are blatant and where there are no two sides to the argument.
The world has not seen images of thousands of men, women and children killed in the 9/11 attacks in the United States, but Indians must have a massive appetite for seeing the images of a bloodied pilot. At least, that's the rationale that has emerged from the front pages of a section of the media.
The Times of India took care to splash a front page story on the videos but remained restrained, even declaring that the "TOI has consciously decided not to use any images from the videos." The NDTV made a similar announcement. The Hindustan Times, if it applied its mind to the issue, did not talk about it, but the gory pictures were there on page one.
Mass-circulation multi-edition Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar actually made a sketch based on the video and then embedded a software, asking readers to scan the image and watch the video. Punjab’s Ajit newspaper had no compunction in using the images. English-language The Tribune and its Punjabi sister publication, Punjabi Tribune, consciously decided not to yield to the temptation of using sensational images. Readers can check their own newspapers to see where they stand on the ethical scale.
The fact is that occasions like these can be used by the media to expose the general public to the complex, layered idea of ethics in public communication. People think because they have found a particular video informative — see, this is how bad Paksiatnis have dealt with a bahadur Indian pilot? — therefore, they are fully within their right to forward it to other friends who, too, must educate themselves about bad Pakistanis.
On the other side of the border, the argument can't be very different. They must have made videos and circulated the same to show how a bunch of Pakistanis captured an aggressor Indian pilot.
Just think if a Pakistani pilot had crashed and captured outside an Indian village, would our people have treated him any different?
There are details available about how the pilot descended with the help of a parachute after his plane caught fire and crashed, how the local social and political activist Mohd Razzaq Chowdhary of Horra’n village about 7 kms from the LoC asked local Pakistani youngsters not to go near the wreckage and instead try and catch the pilot, the claims by locals that the pilot ran for some distance and fired shots in the air to keep the angry crowd at bay and his later capture by Pakistani army personnel, but the point is not to divulge more.
Our focus must remain on the aspect that wars have human faces.
Of course, Pakistan must deal with the situation and respect the Third Treaty of the 1949 Geneva Convention. It can actually do more. It can treat the pilot in a manner most humane, assure the world, and primarily India, that no harm would come to him and he will be sent back as soon as possible. The pilot, in fact, can become a ruse to trigger peace in a volatile war like situation.
The pilot in Pakistan is a reminder that wars involve human beings, human beings who are trained and motivated to go and kill to keep our own selves safe. Wars have a huge human cost. Even the first steps towards a conflict can extract a massive cost. Are we ready to pay this because we are actually not ready to pay the larger cost for peace, a quest that involves a long haul?
Surprisingly, many leading Pakistani newspapers did not use the images from the pilot capture videos. The Dawn, a leading heavy-weight voice, editorially commented that "from here, the distance towards unthinkable conflict and destruction could be shorter than war strategists, planners and decision-makers in either country recognise.”
Indian politicians are, by and large, conducting themselves far better than the Indian media that regularly pillories them. The inane war-mongering on the screen is now uncouth, vulgar and downright unethical. By pushing the 'send' button on many a videos dripping with hate, we could be missing the peace bus. Not just peace between nations, but one with our inner selves.
That's no one's political agenda, but why is it not yours?
How you watch a video, what do you say about it, what do you tell your daughters and sons about it, and the kind of discussion you have with your children and family and friends is the stuff we are made of. It applies to Pakistanis, too. That’s the logic of war, and of peace.
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