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Our Weakness, Our Limits

It stands true that the media, and by this we mean the print media, has made significant strides since 1996, when modern technology was introduced such as offset printing technology and this naturally sounded the death knell of the archaic and outdated  letter press and the days of the one page newspaper is now history. Along with the introduction of new technology, a number of fresh faced, educated youths started looking at journalism as a career option and this automatically meant the coming to dawn of a new sense of professionalism amongst the young blood. And so it is today that we see a number of young, dynamic and educated youths taking to journalism and the result is there for all to see.

From a one paged newspaper, the press in Manipur has now progressed to either a ten paged or eight paged or even six paged newspaper, with almost all publications adopting the multi-color format. Apart from the emergence of young, educated youngsters joining this profession, what was a major booster was the entry of a number of entrepreneurs, who were not afraid to invest in the highly uncertain business of running a newspaper, pick the best and change according to the needs of the time as well as keep pace with the latest technology available.

Given the situation that Manipur finds itself in today, the press needs to be vibrant, strong, neutral and double up as the conscience keeper of the land and its people. Journalism has a place in the history of Manipur, especially from the days of Hijam Irabot and through all the turmoil and storm that Manipur has survived. Oinam in 1987 may well have remained as another one of those heard, felt and convinced stories, but which were effectively buried by the master savior of State sponsored terrorism, AFSPA, if the press, however outdated its technology, had not splashed it across their front pages, drawing the attention of the global audience.

The case of Manorama and later Naobi may not have managed to catch the attention of the world community if not for the presence of a watchful press. It is not only the print media which has seen some revolutionary changes in the last 15 years or so, but the electronic media too, which has progressed at a pace much faster than it took the print media to upgrade from the letter press to the modern printing technology. With the merger of ICTV and SEEN TV some years back, today we have the ISTV, which already has carved out an identity of its own, not to speak of its impact and influence on the common people.

Through all these different phases and changing profile of the journalists, one thing that has remained a constant is without a doubt the unnecessary interference from some self appointed guardians of society, who have come under the impression that the media is a tool to propagate their propaganda and indirectly publish their extortion demands. Just read between the lines whenever you come across the deadline set by such elements to talk things over and you will get a fair idea of what we are trying to convey.

No doubt, the print media in Manipur has clearly seen visible strides in the last 15 years or so, but at the same time too, we have miles to go before we can say that we are a force to reckon with in Manipur. While we are not in favor of any so called media activism, we do have a certain responsibility in exposing the crooks and identifying the chaffs from the grains, and this is where the test by fire of the media lies. In the past two years or so, there have been some cases, which have exposed the inherent weaknesses of the media in Manipur and we need to seriously take a look into this. Every journalist worth his salt should be asking themselves this question of why the photographer preferred to send his/her tell-tale sequences of photographs, that showed the police commandos pushing Sanjit into a nearby pharmacy and later claiming that he was killed in an encounter, to Tehelka instead of any of the Imphal based news- papers.

Moreover we also need to ask ourselves, especially all the Editors, whether they would have had the gumption to go ahead and published the photographs as Tehelka did. We cannot speak for the other newspaper, but yes The Sangai Express is very clear that the sequence of photographs would have been splashed across an eight column banner with the story.  This is an example of what actually happened on July 23, 2009 at BT Road and investigations are still on, with the CBI having charge sheeted a number of police officials. This is fine but the media here need to ask, why the photographs were sent to far away Tehelka and not to any news establishments here. Herein lies a tale, which could mean different things to different people.

Though the air was thick with the question of whether RK Meghen, the Chairman of the UNLF has been arrested in Dhaka or not, especially amongst the media persons here, it was not anyone from here but the Tripura based BBC correspondent, Subhir Bhaumik who broke the story. Again, the shortcomings of the media here were shown for one and all to see, after Tehelka came out with a detailed report on the whereabouts of the rebel leader. This is not self defeatism, but yes, when Tehelka and BBC came out with their stories, which primarily concern Manipur, it sends out the message that the press here has still a long way to go. Acknowledging this is perhaps the first step towards improving ourselves and spread our network.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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*The Sangai Express- Largest Circulated News Paper In Manipur
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