MESS OF A MESSAGE

It is a reality that scores of men have evolved themselves into “newsmen”. They have no newsrooms, they require no reporters, no trainings, and, thanks to the peculiar lingo of SMS, no understanding of language and grammar. It is also possible that they lack ethics and professionalism as well. There might be harsher realities that some of them might be using it as a tool to blackmail, exploit and fleece others. The government said these services were seeking Rs 500 a month for the news it circulates which often was unsubstantiated rumors and gossip.
But the larger reality is that these services are increasing and selling. They seem to have a market.
In such situations, governments do not require to invoke bans. Instead, they have a mandate to monitor and regulate. If the mobile news service is a success story, then it is an enterprise that requires a model, a code of conduct and a system for accountability.
Successive regimes in Srinagar have been afraid of “information” dissemination. They locked Srinagar press for a month before the 1996 elections, over-estimating the penetration of the printed word which continues to be limited. Occasionally there were rules and orders aimed at gag. The last few months in 2008 were more crucial as every effort was made to control the media.
This coalition proved no different. It started with disciplining the cable TV by dictating them a news schedule that prevents repeat telecasts and delivery in a particular timeframe – a simultaneous 15 minutes. One could have expected that the government goes with their case to the union ministry for broadcasting with a model for productive functioning; the discrepancies in their registrations are being used to bargain deals. It is this experiment that is being used to manage, a comparatively unruly, cell-phone newsrooms.
Like water, information charts its own course. It does not stop. Using one medium will automatically create another medium. So the better alternative is to make its movement and delivery smooth. Obstructions tend to trigger problems. Wrong approaches for settling issues create vicious circles. So the best option is to help things improve. Let the information flow and let it be clean. Democracies need plenty of clean information.

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