Of 60 hours of terror and the 24X7 broadcasting of it

The world is today talking about Mumbai and the 60 hours of terror the whole of India lived in last week. It's truly shaken us as a nation.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor

The world is today talking about Mumbai and the 60 hours of terror the whole of India lived in last week. It's truly shaken us as a nation. It's also brought India's vulnerability, its corruption and inefficiencies to the fore.

And I am referring to everyone here--not just the Indian politicians, armed forces, police or the intelligence; but also the media and the common man, who is truly apathetic towards political issues, as also resilient beyond the point of acceptability.

But there is another aspect these terror attacks have manifested-–how broadcast technology can put the sovereignty of a nation at stake. We literally got minute-by-minute account of the terror attacks on our television screens.

We saw journalists speak to all kinds of army personnel, commandoes, police officers and other such people who were probably not even authorized to speak to the media. And they did not even know that they weren't supposed to speak to the media.

Our television reporters thrust their cameras into hotel rooms destroyed by the blasts. They were talking to army officials about their modus operandi.

And all this was being brought to our drawing rooms "live" by some 35-odd television news channels--each trying a newer trick in their bags to get higher viewership (or television rating points) in these hours of crises. News channels that would, on any normal day, show repeats of comedy shows, suddenly had their battery of reporters running across Taj and Trident hotels in south Mumbai with microphones in hand and camera persons in toe. A senior journalist was seen shedding tears on camera, outside the Taj… all this and more for higher television rating points (TRPs).

No one had any clue what was going on. TV channels were showing a live broadcast of commandoes landing via helicopters onto the roof of Nariman House. What was being broadcast in the name of news was, in fact, the operational procedures and actions of the armed forces and the police.

All this, when all the terrorists at the sites, we learn, were equipped with VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phones that were allegedly being manned out of Pakistan. Obviously, some terrorist in Pakistan (or elsewhere) could be watching this on television and relaying the information back to the terrorists in Mumbai (hiding inside the two hotels and Nariman House).

According to a TV channel's news report, the 10 terrorists were divided into groups of two, with one VOIP phone each. And they were on a conference call with their chief (reportedly, in Pakistan), who would tell them what to do next. No wonder they could terrorize one billion people for 60 hours and more. Everyone in the country (including young, school-going children) is today living in terror.

We never know when something like this could happen again and our TV channels would play the (unknowing) aides of these anti-social elements. Broadcast technology is making things so simple for these demons.

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