Centre for Development and Peace Studies organised an
interface on Police-Media Relations at
Guwahati on July 19, 2009. Here is a report of the Interface
inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Assam, Mr Tarun
Gogoi and attended by police officers, journalists,
peace and security experts, and others from around Northeast
India and outside.
Welcome Address: WASBIR HUSSAIN, Director, CDPS
In his welcome address, Mr.Hussain
said that there is a symbiotic yet misunderstood relationship
between the police and the media. He said that in this
rapidly shrinking world, the scrutiny of the media on
law enforcement is increasingly intense. Police and
other law enforcement agencies world-wide have recognized
the need for training and professional counsel in media
and public relations. He also stressed the need for
police to face tough issues head-on and speak-out when
news coverage is skewed or inaccurate.
Mr Hussain said that as the
media and the police are performing their duties in
tough situations, a better understanding between the
two would result in improved synergy. He further said
that the media acts as a bridge between the people and
the law enforcing agencies and therefore these two components
have to work in tandem to reach out to the people’s
aspirations, specially in troubled times.
Keynote Address: Mr. H.K.DUA, Editor-in-chief,
The Tribune, Chandigarh, and Member, National Security
Advisory Board, India
In his keynote address,
Mr.H.K.Dua said that the relation between police and
media reflects the relation between the police and the
public. He also said that unless relations between the
public and police improve, the ties between media and
police cannot improve. He further said that police’s
image depends mostly on its performance and not on good
media coverage. Police-media relations should not be
too cosy as that would hinder both in discharging their
respective duties. The media should keep the police
on its toes through constructive criticism, he added.
Mr Dua further said that the police
should respond promptly not only to the rich and powerful
but also to the poor and downtrodden. Police should
send a clear message to the public by performing better.
He also said that excessive use of force, custodial
deaths and fake encounter killings that happen in the
country sully the image of police.
Stating the police should also keep the media informed
within permissible limits to prevent journalists from
resorting to sensationalism, Mr.Dua denounced the trend
of ‘trial by media’ of events, particularly
by television channels. He said that the country was
left with a bad taste by insensitive TV coverage of
the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks as well as the lackluster
coordination among different security forces in tackling
the crisis. He pointed out that there were lessons to
be learnt from this.
Address by Mr. TARUN GOGOI, Chief Minister,
In his address, Mr. Tarun Gogoi said that over the years,
judiciary, politics, police and the media are losing
their credibility and therefore there is a need for
self introspection for each one of them. He said that
20 years back the situation in Assam was different.
The trust that the people had on judiciary, media or
politicians no longer exist. Despite all difficulties,
the country is progressing, he said, and added that
Assam also registered an increase in GDP growth. He
agreed that transparency and performance was the key
to image building for the police force which, however,
should not have a relation of confrontation with the
He said that he had received complaints about harassment
of innocent people by the men in uniform and called
upon the police, army and other security agencies to
ensure that no innocent people are harassed or killed
during anti-insurgency operations. Urging the police
department to improve its image, he said that the police
needed to change their attitude and help in the process
of peace and development. He also asked the media not
to make insurgents ‘heroes’ by focusing
too much on their activities.
The Chief Minister further said that there are complaints
regarding the mingling of police personnel with militants
and criminals and not registering cases against them.
He urged that such attitude has to be change. He also
stated the urgent need for the right type of training
to imbibe a positive attitude among the police force.
He also said that insurgency is one problem with which
we have to live with. There is no immediate solution
to it. As such, he said that, there is a need to create
a situation where all agencies including the media could
work in a cohesive manner to ensure overall development
of the state.
Address by Mr. G.M.SRIVASTAVA, IPS, DGP, Assam
Mr. Srivastava, in his address, laid stress on factual
presentation of news. He said that building up a positive
attitude is the need of the hour for the police. He,
however, admitted that policemen sometimes become unnecessarily
secretive due to lack of self-confidence but the media
should also understand the tough job in its hand. He
emphasized the need for training police personnel on
how to deal with the media. On many occasions, junior
officers hesitate to divulge any news without the permission
of the seniors. He, however, said that the police department
itself is responsible for this and this needs to be
He further said that news channels try to increase
their TRP and newspapers try to increase their circulation
by spreading certain news without any solid facts to
back them. Such things, he said, comes under yellow
journalism. So, in order to build a healthy society
there is a need to bring yellow journalism to a halt.
He said that only when police, media, politicians and
the public work together can the problems of the state
Mr Prasanta J. Baruah , Joint Secretary
(Hony.), CDPS, delivered the vote of thanks.
OVERVIEW: POLICE-MEDIA RELATIONS
This session was chaired by Mr. H.N.Das, IAS (Retd.),
former Chief Secretary, Assam. The two speakers were
Mr. E.N. Rammohan, IPS (Retd.) , former DG of the Border
Security Force (BSF), and Ms. Patricia Mukhim, Editor,
The Shillong Times.
Address by Mr. E.N.RAMMOHAN, IPS(Retd.)
Mr. E.N.Rammohan in his presentation shared his experiences
gathered during his 35 years of service as a police
officer. He informed that during his earlier years of
service he did not find any type of interference in
his job from political quarters. He said that during
those days, the police was quite independent in doing
its duty and was free from any type of political or
He narrated a few incidents that had occurred while
he was in Assam and his experience as the Director General
of BSF. He said that he always asked his officers to
be less rough with the arrested militants and not to
use force against an unarmed captive. He said that his
ways surprised his fellow officers. He further said
that when he had gone to Kashmir, BSF was notorious
for its infamous interrogation camp, where there were
many custodial deaths. After he went there, he tried
to improve the image of BSF among the people.
Mr Rammohan said that there is no point in media and
police accusing each other. There is no easy solution
to the problem and both have to work together for the
people. Police needs to be absolutely transparent in
its conduct and it should not get influenced by political
pressure. He said that the day one becomes a police
officer, he or she loses his or her religion, his caste,
his creed and becomes accountable to the public. “Khaki
should be a police officer’s religion,”
Address by Ms. PATRICIA MUKHIM, Editor, The
Ms. Patricia Mukhim in her address said that the relation
between police and media is both adversarial and business-like.
She said that in this challenging world, media has many
roles. Thus, media do not get enough time to analyze
and reanalyze its role. She said that the police through
its vast range of duties and responsibilities are a
part of the second and third pillars of democracy. She
said that there is some convergence between the police
and the media, especially during investigations.
Ms Mukhim, however, said that time has come for the
police to modernize itself. The police is still guided
by the archaic Police Act of 1861.The only advancements
they have made is in the procurement of arms and vehicles.
They still lack improvement in communication skills.
Police are quite arrogant, she said, and there is a
little too much show of the “khaki”. The
public is also not clear about the police’s role,
and as such there is a need for role-clarity on the
part of the police.
She said that the relation between police and media
is like that of an “incompatible couple”.
Also, she said, the police and the media use each other
for certain needs. Police use the media for image building
and the media use the police for getting news.
The two presentations were followed by discussion involving
questions from the floor and responses from the presenters.
The main points highlighted during the discussions were
- There is a need for the police to clarify its role.
- Police should give a thought to firm up a Media
- Media should not over hype certain news.
- The Police need to improve communication skills.
The second session began with a power point presentation
on Police-Media Relations by Mr. Wasbir Hussain, Director,
CDPS. In the presentation, he gave an overview
of the relation between the police and the media. He
also highlighted the media stereotypes about the police
and the perception of the police about the media. He
said that free and independent media are a key element
in democracy and it plays a vital role in keeping the
Government and citizens aware of and in contact with
each other. He added that effective and independent
media can function as a watchdog on governance and can
hold the Government to account for their policies &
management of the public sphere. Similarly, police is
equally important for the welfare of the citizens as
it is involved in the lives of the citizens in one way
or the other. He urged the police officers to keep their
private lives clean and develop self-restraint and said
that police must be truthful and honest in thought and
deed in both personal and official life.
Mr Hussain further said that during conflict situations,
police and media often lands in friction; police wants
to keep media away, leading to suspicion and the media,
unable to wait, relies on others for information. Poor
or zero flow of information leads to distortion of news
and confuses people and it also causes distortion of
the image of the police. He explained that the tendency
of the police to keep the media out gives the militants
chance to occupy space in the media. He also gave the
examples of Scotland Yard and New York State Police
as to how they handle the media.
The presentation was followed by an interaction between
the media persons and the police officials. The main
points highlighted during the interaction were the following:
- There is a need for the police to formulate a Media
- The media should be more accountable.
- Police personnel and the media persons should try
to exchange their roles for a few days (by working
closely with each other), so that both can see how
the other is working and under what conditions
- Police should build a mechanism whereby it can send
an e-mail or a group sms in order to inform the media
when some event occurs.
- There is a need for the media persons to get proper
- The police should set up their own blog so that
they can be in touch with the media and the public.
POLICE-MEDIA RELATIONS IN DISTURBED AREA CONDITIONS
The third session was chaired by Mr. H.K.Deka, IPS
(Retd.), former DGP, Assam. The two presenters were
Mr. G.P.Singh, DIG (CWR), Assam, and Mr. Subir Bhaumik,
Eastern India Correspondent, BBC.
Address by Mr.G.P.SINGH, DIG
Mr.G.P.Singh said that there
is not much of a difference in police-media relations
in disturbed area conditions and under normal conditions—it
is just a perception in the minds of the people. He
said that the relation between police and the media
is like relation between a husband and wife—they
live together, eat together, laugh together, and fight
together, but carry on nevertheless. He said that it
is good that the media writes both good and bad things
about the police.
Mr Singh said that there are positive
aspects of having good relations with the media. One
is that police is able to get information and secondly,
if a police officer reads the vernacular dailies regularly,
there is no need for him to get briefed by his sub-ordinates
about certain cases. He, however, said that the media
should not resort to misreporting as it sometimes causes
problem. He referred to the Oct. 30, 2008 blasts in
Assam where misreporting had led to communal tension
in certain areas. He also said that the media should
also not try to support the bandh calls given by the
militant outfits. It should not publish news like ‘bandh
has been successful’, ‘there was full support
to the bandh’, etc.
He also pointed out certain
aspects on which police needs to improve. One is that
the police personnel should be trained on how to deal
with the media and secondly, police needs to have a
clear media policy. He also stressed on ‘Responsible
Reporting’ from the media.
Address by Mr. SUBIR BHAUMIK,
BBC, Eastern India.
Mr. Bhaumik, in his address listed the various security
laws or acts prevailing in the areas declared as disturbed
area. He said that the Indian state has a plethora of
acts that can prevent journalists from carrying out
normal duties in disturbed areas. He said that such
acts create an uneven playing field for the journalists.
The Indian Telegraphs Act, for instance, can be used
to snoop on communications by a journalist in a disturbed
area. These acts infringe on the personal affairs of
the public and the common man. But still, he said,
such acts should not stop the media from doing its duty.
He further said that certain acts such as the AFSPA
lead to sloppy policing.
Mr Bhaumik said that in India we should compare ourselves
with the advanced democracies in the world and not with
failed states like Pakistan, for instance. He laid stress
on the need for training of media personnel. Media persons
are given training only on technical issues, there is
a need to impart training in editorial issues also.
He said that there is a culture of intimidation in
disturbed areas. Media persons also face danger in such
conditions. He commented that “death is not drama”.
He also said that the tendency of overseeing the media,
especially Television, is not good for police.
POLICE-MEDIA RELATIONS: THE NORTHEAST EXPERIENCE
The fourth session was chaired by
Mr. Jaideep Saikia, Security Analyst. Two presentations
were made in this session. One by Mr. B.J.Mahanta, IPS,
IGP (Law&Order), Assam and the other by Mr. Samudra
Gupta Kashyap of The Indian Express.
Address by Mr. B.J.MAHANTA,
IPS, IGP (Law&Order) Assam
Mr Mahanta in his presentation
talked of a survey conducted among various media houses
around the world about the amount of positive news published
about the police, Assam police scores a meager 7.62
in print media as compared to 79.30 by the Scotland
Yard; while in case of electronic media Scotland Yard
scores 82.7 while the Assam Police’s score is
He said that BPR&D (Bureau
of Police Research and Development) statistics show
that the personnel of the Assam Police gets the lowest
salary and poor housing facility among police personnel
in the country. He also mentioned that the stress factor
that is faced by the police in this region is terrible.
Also police is not always able to give out news because
it cannot say anything without material evidence. He
said that the media mainly attacks the police on two
grounds— corruption and excessive use of force.
Mr Mahanta appealed to the
media that it should avoid the use of unreliable sources
and should not obtain information from unethical sources.
He also said that media should play an important role
in fighting corruption, both in the public sphere and
also within the police force. He also mentioned about
the brash attitude of a section of young journalists.
He urged the media to come forward and actively associate
with the police.
He stressed on the need for
building a code of honour between the police
and the media.
Address by Mr. SAMUDRA GUPTA
KASHYAP, Indian Express
Mr. Kashyap talked about the perceptions
that the media and the police have about each other.
He said that a policeman or woman usually seem to think
that he or she is wiser than the average media person
and a media person might think that he or she is wiser
than an average police personnel. Police have a perception
that the media is closer to the terrorist and the media
thinks that there is a nexus between the police and
He also talked about the perception
of the police that the media is full of people who are
less qualified with not enough higher education or comprising
people who have joined the profession because they didn’t
find any other job. He said that these types of perceptions
hurt the relation between the police and the media.
Therefore, there is a need for redefining each other’s
image, so that both can work together.
The two presentations were followed by discussion
involving questions from the floor and responses from
the presenters. The main points highlighted during the
discussions were the following:
- There is a need to clarify the perceptions that
the media and the police have about each other.
- Police should increase the use off cyber-based services,
such as server-based sms system.
- Police should update its website quite regularly
and any event happening should be uploaded immediately.
- There is a need for a uniformed officer as Public
Relations Officer in police ste ups who can be approached
by the media when they require any information.
- ‘Telephone Journalism” should not be
encouraged as it hampers the relation between the
police and the media.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE INTERFACE
The interface on Police-Media Relations brought forward
a lot of points. These are highlighted as follows:
There is a need for the police and the media to understand
each other better in order to increase the synergy between
- The relation between the public and police has to
be improved so as to improve the relation between
the police and the media.
- There is a need to create a situation where all
agencies including the media could work in a cohesive
manner to ensure overall development of the country.
- There is a need for the police to formulate a clear
- Media persons should be given proper training, not
only on the technical issues but also on the editorial
- The media should be more accountable.
- Police should increase the use of cyber-based services.
- Police should be trained as to how to deal with
- Media should play an important role in fighting
corruption within the police as well as in the public
- Transparency and performance was the key to image
building for the police force which, however, should
not have a relation of confrontation with media.