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Letters from India
When Media Distorts Facts to Manufacture News
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
When media distorts facts to manufacture news.

Northeast India has been exposed to indigenous insurgency since long back, but the recent Agartala explosions might be an indication that the region is slowly slipping into the grip of international terrorists. The series of explosions that rocked the Tripura capital on October 1 spread fear psychosis among the people of Northeast, but at the same time the incident ignited them to get united against terrorism. How ever the citizens remained unhappy at the way, the media covered the act of terrorism with distorted facts.

Though the local media did justice while covering the incident, where there was no casualty, the international news agency tried to exploit the situation to manufacture sexy news. In fact, the agencies like AP, Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, AHN, UPI, IANS and ANI grabbed the opportunity to put the news in such a way that the readers (audience) around the world get convinced that the series of blasts in Agartala killed at least 2 persons. And that way they only helped the terrorists to get the extra dividend out of a condemned act.

The Associated Press (date line Gauhati, October 1, 2008) reported that 'a series of blasts exploded in crowded markets in India's remote northeast on Wednesday, killing two people and injuring at least 100.' The reporter quoted senior police official Shreyesh to narrate that 20 more victims were in critical condition.

The All Headline News (date line Agartala, October 1) described that 'four bombs exploded at a bus stand, two marketplaces and a residential area in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura Wednesday killing four people and wounding 100 others.' The report did not have any quotes regarding the casualties except some narration of the incident.

The United Press International also reported in similar words. A news item with Agartala date line on October 1, described, "Four explosions in Agartala, India, Wednesday night left four people dead and 76 more injured, hospital sources said." Quoting The Times of India, it also added, "The state police confirmed just one death but said the toll likely would rise."

The Bloomberg (with the bye line of Michael Heath), reported on next day that 'Indian police and forensic specialists are investigating five bomb blasts in the northeastern state of Tripura that killed at least two people and injured 100 when they ripped through a bus depot and crowded markets.'

The Reuters correspondent in Guwahati, quoted the Tripura police spokesperson Nepal Das on October 1 to describe that 'at least two people were killed and about 100 wounded when four bombs exploded' at Agartala. The Agence France-Presse too quoted Mr Das to narrate the news (date line Guwahati, October 1).

Claiming that the police spokesman responded through telephone from the town of incidence, the AFP reporter described that 'at least one person was killed and 100 more wounded Wednesday when five bombs ripped through busy markets and a bus station in a northeast Indian town.'

Amazingly, the same police officer (Mr Das) was seen during a news slot of a satellite television channel on October 2, where he declared that the police did not have any information regarding the casualties.

The Indo Asian News Service (date line Agartala, October 1) also reported that 'at least two people were killed and about 100 injured when four powerful bombs ——, the police said.' It also quoted the police spokesman Mr Das in a different paragraph to narrate that the first bomb went off at the popular Maharajganj Bazar (Gol Bazar) at about 7 p.m., followed by three near-simultaneous blasts, one at the G.B. Market, one at the Radhanagar public bus stand and the last in Krishnanagar locality.

The same agency (IANS) reported again on October 3 from Agartala, where it maintained silence on the causalities. The news said, "Life returned to normal in this capital city of Tripura less than 48 hours after serial blasts left about 100 injured, and the state government announced a cash reward for anyone providing clues about those responsible for the blasts."

Similarly the Asian News International reported (date line Agartala, October 2) that 'terror struck Agartala ——within 30 minutes in crowded market places and a bus stand.'

Two persons were confirmed dead and about 76 injured in the five blasts of which at least two of the blasts were powerful. The injured were taken to the nearby hospital. According to sources in the hospital some of the injured are in critical condition, it added.

The Indian news agency Press Trust of India also did the same mistake. A report by PTI (date line Agartala, October 2) continued to present the facts as usual while saying 'a day after five back-to-back low intensity blasts rocked this city killing at least two people and wounding 100 others, authorities beefed up security throughout Tripura and sealed the 856 km-long India-Bangladesh border.' The Bangladesh based Muslim fundamentalists were being suspected to be involved in the incident.

Some Indian metro dailies, published from Kolkata and New Delhi also reported deaths (one to five) in Agartala blasts. The website of CNN-IBN highlighted that 'there were five blasts on Wednesday evening (in Agartala) killing two people and injuring 70 others.' Shamefully the Doordarshan, India's national news channel, also parroted the same version of news for the whole day of October 2. The news readers read it for many times and the information was also flashed and scrolled continuously in DD News.

However, the local newspapers of Tripura were restrained while reporting the incident. They did not report about any casualty. Daily Desher Katha, a prominent Bengali daily from Agartala reported only about the injured persons. Speaking to this writer from the news desk of Daily Desher Katha, a senior journalist clarified that the reporters might got confused with other dead bodies in the same hospital, where blast victims were taken for treatment.

Meanwhile, The Director General of Police Pranany Sahay confirmed next day that nobody was killed in Wednesday night's serial blasts in Agartala. Addressing the media persons in the capital city, Mr Sahay also informed that only 52 people got noticeable injuries in the incident. The State chief minister Manik Sarkar also came out with the statement that the Wednesday blasts did not have any casualty. He also announced that the government would take the responsibility for the treatment of the victims.

Now the question that arises whether the responsible agency reporters should make such news out of a tragic incident with distorted facts? Was not it enough for them, where a series of explosions hit a State capital, to prepare a news item for the international readers? Then was it necessary to add some deaths to their news (as colour and flavour), even if it was factually wrong?

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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