Effect of Media Coverage during War

There is no doubt about a pre-existing debate about the legit restriction towards a liberal right. During the 1999 Kargil War, Barkha Dutt, a senior news reporter, and journalist were involved in a controversy. She allegedly reported live from a ‘secret’ Tiger Hill operation.

Published on - 20 July, 2022

Damansekhar Saikia

Where there is a right, there is a duty, to follow and abide by the law laid down in the constitution of India. Electronic media, like journalism and print media, is often considered the fourth pillar of democracy. The debates that place on our television sets also tend to throw a spark of light into the masses, regarding the content of the same news debates. That is to say, the topics voluntarily chosen for discussion as a form of debate are often quite highly sensitive, and with no less doubt, invoke both the community standards involved. Similar instances of taking news debates to a political advantage were seen in the past when a few panelists on a news channel debate were allegedly charged for making irresponsible statements. These events not only harm the harmonic fabric that binds us together as one nation but also prove themselves to be a cover-up. Sometimes, the arguments are so sensitive, that there is no other option for the moderator than to be a devil’s advocate on the live show. This also leads to outrageous reactions, as a sense of rebellion is invoked among the people. And why not, any sensible man with prudence is bound to get influenced by such debate on live television shows because it involves the majority interest with minimum emphasis on minor restrains. That is to stay, if abstained from such socio-political issues on live television shows, much can be achieved in terms of harmony. Nevertheless, there is a tendency for the rise of such instances, as this can be called the new attraction for electronic new media, specifically television.

It can be said that, because these sensitive debate topics, enjoy big brand names, it seems they have acquired some kind of a shield against themselves. The intent behind such content on live television is very clear, yet extremely provocative. These news debates, tend to blend the mind of an individual about certain narratives. However, until and unless there is no regulatory body to govern the norms for the same, such tragic events would occur again and again. Until and unless, the government, or any other regulatory body for the same, come forward with strict guidelines, these news channel television debates would cause more and more disruption among the masses. Recently, there have been numerous cases, relating to outraging a particular community, in terms of content in a news debate. Regularly, there has been an upsurge in more and more sensitive topics of discussion, that is chosen on live television.

A bench comprising Justices D.Y Chandrachud and M.R Shah ruled that the media has the right to report the proceedings of judicial institutions, dismissing a plea filed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) which sought to restrain media from reporting oral observations of the judges. This, in terms of the right to report, is a landmark judgment as the court proceedings include various cases including national security, constitutionality, and human rights violation. However, the same court has also observed that except in cases of child sexual abuse and marital issues, the phenomenon of a free press should extend to court proceedings. It is to be noted that, either sensitive or confidential data, when pressed by a Cjournalist, perhaps come into a bigger domain. That is to say that, it may not be necessary, or it might not be in the interest of justice, to let such informational data, come out and reach the masses as a form of electronic media, run by some news channels.


As the terminology involved signifies, reporting is a right, that is acquired by the journalist, news channels, and print media. However, from the context of morality, it is more of an extended duty, conferred upon, by the natural law of the land. Since time immemorial, the passing on of knowledge-related information has been considered a crucial factor in the evolution of society. It is of much importance because people in the public, seek to know the hidden truth, which often is fabricated sometimes.


Legally speaking, fundamental rights are enshrined in part IV of our Constitution. There have been wide interpretations, observed by the judiciary in this regard. Yet, there seems to be a never-ending conflict, between freedom of speech, coupled with its restrictions. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every citizen. The basic right to right to freedom of speech and expression is viewed as one of the most fundamental components of a healthy democracy for it permits its residents to participate completely in the social and political procedure of the nation. The right to freedom of speech and expression gives a more prominent degree of importance to the citizenship of an individual broadening the idea from the degree of essential presence to giving the individual a political and social life.

Recently, there have been various instances, where the interest of justice in the apex court has been invoked. One such incident can be traced back to the days when the world witnessed a global lockdown, the news channel, running on the online platform, sold to the masses the fear of the Coronavirus. Peddling a narrative on news television, to suit a specific ideology is low-level journalism. However, this tends to go on, as it attracts the interest of the masses.


There is no doubt about a pre-existing debate about the legit restriction towards a liberal right. During the 1999 Kargil War, Barkha Dutt, a senior news reporter, and journalist were involved in a controversy. She allegedly reported live from a ‘secret’ Tiger Hill operation. The right to freedom of speech and expression may be a huge ambit in itself, but it must be restricted to a certain amount of restriction, because, when sensitive information is pressed, it yields within itself the capacity to invoke or provoke certain emotions among the human community standards. Dutt has allegedly pressed, or in terms of mass media, reported live from Kargil War, during 1999. The main issue arose when the Indian Army was at a strategic point near Drass and drew the attention of the public in the Indian nation. The government then went on to impose a news embargo, so that certain information may not be made public until the approval of an authorized body. It was a blunder at the hands of Dutt’s team, because the flashlight used for shooting and reporting, was a strategic failure as it blew the cover. A book titled "Kargil: Turning the Tide" written by Lt Gen Mohinder Puri (Indian Army General at that time) talked about Barkha Dutt's reporting on The Kargil war. He mentioned that after the war he invited Barkha Dutt to his office and admired her for the professionalism she showed while reporting on the war. He then politely told her that she might have unintentionally shared Army's plan with the enemy by saying that "our next target is Tiger Hill". This, however, does not prove that Barkha's reporting caused casualties on the Indian side.


There are several petitions and cross-appeals, filed before the honorable courts of India, impleading the parties involved, which in this case are the news channels to exercise an amount of restraint, from broadcasting sensitive information. Such scrutiny will amount to harmony among the people of the nation. Furthermore, if news channels take a stand on impartiality or neutrality, no question arises of deriving confusion or conflict among the people. While living on air, during news channel debates, some of the contents of the live show must be censored. Secondly, the emphasis on the scrutiny must be done specifically for live footage. 

Damansekhar Saikia is a student at  Amity University, Chattisgarh. The views expressed are of the author. The Philox does not endorse it.

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