A Kashmiri family in Delhi watches the news. (AP)
New Delhi, Nov. 21: If 26/11 was India’s first live-telecast urban warfare, the hanging managed to outsmart the ubiquitous OB van without which no occasion can “break” in the country.
Suhel Seth tweeted: “If the Government had informed the media in advance about Kasab, he may well have been run over by an OB van.”
Riteish Deshmukh, the actor whose father lost his job as Maharashtra chief minister because he took celebrities on a 26/11 voyeurs’ tour, did not miss the chance to get even: “Congratulations, govt of India — for doing it so effectively. For once the govt broke the news not the news channels.”
Some newspapers did report in bits and pieces on either Kasab’s mercy petition or his transfer to the Pune prison but still they did not have the heart of the story.
The Indian Express reported that Kasab’s mercy petition was rejected by the President. The paper said the President on “Tuesday rejected the mercy petition”.
But the government release said: “The petition for clemency filed by condemned prisoner Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Amir Kasab was rejected by the President on 5th November, 2012.”
The Times of India reported that Kasab had been shifted from Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail to Pune’s Yerwada jail, linking it to security concerns ahead of the 26/11 Mumbai attack anniversary.
But the electronic media appeared to have had little inkling till daybreak.
ABP News, owned by the publishers of The Telegraph, said it flashed the news of the mercy plea rejection and Kasab’s transfer at 5.45am. But the hanging was reported at 7.40 am, the channel said.
So are the breaking-news bosses cracking the whip on their reporters?
“No, not at all,” said CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai. “There are certain things in which the government has its say and we credit the government for keeping it under wraps in this age of 24x7 news channels,” Sardesai added.
“What, however, was a miss was the fact that the rejection of the mercy petition was known 15 days later,” Sardesai said.
The news hound Sardesai acknowledged that he would have loved to have the story in advance. But he felt that “a hanging should not be turned into a media event” and, therefore, he gave all credit to the government.
“Yes, we would have loved to have the story. Every journalist wants to have every story. But no regrets on this count. Full credit to the government,” Sardesai said.
He said that it was not the first time the government had managed to keep a big news event under wraps and recalled how the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests was known to the media only after the tests had been conducted.
But the nuclear explosion was a national security issue while the execution of a terrorist convicted by a court of law is hardly a matter of state secret.
The frenzied coverage of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks by some channels had prompted suggestions that the terrorist handlers were obtaining tactical information from the visuals.
Shazi Zaman, editor of ABP News, said he had no regrets for not having got the story in advance as his channel claimed credit for being first with the news in the morning. “We did not miss the story. This morning, we were first with the story across all media channels. We reported that Kasab was due to be hanged,” Zaman said, adding that his channel had “dealt with the story the way it deserved”.