Friday, September 10, 2010

Actually, the Koran was burnt and we didn't even realise it.

Back in 2008, a radical pastor from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka (Kansas) did burn a Koran and also captured it on film. But we didn't hear or see any of it. The media just didn't latch on to the story and saved the world a Terry Jonesesque fiasco.

Cut to 2010 and Terry Jones who has mercifully "put on hold" his plans to burn the Koran. This episode has raised that one important question - Should the media report events that simply intend to provoke? Thankfully, there are voices who say we shouldn't. AP says it does not distribute pictures of Korans being burned, in line with their policy not to cover events that are “gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend.” NYT executive editor Bill Keller adds that “the freedom to publish includes the freedom not to publish.”

Jones knew pretty well how to work his way around media ethics. He started with controversial "Islam is of the devil" hoardings in the summer of 2009... then came t-shirts with the same slogan... (by then he was getting picked up in regional papers) until finally he decided on the international "Burn a Koran day". He succeeded for, as Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs points out, there are more people at his press conferences than at his sermons!

I wish the media here stops obliging the next time marauding Shiv Sainiks harass couples on Valentine's Day or execute one of their many self-aggrandising and media-friendly stunts. It also applies to lumpen groups of all religious shades.