Thursday, November 27, 2008

Significant Difference In Coverage Of Mumbai Terrorist Attack

This is not a post on politics or even a commentary on the political ramifications of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. I noticed stark differences in the way this story is being covered Thanksgiving morning and I had to point it out.

The emphasis on CNN and the news nets, in general, has been to focus on the ongoing violence and get as many eyewitness accounts on as possible. However, when it comes to giving background information on the attack itself, the difference between how these outlets have covered the story, and coverage by news outlets within India and other India-centric news sites, is like night and day.

A stark example of why one should go beyond traditional cable coverage

A Thanksgiving morning story on CNN, headlined,"Terrified Americans describe Mumbai chaos," had the following to say about those who may have planned the attack:
Indian Prime Minister Moanmohan Singh said the attackers were likely foreigners, but he did not name a country where he believed they were from. Officially, the Indian authorities are saying no one has claimed responsibility. A group called the Deccan Mujahideen took credit in e-mails sent to several Indian news outlets.
Contrast that, with the following story posted at Express India, via reports from Reuters and other news agencies. In an in-depth piece titled, "Terrorists came from Karachi via sea to Mumbai," comes this:
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai came via sea routes from Karachi in Pakistan, according to an intelligence report.

The reports had warned that there could be a possible entry of terrorists into Mumbai through the sea route, a top police official claimed.

"This intelligence was available six months ago and subsequently a barge was found by the locals on Shrivardhan coast in Raigad district four months back," the official, who did not wish to be identified, said.

Locals feared that the barge might have contained explosives but nothing was found when customs and naval personnel inspected it.

The terrorists, who created havoc in Mumbai overnight, came by boats, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has said.
In another article, at India Express alone, we learn the following:
Intelligence sources said 12 terrorists in two batches had been frequenting the two hotels for the last one month and were well aware of the topography.

Among the dead were nine foreigners and 14 police personnel including ATS chief Hemant Karkare and four other senior officers.

Security agencies have sought to blame LeT, one of whose activists was captured alive in Trident. He is said to be Abu Ismail hailing from Faridkot in Pakistan. The terrorists numbering about 20-25 are believed to have landed on Mumbai shores after a mother vessel dropped them in three inflatable boats. Seven of them have been gunned down.

The Indian Navy claimed that they have spotted the mother vessel and giving it a hot chase.

Tourist venues were not the only target

This same article also includes important coverage that is being left out of cable net reports on this tragedy,
The other scene of action was at Nariman House, a Jewish residential complex, where some Israelis have been held hostage by some three-four terrorists.
One would hardly know, judging by coverage on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, that there was any other ongoing activity, beyond what was happening at the resort hotels.

After this tragedy resolves itself, look back at the earlier reporting

When this crisis is resolved, it may turn out that CNN and the cable nets were correct in simply going with official Indian governmental reporting of the tragedy. I am not a fan of following the government line on anything, but there are times that speculation is not the best route.

However, I suspect, that for those who desire to dig a little deeper for, at the very least, the background of what is going on, alternate, India-centric news sources may be a more informed choice to make. The accounts seem to go beyond mere speculation and provide far deeper background information than what one finds on the news nets, where the focus is the emotional drama of the moment.

The Iraqi parallel

I learned the most about what was happening inside Iraq by reading Iraqi blogs that did not have an official filter attached to the information. It is always better to go closer to the source when getting our information. Thanks to the ever-evolving internet, this has become increasingly easy to do.

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