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Panel Discussion on "Crisis Communication - Lessons to be learnt from American Crisis for Indian Media and Politicians held on 6th October 2001 (background note)


Crisis is never ending process in the human life.  In the normal life, we face many crisis individually and collectively as a 'Nation".   In the past two or three years, we have been facing several crises created by terrorists, anti-social elements, nature, etc.  If we retrospectively look at the way, we have dealt with them, there may be different opinions and criticisms.

Any crisis situation is being handled only by three establishments, first the Government, second Media that is Electronic, print and new media and third the Politicians. 

Take for example the crisis on account of Hijacking of plane to Kandahar few months back, kidnapping of Rajkumar by Veerappan, Kargil war, Gujarath earthquake, Agra Summit, etc.  

  • In almost all the above cases, there were criticisms that the Government was not proactive….not effectively communicative;
  • There were accusations that the Media more particularly Visual Media sensationalised the events;
  • Equally Politicians were blamed for taking political advantage of the difficult situations. 
Informally the fingers of Government, Media and the Politicians were pointing out on each other for such handling.  Government was feeling that Media and Politicians were sensationalising the issues; Media was accusing the Government for not being proactive and equally Politicians taking advantage of the situation;  The Politicians were accusing the Government for not taking them into confidence and not revealing all the information on hand to them.  Ultimately this has led to three establishments acting independently without addressing the core issues of crisis.  Only the peripherals were addressed. 

There were more criticisms about the way Kandhahar episode was handled. There were opinions that the Government was not proactive in communication and nobody was prepared to give  authentic information to the public;  Media more particularly television media was accused of televising emotions of the family members;  Politicians were accused of taking political advantage during the critical hour instead of supporting the Government.  Whatever be the reasons, ultimately the Government was forced to surrender before the Terrorists and release a dreaded terrorist who is also behind the WTC attack. There were also expert opinions that had the situation was handled together, the country would not have succumbed to the pressure of terrorists.

On the other hand, during this critical time in America, we find the Mayor of New York coming out with periodical statements of position; Television Media creating a conducive atmosphere and preparing the public to fight against terrorism and not sensationalising the event;  The Political parties including Bill Clinton rallying behind President Bush to fight the root cause of crisis namely "Cross border terrorism".  There may be also aberrations here and there in US. Let us take good point from them.

With this in background, the country may face in future also any type of crisis generated by terrorists, nature, etc.  This panel discussion  would help to find some strategies in handling such crises in future bringing together the three systems namely Government, Media and Politicians.


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