IMC meet stresses need for openness between media and police

MUMBAI: One of the ways in which the image of the Mumbai police force can be improved is: if there is more openness and trust between them and the media. That was one of the points that came out during an interactive meet Media and The Police, organised by the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC).

Filmmaker Govind Nihalani and Mutka Arts CEO Ravi Gupta spoke at the meeting. Gupta who started his career as a policeman said, "For the most part the print and electronic media do depict the police accurately. In film however the projection is bad. That is because the aim is to make a commercial mix. They are portrayed as being very corrupt and high handed.

"By the time the police arrive on the scene the hero has sorted out everything. Another way police are depicted in film is going outside the system to seek justice. Having said that the fact is that while there is a certain amount of time that the people spend on film their perceptions are shaped by reality. If that reality does not change then no amount of image building will help."

Gupta added that while nobody questions the police force per se, perceptions are shaped by interactions with the force. He stressed on the need for the police to be more open in the information that they convey. One way could be to have a website. That way anybody wanting to do research on the force could visit the site which should give information on the police structure as well as how the different departments function. Another way is for the police to use FM radio for instance during traffic updates.

Nihalani said that the news media plays a huge role in shaping peoples perceptions of the force. The facts can be given a point of view but they should never be changed. "The thing is that films influence on perception is limited. In every film the authority triumphs in the end. If it had such a big influence then crime would not be such a major headache.

"At the same time I do not condone the lack of research done by filmmakers when they portray the police. A policeman shown wearing a generals uniform is not good. But the fact of the matter is that when you read or hear about high ranking officers involved in the Telgi scandal it shakes up the citizens' morale." He suggested that the police take the media into confidence while sharing information. Members of the print media gathered complained that there was no system of information flow.

For instance when inquiries were made over the appointment and transfer of high ranking officials during the Telgi scandal they were simply shunted from one department to another for six months. In fact the problem according to them is that the print media is often not critical enough of the force. Often it is just hand out journalism. The correct perspective in articles is often missing because of a lack of information flow..

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