Peace throws up new challenges. For the Assam Police, it is handling the media 'used to' aggressive conflict reporting.
Most militant outfits such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (pro-talks), National Democratic Front of Boroland and Dima Halam Daogah are on peace mode following ceasefire pacts with the government. The Assam Police have thus begun learning skills to shed its perception of the media as necessary evil and use it as force multiplier.
A three-day workshop on police-media relationship began here on Tuesday to provide 30 superintendents of police basic tips on media management. The emphasis was on taking the media along instead of blaming them for 'trying to project a negative image of the police'.
"The programme has been devised by the Bureau of Police Research and Development in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). Experts from both police and media have been drawn in to share their experiences and also work out ways to make use of the media as a force multiplier," inspector general of Assam police (in charge of training) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said.
KM Shrivastava of IIMC took the officers through a session of what news actually means and also made them discuss major crisis situations such the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai. "Apart from the police learning a major lesson regarding media during the Mumbai crisis, the government woke up to give a fresh look at media during such situations," former Indo-Tibetan Border Police director general Gautam Kaul said.
Kaul, who joined the workshop as a resource person, added: "Don't blame the media for bad reporting on the police. The media are not necessarily hostile. Instead, once the police officers are trained on various aspects of the media, there will be less reason for the media to complain about police hostility."
The officers were also given other case studies including the Aarushi murder case to examine how the police could have handled such cases in the light of the media's requirement.
Former Assam director general of police Hare Krishna Deka said the media could not be blamed for the inability of the police to earn the people's trust. "The police have earned a negative image mostly due to their own fault. The media only exploits the situation. Despite that we must acknowledge that the media have also done numerous positive stories about the police," he said.