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The News Minute Editorial| September 8, 2014| 5.00 pm IST

The Chennai Police Commissioner recently sent out a circular titled ‘Press in-charge officers’ with names of four policemen in charge of 26 reporters working across 11 publications in Chennai. Crime reporters in Chennai believe this is a step taken by the police commissioner to keep a watchful eye on specific reporters and minimize negative reportage.

ReadChennai reporters angry at Police Commissioner's reported move to monitor them

Journalists, most of them, are always monitored, their phones tapped.

From the friction that the circular has already created between the police forces and reporters, it seems clear that the move will damage more than protect the free flow of news and information and create tiers of favoritism and nepotism. 

If this sounds like spy versus spy, it is and will go a long way in creating mistrust and suspicion in news rooms. In a state where the press is already semi-gagged and any mention of the ruling party in a negative light is slammed with a defamation suit, this new tools is nothing more than a plodding fork. Here’s why-

It will encourage people to rat on their colleagues or bosses to win favors. Nothing is more powerful that stoking suspicion about reports and reporters in a newsroom where nothing is said and everything is understood.

Such a move to constantly monitor reports, especially ones with journalist bylines, there is the danger of pinpointing who the sources are.

A police officer asking, ‘What are you doing today,’ is definitely not a good sign.

Votaries of the circular say it will bring order to an unruly situation especially for crime reporters. If that is the intent, it should be a rule that is not open to interpretation. 

There are all about wrong priorities. Should the Police commissioner not be pulling up his officers for law and order issues rather than asking high level officers like Deputy and Assistant Commissioner to monitor news reports?

It is very likely that police officers will end up monitoring journalists instead of ensuring law and order. Worse, the camaraderie that should ideally exists between journalists and law enforcement officials – both of whom are supposed to serve the society – will be broken.

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