More police powers welcome but allow media to report facts

I welcome the move to accord the police more powers in a situation like a terror attack (Bill to give police more powers in a terror attack; Feb 28).

This is especially so because live feeds could give terrorists the upper hand, as was seen during the terror attacks in Paris and Mumbai.

This control of information will prevent those caught up in the incident from sending or spreading news that may compromise the security forces' operations.

But one has to understand that in such emergencies, most people send out these messages not to cause alarm but to warn their friends or family members who may be heading to the area.

Extending this information blackout to the media, however, is not the way forward.

The media has an important role to play in our society to bring news to the masses as it unfolds.

They should be allowed to report the facts, even if live streaming of operations by the police or security forces is not permitted.

Hence, a blanket blackout of the news that affects the media as well is unwarranted.

Also, a key provision in the proposed amendment states that the police commissioner can issue a communications stop order when authorised by the Home Affairs Minister.

In such emergencies, time is critical. The powers to issue the communications stop order should be directly vested in the police commissioner.

The Government should have faith in the police commissioner to exercise his discretion professionally without concurrence from the Home Affairs Minister.

Rajasegaran Ramasamy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'More police powers welcome but allow media to report facts'. Print Edition | Subscribe