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Boston blasts: How good police-media relation yields bumper harvest

Published by Guardian on Mon, 22 Apr 2013

ONE might not deeply appreciate the esoteric and exoteric meaning of President Barack Husseini Obama's submission last Monday's night over the Boston Marathon bombing until last Friday's night when the second suspect was captured.In what appeared like his first comment on the dastardly act which left four persons (including the M.I.T officer, Sean A. Collier killed on Friday) dead and more than 170 injured, Obama had said, 'Make no mistake. We will find out who did this. We would find out why they did this. And we will hold them to account.'Juxtaposing Obama's statement with what, perhaps, could have been the reaction of President Goodluck Jonathan if the incident had happened in Nigeria, a BB message which was circulated the following day reads: 'No statements about prayers for the bombings to stop, no statements that maybe it is our turn, no comments about amnesty, dialogue or forgiveness. That is a President!'And no comment that it was the opposition or the 'losing' presidential candidate that orchestrated it! It was all a statement of intent, purpose and that of assurance to the citizens that the government (of America) is in charge and will take care of their worries.'And giving efficacious interpretation to Obama's statement, within 48 hours, one could see pro-active law enforcement agencies in action. They were simply on top of the situation. And nobody was left in doubt that, at least, the first part of Obama's prediction (we will find out who did this) would soon come to pass. It did, just five days later.Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is cooling off in police custody, while the law enforcement authorities perfect strategies for the realization of other aspects of the mandate as indicated by President Obama: the motivations for the bombings and holding perpetrators responsible. Dzhokhar's co-suspect, his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, died on Friday during a gun battle with the police.The Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen heritage. They were reportedly born in the Caucasus region, a cauldron fought over by Chechen separatists in the 1990s after the collapse of Russian federation. They came to America over a decade ago as a result of strife in their homeland.While the writer of the BB message may not be totally incorrect, after all, some of the wordings are close to what President Jonathan had uttered, reacting to similar occurrences of bomb blasts in the country, could he be totally blamed for his comments' This reporter thinks otherwise. This is because you can't give what you do not have. In a country where public office holders play too much 'politics' than governance, you can't expect anything less.Besides, who will do the investigation' Who is going to lead the manhunt' Are they the police that are not only ill-equipped, but poorly trained' Where are the gadgets to track the suspects as shown in the Boston Marathon bombings event'Life began to fall apart for the Tsarnaev brothers as soon as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shared surveillance-camera images of them with the public on Thursday with the appeal that people should help with further information that could help hunt the suspects down.'Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbours, co-workers or family members of the suspects,' Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston, was quoted saying on Thursday, while appealing, 'Though, it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us.' Why wouldn't President Obama be over confident, when he knows the investment government has expended on security of life and property of Americans home and abroad'Another factor that may deny Nigeria recording feat in intelligence gathering and tracking criminals, soon, is the perceived lack of cordial relationship between the law enforcement agencies and the media.Nigerians are witnesses to legion of harassment and brutality of journalists by the police while quite a number of cases of murder of journalists are yet to be resolved. And recent encounter between the police and some journalists of Leadership Newspaper would serve as fresh pointer to strain bond that has continued to exist between the two institutions that are so pivotal to nation building and development.But in America, last week, news organizations as well as social media became part of a real-time manhunt drama. The close interaction of reporters with the unfolding events underscored the complex relationship the news media have had with law enforcement authorities in the US.Ironically, in the case of unearthing the perpetrators of the Boston bombings, news organizations received both knocks and kudos.On Thursday, reports of scolding some media establishments for what was termed ' irresponsible reporting' dominated the scene, while earlier on Friday, the police authorities, however, thanked news media outlets for spreading the word that Bostonians should take shelter ' and cautioned them against repeating secondhand or thinly sourced information.Indeed, the F.B.I. had, on Wednesday, chastised news outlets that mistakenly reported an arrest in the case, saying it could have 'unintended consequences.' But the next day, the authorities used the news media (print, electronic, and online) to help display photographs of the two men it was seeking as suspects.On Friday, network programming was pre-empted most of the day for live coverage of the manhunt. As day turned to night, ABC, CBS and NBC scrapped their prime-time schedules for news and refrained from taking commercial breaks.At a 9:30 p.m. news conference after the second suspect was taken into custody, the Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, thanked the news media and the public in the same breath.In places where reporters could not tread because of police restrictions, local residents filled in some of the audio and video gaps.From their front stoops and through their windows, they posted videos of an early-morning shootout and photographs of a vehicle said to be involved in a police chase.The material was quickly scooped up by local television stations and Twitter users. On NBC's 'Today' show, Savannah Guthrie was able to interview two Watertown residents sheltering at home, thanks to a Skype video connection. The residents showed images of bullet holes in their walls, presumably from the shootout.As thousands of police officers filed out on Friday, the Massachusetts State Police asked local and national television networks to refrain from showing any live video of police movements, and for a time the Federal Aviation Administration restricted news helicopters from hovering above the area where one of the suspects was believed to be hiding.As partners in progress, they complied. 'We've only been showing the feeds that authorities are comfortable with,' the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo repotedly told viewers about 10:45 a.m., 12 hours after the chaotic situation started with a shooting in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston.By then, the first suspect was confirmed to be dead. The second suspect's face was omnipresent on news Web sites and television, sometimes accompanied by the words 'on the run.'Journalists positioned themselves as close as they could to the action in Cambridge and nearby Watertown, at times spurring law enforcement officials to push them back. At one point, Kerry Sanders, a correspondent for NBC, was reporting while crouching for his own safety, in a scene evocative of wartime coverage from the Middle East.It was gathered that the CNN correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, who was near Mr. Sanders, insisted that the channel's coverage pause so that it could be put on a delay. Such delays are common when broadcasters are concerned about accidentally showing violent or graphic images.The tension of the day also played out on Twitter, where seemingly every utterance from the local police scanners was repeated, often without any context. Twitter users urged one another not to share what they were hearing on the scanners, and by midday the audio feeds on at least two scanner Web sites had been taken offline temporarily.On Friday night, as word spread that the second suspect had been spotted, more than 250,000 people, it was learnt, were simultaneously tuned to a Ustream rebroadcast of a scanner.The cooperation and understanding from all and sundry especially, the media, the police, and also the people couldn't have yielded anything less, other than the ultimate result, the arrest of the second suspect, several hours after the first suspect had been killed in a gun battle.The import of the feat is captured by President Obama as he declared Friday night that Tsarnaev's capture 'closed an important chapter in this tragedy.' But he is not oblivion of yet to be answered question, 'the motivations of the two men accused of perpetrating the attacks that unnerved the nation.' Obama insisted, 'The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers.'President Jonathan couldn't have offered anything better than what the sender of the BB message relates above, because, he knew, killers of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige (since December 23, 2001) and several others such as Dele Giwa (1986); Godwin Agbroko (December 22, 2006); Abayomi Ogundeji (August 16, 2008); Bayo Ohu (September 20, 2009) are still at large.It is however hoped that stakeholders in the Nigeria project will take the lessons and strive to act accordingly.
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