Mis-Communicator of the Week: The Indian Government

Shutting down a negative story can be tough and costly in time and resources. Done well and an organisation can come out the other side of a crisis with a reputation enhanced and a stronger communications team in place. Done badly and it can be costly both in terms of a hard won reputation and legal fees too. 

When a commercial organisation turns to the courts it will be because they weren’t able to react to a developing story in time; have sufficiently deep pockets to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to force the media into a retraction; or are an individual with a massive ego who thinks the media has no right poking their noses into ‘private’ business. When a government seeks to silence the media it is a wholly more sinister state of affairs. 

This is the case with this week’s award winner who, while facing a significant reputation risk, would prefer to censor the media rather than seek a creative response. A television documentary about the horrific gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 was to be aired simultaneously in India and around the world on Sunday evening. The Indian government instead stepped in to ban its broadcast. 

Home Minister Rajnath Singh (pictured) said comments in which the rapist/murderer Mukesh Singh blamed the 23-year-old victim and said she should not have been out at night were "highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women”. The minister was right, the rapist’s comments are beyond contempt but the response from the government of India was poor and damaged its world-wide reputation further.

The crisis worsened when one Indian news network ran a blank screen for an hour in protest at the government ban which secured vocal support on social media and pushed the story on for another news cycle.

This was not the way India would have wished to have been marking International Women’s Day. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, previously a vocal champion of women's rights, has so far made no comment on the row while the government’s action did nothing to turn the ongoing negative narrative about women’s place in Indian society.

All in all a dire crisis response which is why the Indian Government is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.

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