Through the Right Channels

Anuj Bidve, a 23-year-old Indian post-graduate student at the University of Lancaster, was cruelly and as of yet inexplicably shot dead on Boxing Day while he was out with his friends enjoying Manchester’s Christmas celebrations.

I’ve been following closely news reports of his murder to keep appraised of the developments in the police investigation, hoping that the perpetrator of this heinous crime might be arrested and brought to justice without delay – if only to provide his family back in India with a reason for their tragic loss, if ever one can be gleaned.

Huw Edwards, news reader at the BBC, highlighted yesterday that Anuj’s father had learnt of the tragedy on Facebook. He raised an eyebrow and the tone of his voice changed slightly, a tad pejoratively, as he pronounced the word Facebook.

At the same time, an article was published in the BBC News website titled Anuj Bidve murder: Police regret Facebook death news. In it the following extract can be read:

Here was a crucial piece of information, efficiently and almost instantly transferred to the right people, to Anuj’s friends and family, by Anuj’s friends and family, yet both the Police and the BBC regretted that his father had not been contacted through the right channels. What are the right channels? A letter? An email? A telephone call?

Curiously, despite the compunction shown by the Police, Anuj’s Father, Subhash, did not appear concerned on interview – which available as a recording here - about how he had learned of his son’s tragic death. Instead he complained that “nobody official from UK government” had contacted him or his family to notify them, despite the fact that the Police was in possession of Anuj’s mobile phone, which contained “his father’s and mama’s number” as well as other information relevant to his identity. “They could have called us and told us this is what happened to Anuj”, Subhash protested.

It is obvious to me that the Police has been wrong-footed on this occasion by the sheer speed and efficiency of social networks in communicating and transferring the correct information to the right people.

What is less obvious to me is why, despite their huge popularity and proven efficiency, social networks continue to be deemed by institutions, such as the Police, and media outlets, such as the BBC, as not the right channels.

What do you think?