role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,
Challenges to internal security through communication networks
With Kashmir continuing to simmer under student protests, CM of Jammu and Kashmir has blamed the media for unnecessarily exaggerating the security situation in the valley. She has mentioned that electronic media shouldn’t show discussions that promote hatred against Kashmiris. Kashmir situation worsened in past three weeks with onset of protests against use of force on agitating students. The situation escalated after cops raided a degree college in pulwama in which 17 students were injured.
Role of media
The media has two functions. To inform the facts on the ground. Be responsible to place things in perspective so that people in rest of country get an accurate picture. Largely the people are getting accurate picture however, the media should be responsible enough to report the truth and avoid exaggeration which seems to be case when Kashmir is discussed.
There is wide section of opinion outside the valley which is unhappy with continued agitation, calls of separatism and when Pakistani flags are raised. Therefore if there are participants in talk shows who reflect this unhappiness, then it is something that the political leadership in the government of Kashmir will have to accept.
At the same time, things have to be handled with certain degree of sobriety. There shouldn’t be an increasing chasm between Kashmir and the rest of country especially the Kashmir students outside the valley should be made to feel welcome.
Though Kashmir faced worse in 1990s, the media situation was very different then. There wasn’t proliferation of channels, the print media was different and the social media didn’t exist. So this factor has to be taken into account.
The situation is also qualitatively different in the valley in 1990s than it is now. However, Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir continues unabated. It has assumed different forms.
The Kashmir issue
It is a territorial issue which relates to Indian territory of state of Jammu and Kashmir against Pakistan’s illegal and forcible occupation. This has to be dealt with internationally (bilaterally) by GoI.
There is an internal matter which is within the domain of a centre state relations.
As long as Kashmiri leadership and people insist on mixing up these two, the media will continue to mix it up. When media will mix it up, there will be a certain element of nationalism which will come in.
There are professional guidance on how media should work. But media is also made of people with sentiments. Pakistani terrorism and interference has gone on for three decades. It has to be made clear to Kashmir leadership that there is a question of Pakistan only when it comes to occupational territory and not internal relations. This has to be dealt with within the realms of Indian constitution.
Not the true picture
The problem in Kashmir is also because of provocation from the national media, especially TV channels. As far as local media in Kashmir is concerned, it has been more balanced. The local media has been working under tremendous pressure since last 26 years in a conflict situation, with pressure from state as well as non-state actors.
The mainstream media of India, especially the TV has become very toxic in recent times. In rest of India, media plays a role in exposing police atrocities, but in Kashmir, the victims are portrayed as unworthy of sympathy and an atmosphere is created because of which Kashmiris get beaten up. The Indian media has been showing isolated incidences of violence which is stroking fire across the valley.There are provoking passions in the rest of country by repeatedly showing incidences of stone pelting on security forces.
It is not that as mainstream media doesn’t know how to report in Kashmir. There have been conflicts in north east which have been reported responsibly. However, the media seems to be biased in Kashmir case. It is because media over time has realised that to gain more TRPs, if Kashmir issue is raised through national security prism, it raises more eyeballs. This is reinforced by the guests that come on the talk show who are expert commentators and former government servants. They create such an atmosphere which makes the Kashmir situation more complex.
So media instead of being an observer has become a participant in the Kashmir case.
For this, the quality of guests should be improved, the diversity of opinion should increase, Kashmirisshould be allowed to write about Kashmir.
It is not entirely Indian media’s blame to whatever is happening in Kashmir. The Pakistan media is creating havoc in valley. Small things are flashed all over their media inciting fire against the security forces. Adding to it, the state government and the central government also have to be blamed for their inactivity in solving the problems. Just by disregarding that ‘talks and terror’ cant go hand in hand, they are not taking steps to solve the situation. The Kashmir leadership has to play its part in educating a public opinion in India. At the end of the day, there is a certain objective reality in Kashmir. There has been agitation, stone pelting etc.s which is going on and that is true even after factoring the exaggeration. And these agitations viewed by vast sections of Indians is provoking a reaction. Therefore it is incorrect to say that only a small segment views the developments in Kashmir outside the nationalist perspective. Security forces are shedding their blood in Kashmir and Indians can’t be oblivious to it.
Self restraint is absent in media. If not restraint then some restrictions have to be exercised in reporting. There are certain norms which have to be observed when it comes to reportage, especially in conflict situation. Hence media should observe that in name of security of the armed forces so that no further damage is done to Indian side.
On the other hand, a dialogue process needs to be initiated. If the government doesn’t wishes to talk to separatists, it is fine. But they should atleast talk to the youth, the students and find out why they are picking up stones. The results of exam have been good and students are joining civil services, army and other careers. So the media should not homogenise the picture about Kashmir. The reporters should stay in Kashmir and then write about it like they do it while covering in other foreign countries. The dominant view of the state on national security should not be taken over by media. If that happens, the media is threatening national security. Negative feedback by media stabilises the system and hence media should be the facilitator of the platform to provide opinion and not become the representative of it.
Connecting the dots:
The role of media is extremely important in the recent times, especially when it comes to security of India. Critically analyse the importance of media for the same.