Basharat Saleem Parray
The media, if one goes by the dictionary meaning, signify channels of Cultivation [communication?], conveyance, or expression. With the passage of time the revolution in tele communications, the entire contours of this institution have altered. The boom in media technology in the 21st century has been further buttressed by another media, viz., social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and so on. It is against this backdrop I would like to look into the recent tension between India and Pakistan and how mass media played a role in its furtherance.
In the wake of the Pulwama attack, the entire coverage of several T.V. news channels focussed on the respective national tensions against each other, considerably escalating the war-like hysteria. Media houses were flooded with ultra-nationalistic headlines: ‘Pakistan’s fakery exposed’, ‘massive victory of ours’, ‘Haq aur batil samnay aye’. Not only this, these newsrooms filled with ultra-nationalistic journalists turned into battlefields, their formal suit-pant dresses suddenly transformed into soldier-like attire with a toy gun in their hands. (One feels surprised then that why can’t then they dress up in pakoda-wala attire for a day when educated youth hit the roads to sell pakodas?) This jingoistic media forgets the basic jobs they are supposed to do. The prime task of journalism is to be objective, to question facts, to ascertain truth, to critically asses a government’s policies, and help generate genuine public opinion rather than mingling nationalism with every story. True that journalists, as any human being, may have certain political and ideological leanings. There is nothing wrong in that. But to propagate that ideology in media needs to be contested.
This syndrome of hyper nationalism on the T.V. channels is further fuelled by social media, where the bulk of population, particularly the young generation, decides that their opinion should be the final verdict. Cross-checking of facts is rarely resorted to. Hate is often the natural outcome. This vicious circle of hate that is deliberately being circulating through various I.T. Cells in the social media which forms the main tool to polarize communities on religious lines.
The mainstream media, unfortunately, heavily endorses this madness. The radicalization in the mainstream media or social media, is seen as a main instrument for altering public opinion for electoral polls. This harbouring of hatred and nationalistic aggressiveness professed by these channels for their own politico-economic ambitions, such as TRPs ,has led to the destruction of ideas of harmony(something the younger generations need to take cognizance of). The recently-evolved culture of ‘certificate of nationalism’ has become an almost inseparable part of the so-called TV debates.
How logical it would have been if these media houses, instead of pumping the population to go for war, spent their energies to carve out messages of peace from both the sides of the border. How thoughtful it would have been to propagate love rather than spread the cancer of hatred within or across their boundaries.
It is high time that those individuals, who are against such wrong-doings but are still in a dilemma whether to break their muteness or not speak up. It is time to address this issue to axe down the ferocious designs before time runs out. There are several real problems, such as corruption, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment—to name a few—which both these countries need to grapple with through their ‘unsettled fourth pillar of democracy.’
—The author is pursuing a doctorate in the Department of History at Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org