Express and Explore Yourself

Sunday, May 27, 2012

National media under fire from J&K Interlocutors

The interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir have criticised the role of the media and journalists in the state for "inventing events for political game" and suggested a short-term training to hone their reporting and writing skills."The role of the media, too, has been complex, combining positive peace support with mistruths that undermine peace initiatives. Barring a small handful of anchors and reporters, the national media have underreported conflict areas and tend to focus on moments of violence or recrimination.

"The local media, by contrast, have given far more attention to peace process developments but--as occurs routinely in conflict situations–-there are some amongst them who are selective in what they report and biased in favour of one or another political position," the interlocutors' report made public today said. The report found "flaws" in the role of a few journalists who "invented" quotes for their stories which resulted in "stumbling block" for peacemakers.Commenting on the role of journalists in the state, it said "a few even go as far as inventing events and quotes for stories. To these few, journalism appears to be a political game rather than the pursuit of fact".

"The negative fallout from this kind of journalism is that it acts as a brake on peacemakers who wish to move forward from stated positions, especially amongst the dissident groups," the interlocutors said.The 176-page report of the interlocutors--Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari, which was submitted to Home Minister P Chidambaram in October last year, recommended that curbs on Internet and mobile telephone usage need to be urgently reviewed.It has suggested newspaper editors in the state be encouraged to participate in the activities of the Editors Guild of India and other national and South Asian professional bodies.

Besides, they should be included in the press teams that accompany the President and the Prime Minister during their trips abroad."Journalists from the state should be provided short-term training in institutes of mass communication in order to improve their reporting and writing skills," it said.The interlocutors have also sought involvement of bodies like the Press Council of India or the Editors Guild of India to look into various allegations by publishers and governments."Publishers have alleged that newspapers that do not toe the line are denied government advertisements. On the other hand, the government alleges that certain newspapers publish unsubstantiated stories and engage in a vilification campaign. Both these matters need to be investigated by a body like the Press Council of India or the Editors Guild of India," the report said.

The report noted allegations have also been made to the effect that publishing houses inflate their circulation figures to indulge in malpractices."The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) plays no role in the state. Nor are readership surveys carried out. Both need to be introduced without delay," the report said.Besides, the interlocutors said, the sources of funding of newspapers are also a matter of unhealthy speculation. "A thorough investigation carried out by the Press Council of India can alone settle the issue," they added.The interlocutors found some part of the credibility gap resulting from the combination of poor communication strategies, a media that is ignorant or dismissive of the very real hurdles that obstruct peace processes and a political climate that seeks to damage rather than construct. "The wear and tear engendered by this combination of negativities should not be underestimated. A new communications strategy needs to be developed, in which peace process reporting is at the core," it concluded.