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War-mongering on air

  • Published at 06:02 pm September 22nd, 2016
  • Last updated at 08:13 am September 24th, 2016
War-mongering on air

When two nuclear-armed governments are aggressively egged on by their respective mainstream media for “action” and “reaction,” it looks like a dress rehearsal for apocalypse.

Humans all over, especially those in the sub-continent, need to sit up and take notice at whatever it is that masquerades as media.

After the Uri attacks, there is talk of action and retaliation in the air and even more so in the airwaves. Did the Indian Army jawans die for nothing, some ask?

There is something deeply unethical in the voluntariness that is always injected in case of army deaths. It is not a sin to die of circumstances like tent burning. There is no indignity in it. By calling that sacrifice martyrdom, hence implying a more “active” death, one simply disrespects the dead.

Whatever they died for (and all deaths need not be for or against something), I believe they didn’t die so that their death could bring the sub-continent closer to a nuclear war.

Many people in the sub-continent love their lives before everything else, including their administration and government. I am one of them.

On the whole, English, Hindi, and Urdu media in Pakistan and India are playing a very negative role. They are war-mongering for their respective governments, in the name of nation.

Pakistan media is in denial while Indian media is in blame-gaming mode -- none presenting, publicly, verifiable evidence to back up their claims or refutations. Both run defense ministry and government-made claims without fact-checking, as if fact-checking was blasphemous and questioning was treasonous.

Whatever they died for (and all deaths need not be for or against something), I believe they didn’t die so that their death could bring the sub-continent closer to a nuclear war

Both refer to armies and governments as “our,” seriously undermining the status of the media as an independent pillar in a democratic republican setting. A small part of media in both India and Pakistan, especially the non-English-Hindi-Urdu media, is playing a saner role, but they are marginal in the setting of the so-called “national” narrative.

In the Indian Union, Hindi-English television media is playing an especially irresponsible role. The other day, former Chief of Indian Army, Shankar Ray Chowdhury, openly suggested raising suicide squads. Is this not incitement to violence? Is there a legal exception for ex-army folks? Does he suggest this strategy to his close relatives?

Non-Hindi-English media in both countries seem to have less interest in this long drawn conflict between Delhi and Islamabad.

The role of mainstream media or any non-propaganda media should be based on facts. They should also be cognisant of the fact that Indian Union and Pakistan administrations are armed with nuclear weapons with powers to destroy each other terribly and should educate their audience about the hugely destructive effects of a nuclear conflict, and that nuclear fall-outs do not respect international borders.

It should also critically examine claims made by their respective armies and governments.

Truth and realism should drive public opinion, not jingoism.

The job of the media is not to act as unquestioning amplifiers of Ministry of Defense press briefings and government of India/Pakistan press releases. If that were so, there would be no need for an independent media. What hopefully separates Indian Union and Pakistan from North Korea on this count is probably this.

But that separation is only half the story -- Pakistan and the Indian Union are barely separated from each other, globally ranking 133 and 147 out of 180 administrations in the Press Freedom Index of 2016.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, there is an active and growing online activism scene that not only protests but also presents the world with visuals, videos, and narratives of real events of the ground that is absent from mainstream media and which the government of India does not want the world to hear. GOI has done things like bringing down web links, to removing videos, from blocking and deleting user profiles, to threatening messages.

Cyber activists are often tracked down and hounded. A few days ago, Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez was arrested after being disallowed from attending a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting abroad. After the Uri attack, a Kashmiri student was expelled from India’s prestigious Aligarh Muslim University for an “objectionable” Facebook post.

Whoever thinks that muzzling dissent and fanning jingoism is some kind of a strategy clearly has forgotten Benjamin Franklin’s words: “Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”

Garga Chatterjee is a political and cultural commentator. He can be followed on twitter @gargac.

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