Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bringing Objectivity and Credibility to News Reports

Hakeem discusses why journalists often lose their credibility when reporting in conflict zones where they identify with the story on a first party basis

(Mr. Hakeem Irfan Rashid Madroo, 25, was born in Rainawari, Srinagar. He did his schooling from the Iqbal Memorial Institute, Srinagar. He completed his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the Sri Partap College in Srinagar, and his post graduate degree from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) at the University of Kashmir in Mass Communication and Journalism in year 2008. He has worked as a trainee with the NDTV in New Delhi, and also produced and cinematographed a few short films. Presently he works at the Rising Kashmir daily newspaper as a reporter and covers politics, health and human rights. In his leisure time he loves reading, visiting food courts and coffee shops, engaging in friendly squabbles with his younger siblings, and occasionally watching historical and investigative movies. Hakeem also works as a volunteer for social issues especially dealing with the women and children.)

In a conflict media should stay neutral, but it doesn’t

Conflict is a human interaction, which involves parties with incompatible interests. What renders such incongruity into an overt and explicit strife is the awareness of the unsuitability and the ensuing choice of confrontation. Awareness is raised by communication, either with the environment or with the rivaling party.

Communication produces information, which affects each side’s decision whether to hash out or shun them. Thus communication becomes a crucial determinant in conflict: it creates consciousness of, and attentiveness to, the other. Destructive and debilitating communication which promotes noises, distortions, interruptions, deceptions, ploys and false clues, promotes and expedites conflict. In contrast constructive and beneficial communication relies on honesty, open channels and the effort to align the sent message with the received one. Such a pattern of interaction strives for accommodation and the relaxation of tensions and hostilities.

Protracted conflicts or apparently irresolvable disputes usually require a third party to mediate between the rivaling parties, or at least facilitate their interaction. Ongoing conflicts generate hostility, animosity and consequently mistrust to the extent that no direct communication is feasible. This predicament is further exacerbated when the issues in the contention are intangible and cannot be compromised. The idea of third party ameliorating dialogue between intransigent parties was enthusiastically pursued in various approaches and methods. Third party consultations emphasized the facilitations of productive confrontations, in which rivals openly discuss their incompatibilities. The third party’s role is to stimulate mutual positive motivation. The third party endeavors are balancing the situational power of parties, synchronizing confrontation efforts, pacing the phases of the dialogue, promoting openness and enhancing communication.

The third party role in a conflict is something that the media needs to play. Here media need to be more responsible and more aware of its role to give voice to those who need the solution of the conflicts, i.e. the masses.

The role of media in creating an environment in which political discourses and identities are shaped and conflicts perceived is well acknowledged. The media not merely reports but mediates between individuals, communities and nation states.

However, the situation in the present day world has changed completely. When we analyze a conflict in the present globalised world with all the available technical advancements media is being used as a tool by all the parties in the conflict. The way key actors in conflict seek to manipulate public perceptions of the disagreement is noteworthy. That is, actors in any conflict will seek to either minimize or exaggerate the conflict, depending upon their relative position of power. Weak actors will want to "socialize" the conflict—that is, to enlist allies in their cause against a greater power and to increase the perception of suffering. Actors in positions of dominance seek to "privatize" the conflict and limit attention to or awareness of the conflict. Those who are weak will seek to draw media coverage to the conflict while those who are in power seek to minimize the extent of the problems. However, the stronger player in the conflict has more advantage as the people in the media world somehow develop stakes with the stronger party of the conflict. This results in a symbiotic but partisan relation of the media and a particular player in the conflict.

Other aspect of the story is that the proliferation of high-speed communications has led to widespread concern and consideration regarding the media's influence in humanitarian crises. On one hand, the media are instrumental in drawing attention to humanitarian crises and mobilizing assistance. On the other hand, the media can exacerbate the crises through sensationalist coverage. Media's role in publicizing crises and influencing public opinion is nothing new. But the increasing complexity of humanitarian crises necessitates the conveyance of an accurate, balanced and accessible view of the issue.

“Proper guidance, ethics and valued platform to make a responsible base of the profession is necessary. This is all true for the dynamic profession of media with so much of social value attached to it. Aspiring media men need proper training and guidance from institutes which provide quality education. Free opinion should also come with ethical values. This has necessitated a radical reorientation in media strategies on global scale,” says Nalin Ranjan, Director NRAI.

These days media try to tamper with the existing realities; from being a participant to conflict resolution it has at many places become party to the conflict. Media tries to create a situation that suffices all the quarters of the conflict which can never be possible. It draws the designs of the conflict as per its own predilections and ideological affiliations. Many issues in a conflict start mutating and their meanings and processes get corrupted with such form of the presentation.

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