September 19, 2011
School of Communication, Coimbatore
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Jammu and Kashmir, the Maoist affected areas in India. In recent decades, all these have been witness to bitter conflicts, leading to loss of life and a disruption in normal living.
What does the world think about these conflicts?
Well, usually whatever the media tells them. “Violent conflict draws concentrated news media attention; greater analytical skills are required to report on it without fuelling further violence or being a deterrent to peace building opportunities,’ stated ASCOM seminar organizers.
Their one-day seminar on Conflict Reporting and Peace Journalism brought together eminent journalists who addressed various aspects of media coverage in reporting from troubled areas.
Participants included journalism students from Chennai, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai and Coimbatore as well as Amrita.
“When it comes to war and war reporting, we shouldn’t be carried away by emotions,” stated N. Sathiya Moorthy, a veteran reporter and analyst who covered Sri Lanka for over three decades.
“Reporters should contribute to reports on reconciliation rather than those that might intensify the war,” he told the attending student journalists.
Speaking next, P. K. H. Tharakan, retired IPS officer who regularly writes on terrorism and peace, made several salient points regarding how one could be a responsible journalist while covering conflict events.
“Media not only influences people and plays a role in molding public opinion but also influences the formulation of government policies,” he stated.
Adding that even terrorist groups needed publicity, he emphasized that media personnel should understand their responsibilities well and not have only half-baked knowledge about a particular issue they may be reporting.
The Kashmir conflict was discussed next by Iftikhar Gilani from the Tehelka group. Highlighting the role of the media in promoting a pro-violence attitude in people, he said, “People started using arms and ammunition in Jammu and Kashmir during the late 80’s. 1987 saw youth participation in elections that led to hijacking of the poll booths.”
How should media have managed the conflict?
The answer was provided by Lt. Gen. (Army Commander) (Retd.) K. Nagaraj who addressed issues of press freedom and national security and the need for self-regulation in the news media.
Speaking about the vision of the nation, he provided insights into national security and war situations.
“Will the coverage of the recent revolution in Egypt come under conflict reporting or peace journalism?” one student asked.
“There were elements of both,” the speakers stated, examining the coverage in light of the issues discussed.