Media and World Peace: The Indian Scenario

By Dr. Binod C. Agrawal

TALEEM Research Foundation City Plaza, Bopal Ahmedabad 380 058, India Phone : 91-79-3731003 Telefax: 91-79-3731486 e-mail : taleemad1@sancharnet.in

Paper presented in the Plenary Session of the “International Conference on World Peace”, December 29, 2003 – January 2, 2004 held at Ahmedabad (India)

media must help persuade people for the cause of peace. media has accelerated the harmful effects of violence on Indian citizens at large. “peace” takes an added meaning in the present context with increasing capabilities of electronic media all over the world. A case of India having several centuries of religious and political conflict should be focused on and analysed while reporting news in order to understand the extent of violence and peace efforts on the Indian media scene. Non-violence on media must not be viewed as reporting on “ peace”. In an era of growing violence and conflict the world over. “Violence” in the media has been discussed ever since the advent of television. Agrawal Introduction Peace is an idea. If communication and media are seen as a sub-system of the society.Media and World Peace: The Indian Scenario By Binod C. it is strongly felt that some of the aspects of news must be analysed to understand how media has the power to persuade and can help in the promotion of peace. With the kind of reach and access that it has. then it has both social and moral responsibility to discuss issues related to peace. My intention 1 . educate and inform the values of peace globally(UNESCO 1994). Media ideally are one of the modest technological means to achieve peace and reduce conflict and violence. Undoubtedly. media has an important role to play in promoting peace both in the national and international arena. Since “ news” forms the most prominent part of media. and a goal to be achieved through existing just means. Hardly any effort has been made by the media managers or political leaders to curb media violence. a state of human existence.

is to highlight how current media practices contributes little to achieving peace and harmony while it can actually be a vital force in achieving peace. Indonesia. 1 Drawn from the AMIC report entitled “Media and a Culture of Peace : An Indian Analysis” by Binod C Agrawal and Durriya H Latif (2000). During U. In the presentation. the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) Singapore. and media owners and non-owners…This division has weakened the democracy in India”. national and regional levels. strife and violence in India. Malaysia. It has also become a danger for peace in the sub-continent. 2 . Philippines Singapore and Sri Lanka. the study made in India to gauge the media reporting on peace has been discussed. Pakistan. Media Directions1 Some years ago Agrawal (1993:231) asserted “the satellite-based broadcasting scarcely meets the needs of a large majority. International year of the Culture of Peace. government controlled centralized broadcasting in the pluralistic culture and linguistic setting have increased the gulf between poor and rich. Among others. training of journalists on peace related issues and research. Further. They also recommended that the agenda for action should be initiated at individual. discussed media and the culture of Peace in India. print and telecommunications seems to have opened the floodgates of conflicts. Such agenda should include reporting on peace. It recommended the establishment of an Asian Peace Network (Peace Net Asia).N. Enhanced media access in broadcast. key questions asked were “ How can media be harnessed to promote a culture of peace? And “What Should be the role of media in conflict resolution”? Based on the individual country specific research studies the group unanimously agreed that the media has a positive role to play in creating a culture of peace. Japan. urban and rural.

especially the satellite broadcasting which just over a quarter of a century ago was thought to be a boon has turned into a belligerent bashing machine to enslave and perpetrate violence towards poor nations and communities. religious intolerance. 3 . creating a just and equitable society. One of India's leading media entrepreneurs feels that today's media creates tension and earns money out of it. Further. in no way lagged behind in the creation of culture of despondency. few media play a positive role in the active promotion of a just and peaceful multicultural society” (2000:8). peace and religious tolerance and national integration. views and editorials. growth of separatist movements and increased dependence of a majority of poor persons on a miniscule rich. The news of the Indian Prime Minister. the entire media. These shifts are a reflection of the changing focus of the media. which stressed on strengthening democracy. it seems that the media has started getting inspiration from Euro-American news. A leading communication scientist and philosopher argues that increasing media access and reception is a key factor in increasing terrorism. and increased indifference towards the disadvantaged and the minorities. It also reflects the change in the political agenda of India. What emerges from the broad scenario is that the agenda of promoting a culture of peace through media has digressed further into oblivion and violence depiction has taken central stage. Telecommunication has.In the wake of economic globalisation in India. government policies and political debates and discussions have been sidelined in favour of front page news on beauty contests and visits of multinational IT leaders and media barons. These have been somewhat relegated to a secondary position in favour of high consumerism. In many countries. Van Dijk observes "research in several countries … especially TV and the quality press are not explicitly and blatantly racist. the influential media.

do little to promote a harmonious peaceful and positive atmosphere. who influence both the message and the content. These in turn influence and create public opinion at large (Mertens 2000). In a recent book Hargreaves (2003) raised two interesting issues about journalism. with a view to create and help in the formation of an equitable. secular and multilingual society in India. The changes in the context and presentation of television news have been “widely perceived as a downgrading of quality of services”. while not showing overt prejudices. In the wake of rapid privatisation of communications. Indian language press often resort to blatant provocation and instigation during times of religious and political tension. Young (1999:4) believed that “the presentation of news on television is a major site of dumbing-down”. “is journalism the first draft of history or dumbing-down of our culture and glorification of the trivial and intrusive?” In the context of philosophy of television news Snow (1997:1) emphasized the dramatic changes that have taken place in television news in the U. it seems that news and reports related to peace. Portrayal of the minorities during times of religious tensions reflects the widespread beliefs and the underlying ideology of violence of the media owners. Need to Monitor Media2 Thus. Reports on discrimination against minorities and the underprivileged is often lacking in the media. Examples can be cited from the Gujarati Newspaper reporting during 2002 Gujarat riots.particularly TV and the leading print media. non-violence and the underprivileged are getting filtered and sidelined. humane. It is therefore imperative that communicators themselves realise the need for change in their attitudes and beliefs and make a conscious effort to achieve this vision of society.K and elsewhere. a strong need is felt for media monitoring. Drawn from the recent paper entitled “Reporting News or Creating News :The Every Day Dilemma” by Binod C Agrawal (2003) 2 4 .

The first causality has been peace related news. an average media person in India especially in news is preoccupied with censorship. There seems to be paradigm shift in communication ethics. deliberate attempt to play down what is relevant and serious and play up what is trivial. which is then followed over a 5 . News. economic. Communication Ethics and News Communication ethics in the context of India and elsewhere broadly means creative freedom of the professional communicator for justice. There are several such references and concerns expressed both in popular writing and communication research writing on the issue of news. in most cases. Another aspect of communication ethics relates to the question of autonomy of mass media emanating from the notion of freedom of media in a democratic country like India. the communication ethics emerges as a mixed bag of values and ethics of JudoChristian tradition and liberal thoughts of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. political and peace issues. Competition for Breaking News “Breaking News” is considered essential for building brand image and identify. but tackily fashionable”. sometimes without decoding the underlying values of the self (Sondhi 1985). become the deciding factor for the exclusion or inclusion of a story in a news bulletin. In such a situation. Even the smallest bit of sensational revelation becomes important news. Commercial considerations. However. Since most of the media channels are in the hands of private entrepreneurs. their personal agenda colour the content of news reporting.Bidwai (2000:1) in the context of India writes “over the past few years there has been conscious ‘dumbing-down’ of media. it seems. has contempt for relevant and serious social. freedom and compassion.

“war” or “event” is being turned into an opportunity for newscasters today. Every “accident”. India saw an unprecedented expansion of all media especially television. It has lead to repeats of the same news bulletins.long period of time at the cost of more important news. Lack of Professionals In just about a decade. By contrast the other democratic countries show some degree of moderation in covering natural and human calamities. the hunger for fresh news is an unending quest for them. It has been observed that TV news channels are continuously looking for an opportunity to “break news”. “accident”. Social Responsibility of News The social responsibility of a broadcaster is ill defined in the changing context of what constitute news of peace. “why should not there be lighter stories in news bulletins or news? The news channels must cater to the interest and likes of the viewers”. Today. “human tragedy”. thereby largely ignoring news of peace. The question of social responsibility is a good pointer for self-retrospection and re-examination of some of the existing beliefs and practices of news broadcasters who. showing gruesome charred bodies in a time of crisis are all cases in point for Indian news. and “war scenes” in every TV owning houses. Incendiary coverage of the Gujarat riots and Mumbai Blast. Since TV channels are running 24-hour news. In the process. The entertainment television has film support for the production having a large 6 . the familiar point being raised is. It is another matter as to what extent the broadcasters are sensitive or aware of the needs and interests of the audience. due to business and other considerations are willing to suppress news related to peace. several times. the fraternity of communicators and journalists are often ignoring their social responsibility. leading to continuous exposure of “violence”.

protests. they work overtime and file the news stories with little in-depth. These news items were further divided into national and international news. interethnic strife. In order to meet the “quota” and deadlines. Among the national news were the charge sheet served upon the central government minister and the state government minister of Gujarat both from the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party for their role in the 1985 caste and religious riots in Ahmedabad and the protests (bandh) in the state of Assam.bank of talented artists and skilled technical human power. Personal interviews of several chief reporters indicated that they are under pressure to file specified number of news soft or human interest stories and cultural. they seldom reported on peace. scandals. business. Each of these bulletins had 15 to 18 news items which were classified under politics. Including peace in broadcast journalism training is still very limited and to some extent lacking. was recorded in November 2000 for the content analysis. accidents/ natural disasters. 3 Drawn from the AMIC report entitled “Media and a Culture of Peace : An Indian Analysis” by Binod C Agrawal and Durriya H Latif (2000). religious. The first causality of the overworked production staff has been quality and depth of peace news reporting. violence. In most cases. weather. treaties/summits. News Analysis3 Television: The daily half hour primetime English news telecast on India’s public broadcasting channel – Doordarshan. But that has not solved the problem. Initially a large number of print media professionals migrated to television news and reported more on accidents and political violence. serious thinking and analysis. political and social events on regular basis. However. such resources do not exist in television news channels having only a few radio newsreaders and reporters. 7 . sports and miscellaneous.

The analysis is fairly representative of most TV channels in India and elsewhere. While news on religious issues were confined to editorial pages. Among the news items. No peace relevant news was reported in the telecast.On the international front. the killing of 16 people in Jammu and Kashmir and the massacre of five in the state of Bihar by the People’s War Group (PWG) militants got front-page mention. the Congress party presidential elections were among a few other news items that hogged the front page. The celebration of 531st birth anniversary Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh religion) got a mention along with the festival of maritime activities in the state of Orissa. the Palestinian-Israeli clashes and the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) summit's views on it and the extension of the state of emergency in Sri Lanka were mentioned. Both newspapers' headlines were mainly dominated by the Florida stalemate in the US presidential elections. Newspaper: The newspapers taken into account for content analysis were The Times of India (English) and Hindustan (Hindi). 8 . The arrest of the militants responsible for masterminding the attack on a holy shrine of Hindus in Kashmir and the killings in the state of Bihar by the extremists were the national news on the inter-ethnic strife during this period. Each of these bulletins contained 11 to 14 news items and were dominated by news on the creation of the two new states: Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. Analysis shows that among the international news. as well as the Florida stalemate in the US presidential elections. other important news items found place in the national and international news sections. Besides. Radio: Two English national news bulletins of 15 minutes each broadcast on All India Radio in the morning and night were recorded for the analysis. the formation of the new states of Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. The only peace news was on a scheme of rehabilitation of surrendered Naga militants by the Nagaland State government. the OIC summit amidst the Arab-Israeli conflict dominated.

Both national and international political news remains most important headlines. fifth and eighth pages. fourth. It seems that while the English news focuses on broad national and international news. The brief content analysis reflects lack of any meaningful peace efforts on the part of media. it was thought news reported reality and the happenings of the Indian society. Further. There is a broad similarity on the positioning of news and the importance given to the various categories of news in television. besides the cross border tensions prevailing between India and Pakistan on the front page. On the issue of news reporting. though on the third. While 9 .The Hindi newspaper more than the English newspaper covered the inter-ethnic strife which included the curfew in Nalabari District in Assam. radio and newspapers. The Hindi newspaper also reported on various religious festivals. the Hindi newspaper somewhat focused on cultural and regional issues. Audience Views Followed by content analysis. a quick small survey conducted among “ media persons” and “media users” to assess their perception about the role media play in promoting peace in India. The media users included few religious and non-governmental organisation leaders and advocates of peace. especially the West Asia conflict appeared on the international news page and the editorial page. The sample included professionals working in television. Foreign news. The arrest of Yasin Malik and the danger of nuclear war between India and Pakistan were other highlights. Opinion varied from “extreme negative” reporting leading to provocation for violence and conflicts to “extreme positive” reporting for promoting peace. majority felt that both positive and negative news were reported. radio and newspapers.

There is a very strong concurrence that the political parties whether “extreme right” or “extreme left” have to work very closely to promote culture of peace within India and abroad. are avoided while reporting enter-ethnic conflicts. How have media contributed to promoting peace in India? As a rule. Has it helped in promoting peace in any way? The answer is ‘NO’. strife and violence. and clashes. tolerance and inter-ethnic understanding in India.violent” in 10 . There is need for serious discussion and debate as to how media can become “ pro-peace” rather “non. the explanation given was defensive in nature as to why sensational reporting was justified “ If every thing is alright it does not make news”. In the context of India. But both some what lack in reporting peace. the English language reporting remains moderate on these issues. At the same time. the strong sentiments was in favour of peace in the sub-continent. religious and political conflicts. the same forces are credited for promoting peace. wars. tensions. Suppression or lack of information is considered a means of avoiding further conflicts and to contains escalation of tension. violence. Such a desire emanated from the day-to-day experience of recurrent eruptions of social. where religious sentiments play a major role in socio-political discourses. By and large. of the religious groups.newspapers in the Indian languages seemed to enjoy the reputation of negative reporting of conflicts and violence. At another level. name. inter-ethnic strife and misunderstanding. There was general agreement that the Indian media gave prominence to events such as conflicts between nations. tilt of media reporting towards powerful religions and social forces to a large extent one considered “natural”.

promoting peace. 11 . The media code for reporting news must be redefined to explicitly include “peace” and related information. at least peace will be given a better chance in the tomorrow’s world. Both the political and personal will of the media managers and news creators are needed to promote peace and create peace movement both at home and abroad. In doing so.

In Biblio: A Review Books Volume V Nos. Media. Binod C and Durriya H.co. XLVII (2). 1997 Soudhi. Communication and Values. December 4-6. (AMIC). Racism and Monitoring. 7 and 8. Binod C 1993 Communication Technology and Democracies of South Asia: The Danger of Curbing Freedom in Communication And Democracy. Everyday Racism and the Importance of a Cultural Paradigm. 2000 Young. Presentation to be made during the Symposium on “Facilitating Asian Media in Promoting a Culture of Peace”. (robert@rmy1. Vol. XLVII (2). 13 January 1999. Pune on August 8-9. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Dumbing-Down ? Publishing The Media and the Internet Talk presented as Distinguished Visitor to the University of Manitoba Winnipeg. Teun A.uk) 2003 Agrawal. Bombay: Somaiya Publications Pvt. 2000. Media and a Culture of Peace: An Indian Analysis. Robert M. Rich Media Poor Public. Pune held at Residency Club. Reporting News or Creating News: The Every Day Dilemma. The Guardian 27th January 1997. Latif 2000 Bidwai. Krishan 1985 van Dijk. Stefan 2000 Snow. Invited presentation in the Seminar on “Media as Vehicles of Change” organized by Asian Media Information and Communication Centre of India (AMIC) – India and Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication. Salavko Splichal and Janet Wasko. More Bad News. 1999 12 . Media Development. Philippines.: Oxford University Press. Vol. J. Singapore held in Manila.demon. Ian 2003 Mertens. Ltd. Praful 2000 Hargreaves. Media Development. organized by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre Ltd. 2003. pp 27-31. Journalism : Truth or Dare ? Oxford.References Cited Agrawal. eds. pp 7-10.

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