Safronisation of Indian media | By Naghmana A Hashmi

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Safronisation of Indian media

SINCE the election of Modi as Prime Minister of India in 2014, we saw a certain shift of Indian journalism towards the fundamentalist Hindutva ideology.

However, in recent years the entire spectrum of Indian media, print, electronic and social, is demonstrating different hues of Safron and fast losing objectivity and values of democracy, secularism and multi-cultural and multi-ethnic identity of which India was so proud.

The fundamentalist government of Modi in India, with the support of its intelligence agencies, have ensured an iron hold on all the major media houses and have set up a huge network of social media community that they control both inside India and abroad to propagate its narrow hate infused ideology, particularly its anti-Pakistan rhetoric.

Whenever the Modi government fails to resolve its fast deteriorating economic and political problems it turns to its favourite tactic of diverting attention of dissatisfied and impoverished hundreds of millions by turning to “Pakistan threat”.

The Indian media is hand in glove with the Modi government to ensure they create the hype necessary to deflect the attention of the populace from the domestic endemic problems to threat to national security by Pakistan.

Mass media in general has become an inseparable part of modern society.From entertainment to politics, from television to the internet, its purpose has evolved to be more than just the dissemination of information amongst the masses.

It is part of the social framework of modern society, dictating and establishing norms, as well as presenting the general character of our society and its politics.

The role of media within society is vast, particularly the impact on how we interact with one another as individuals and as nations, has continued to have an increasingly significant role in our daily life, and especially in our perceptions of others.

Although mass media is a powerful means of disseminating information, but it is also true that media continues to have a definitive effect on the political thinking and perception not only on internal politics of a nation but also on its foreign policy and strategic thinking.

It is not an uncommon sight in Indian media to portray Pakistan with derogatory and inimical representations.

Pakistan is often represented only in narrowly stereotyped way and depicted negatively as the problematic “other”, disproportionately represented as violent, extremists, fundamentalists or terrorists–the enemy of peace and stability in the region.

Indian media, television news channels in particular, bay for war with Pakistan, even if it escalates into a nuclear apocalypse.

They spew up fictitious stories to whip up jingoistic frenzy to keep the flame of hate burning.

Mainstream Indian media’s use of hate speech and demonizing language often portray Pakistan as violent and dangerous nuclear power and a “threat to national security”, thereby, perpetuating an “us against them” mentality.

This creates an atmosphere of fear and more specifically, “Islamophobia.This is not only portraying Pakistan as an enemy to be dealt with but is also alienating and now targeting of Indian Muslims residing in India sparking sectarian violence at a scale never seen before.

The Modi era coincided with an exponential rise in the use of social media in India, a medium that this government exploited to the hilt to target critics, mobilise public opinion and use tags like “anti-national,” to discredit anyone showing a hint of circumspection with the state narrative.

Indian media has long been known to produce and reproduce socio-politically detrimental and derogatory images of Pakistan, making it paramount to negate the Indian representation of Pakistan as having violent motivations.

The Indian media is increasingly portraying the conflict perspective, which focuses on how the media portrays, reflects and maybe even exacerbates divisions within society and nations.

The goal of Indian media it seems is no longer the dissemination of information but rather, social coercion and control; and conflict with neighbouring countries particularly Pakistan.

The state and BJP fundamentalist machinery ensures that mass media in India especially mainsteam national media reflects the predominant “Hindutva” ideology of Modi government emphasized by the beliefs that are given precedence and those that are undermined.

In India we see the crystallization and mainstreaming of sensationalism under the fascist Modi regime.

Indian media is increasingly appealing to a particular style and rhetoric for the sole purpose of provoking public sentiment against minorities, particularly Muslims and Pakistan.

By toeing the state line when bilateral relations are tense, Indian journalists and media have lost credibility as independent voices.

Bias and narrow nationalism is plaguing journalism in India.The Indian government is playing a dangerous game of supporting media organizations that whip up ultranationalist sentiments.

Key ministers attack journalists and media that believe in speaking truth to power.Prime Minister Modi himself has called journalists “news traders”, one minister has called them “presstitutes” and another has said journalists should stop asking questions.

Media and communications can play a positive or negative role in conflict situations and peace processes.

Managing this is a key question for policy makers.The digital age has made this task even more critical and urgent.

Faster dissemination of news and views by multiple means at faster speeds ultimately has a profound impact on developments.

“We inhibit the peaceful and negotiated resolution of conflicts not only by the extent to which we demonize each other.

We do so also by the degree to which we separate, on the one hand, the processes of politics and international affairs, and on the other hand, the moral relations between ourselves as human beings.

talking to one another and discussion must be the prelude to the resolution of conflicts.” Nelson Mandela, Capetown, 1999.This quote by Nelson Mandela epitomizes the very essence of a successful peace process and avoid conflict and war.

There are important lessons in this for the Pakistani media as well.The press has been and continues to be the most popular means of communication.

Media can work both ways that is to ignite violence, conflict and to settle peace and normalcy both within society and in interstate relations.

—The writer is former Ambassador, based in Islamabad.

 

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