Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kashmir's Media Bias



Also published on ViewPoint, Rising Kashmir

When people are pervaded with a political conflict, we see its fulfillment through the emergence of a systematic propaganda - we have the Indian State that has monopolised power to control the sentiment of masses in a place like Kashmir. As media watchers, our public or journalists should know that that there is some kind of official sponsorship in censorship reigning at top Indian news channels, on issues that ignite the sentiment which the Indian State wants to periodically challenge through oppressive means.

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent (1994) state that there is an elite domination of the media and marginalisation of dissidents, that make these media outlets realise that they ‘function and interpret the news objectively’ and on the basis of ‘professional news value.’ The radio and TV companies all require government control. There are even political ties in media policies - this trait is bias for dissenters who are devoted to some sort of substantial sentiment not reported through these media outlets. When we relate this to Kashmir, we need to realise that the premises of discourse on Indian media channels is chalked on nationalism. The moderatorship coming through these channels roots out the sentiment of conflict resolutions through time constraints and broadcast objectives. The Indian public is not concerned on our issues, which has in turn paved the way for hostility towards the State ruling us, because they are either ignorant of our history or they are least concerned with our grievances.

Academics of media relate its functioning measured by prestige, resources and outreach, comprised of somewhere between ten and twenty four systems. The maturing of cable TV and satellite television has resulted in enormous increase of television audiences. This has insured that media focuses more intensively on profitability. They have lost their limited autonomy to banks, corporates to whom they solicit as ‘white knights’ (Propaganda Model, Manufacturing Consent, pg.8). So isn’t there a bias in media functions? Why isn’t there a need for documentaries, free-lance reports and personal online interviews broadcasted through social media, for a place like Kashmir? The place doesn't have its own news channel, of international appeal, that can continuously generate public awareness - it is an idealistic thought as long as Kashmir doesn't develop infrastructure. How will the investments come when we continue to live in a landlocked place guarded by military of two great strategic nations, and at the same time,want to emancipate our own desires? We are in a dilemma through waywardness in our political leadership. Nothing can help us until we escape from it. Indians and Pakistanis need to seriously help this nation uprooted by an environment of coercion.

Kashmir has an unusual image in Indian media - which is stubbornly obstructive and unwilling to cooperate. It is obstinate and not ubiquitous in search for truth in a place like Kashmir, which is a like a melancholic diary waiting to be opened. Why should our sacrifices be forgotten? Our commentators on Indian media are quelled in contrary dispositions through disorganised and angry debates, signifying an elite consensus between the State and the news makers. The debate on Kashmir has lost its space on Indian forums, in times like today, because there is no concern or stake in addressing our political desires. Kashmiri opinion makers and syndicated columnists on Indian forums are dissected by their structures which shape the facets of our news. The voices from Pakistan have constructive criticisms for conflict resolutions, but a co-operative debate rarely happens, and its adherence is not taken by the political leadership. Kashmiri leadership is already fragmented into governance and stakeholders of secessionism and moderate nationalism. Therefore, media should generate a consensus between intellectuals and leadership at the central level in both the countries.

In Kashmir, media functions simply to serve domestic power interests. The place has witnessed same propaganda campaigns as witnessed in other countries if we dive into history: Trade unions in Poland had their rights violated and Reagan administration in 1981 took it as a noble cause. Reports of worthy abuses have not become news even in times of world war when Truman- McCarthy Red Scare permanently helped to inaugurate the cold war and war economy. The chronic focus on the plight of Soviet dissidents, on enemy killings in Cambodia, the American invasion of Vietnam and so on. The killings that have happened in Kashmir, over the years, remind me of brutal murders done by Salvadoran army, which I watched in real footages in a John Pilger documentary – systematic abuse through tyranny by the State by containing a popular sentiment through pure force.

The Indian media, rather attributing to the cause of the abuses through the process of long awaited justice is buying time for its implementation. Why is this stance taken when there should be an elevated sense of responsibility? Does this mean that the Indian State should continue acting like a deranged political machine in times to come as well? If politicians, sickened with bias, don’t even consider international argumentations by debaters and leaders who demonstrate some sort of proposals, then what is the way to go?

I want to go back to the propaganda model as mentioned by Chomsky and Herman in Manufacturing Consent. The book draws a distinction between image of media and reality: ‘freedom of expression must be defended in instrumental terms, by virtue of its contribution to some higher good; rather, it is a value in itself.’ Therefore, there needs to be a meaningful control of public opinion through institutionalising their pertaining ideas. It should inculcate and defend the social, political and economic agendas of groups rather than sidelining them. Media needs to be vigilant and mindful of their mistakes. Kashmir in Indian forums needs to be taken seriously, and delay tactics have already ruined our conflict resolution. I want to conclude with a tweet done by a popular  tweeter, Shehla Rashid on 9th January, 2013: “When young people ask for talks, they’re sidelined. When they revolt, they’re killed. When they write, they are labeled seditious.”

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir