South Asian Media falls in the old trap - Beena Sarwar

Media falls in the old trap
By Beena Sarwar, Dawn, December 3, 2008

THE Mumbai nightmare has plunged the media in India and Pakistan into the dangerous, old trap in which nationalism trumps responsible reporting. This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it restricted to India and Pakistan.

American journalists fell into this trap after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on Sept 11, 2001. They were vigorously criticised for their unquestioning over-reliance on the security establishment for information. The security establishment, with its blinkered security paradigm, fed them false information that prepared the ground for the Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan bombing.

As part of society, journalists may find it difficult to step back and see the larger picture, especially when their countries are under attack. Responsible reporting and commentary require recognising this fallibility. There is no such thing as objective journalism. All journalists have their own world views and political baggage but at least we can aspire to be fair — to our subjects, to our audiences, and perhaps to our common humanity rather than national identities.“Media manipulation is less an issue of overt censorship than an internalisation of myths and mindsets,” commented Rita Manchanda, summing up a radical critique of the mass media by Indian and Pakistani journalists (‘Reporting conflict’, South Asia Forum for Human Rights, May 2001).

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