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Global Media – An Introduction
Global Media involves journalism without borders i.e. news coverage or dissemination not constrained by any geographical or political boundaries. News is transmitted live and instantly across the world. Moreover constant updates can be provided.
Very often global agencies or channels send their staff to the field of action even in distant countries to obtain first hand up to date reports.
Generally, the issues covered by the global media include political upheavals, natural disasters, international summits, violence, and terror. Comparatively little or no salience is given to cultural or developmental news.
The angle of focus of the global media is different from that of the local or regional media.
For e.g. in the case of natural disasters the global media will focus on death, damage, destruction, reactions of the international community etc.
Local or regional media will focus more the overall impact on the local community, extent of relief provided, how the local community is coping with the disaster, apart from death and destruction.
The focus and salience is also determined by the proximity factor, like the country or region most affected will have the maximum coverage.
Development of Global Media
- The first form of news was through official dispatches sent from the scene of battle or action by officially designated “writers”. A major drawback was the time lag in sending the dispatch.
- Besides, these were more of descriptive accounts and one sided. Major discrepancies could be noticed while going through the dispatches of opposite sides.
- This also can happen in modern global media e.g. BBC and Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Israel Palestine conflict.
- The first recorded instance of international reporting was during the Crimean War in 1854. The London Times sent its correspondent William Russell to Crimea to cover the war. Here also there was the problem of the time lag in the dispatches reaching London.
- Later the installing of an underground and underwater cable between London and Mumbai facilitated overseas communication and news dispatches could be sent through telegrams. However the information had to be brief and telegraphic and often telegraph and typo errors occurred during transmission.
- Telegrams and cables were soon replaced by telex and later by the fax.
- The advent of the satellite heralded transformation in the process of global communication and news dissemination.
- Satellite communication has two main features – ISDN and DBS.
- ISDN – Integrated Services Digital Network. This enables users to access different types of media simultaneously and thereby gets a more complete picture. This multi-media feature includes video, audio, print, archives, data, images.
- DBS – Direct Broadcast Satellite enables audiences to access the communication at convenient locations like their own homes.
- The advantage of satellites is that they enable instant communication and constant updates.
· The agents or channels of global media include
Ø Internet – online portals e.g. Huffington Post, First Post etc.
Ø Wire services or news agencies – Associated Press [AP}, Agence France Presse [AFP], Reuters, BBC
Ø Financial News Agencies – Dow Jones, Bloomberg
Ø TV Channels – BBC, CNN, Star, Al Jazeera etc.
Ø New media – emails, blogs, SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter etc.
Biases of Global Media
Bias in Global Media coverage of Third World countries – qualitative, quantitative , cultural bias
· Global News Agencies are basic agenda setters worldwide as in they influence the audience into believing which issues are important and how exactly to perceive those issues. This is determined directly by the salience given to the story and the points of view projected.
· Global channels and agencies have proved to be very popular in Third World countries. Most of these countries were freed from colonial rule in the latter half of the 20th Century. Hence the media is not well developed and generally the channels and news agencies are either state owned or state controlled.
· The net result is that audiences started looking towards global channels for a wider awareness about international news and developments.
· However Global channels and agencies have shown different standards in news coverage of the western world and that of the Third World. There is a distinct bias which tends to portray Third World countries generally in a negative light.
· The biases can be categorized into three areas:
Ø Quantitative Bias
Ø Qualitative Bias
Ø Cultural Bias
· News about the Western world gets far greater salience in terms of time and space as compared to information about Third World countries. The coverage of news however, is highly disproportionate. Third World countries account for around 70% of the World’s population but get hardly 25 to 30% of coverage in global media. A number of events of significance occur in Third World countries but more often than not they go under reported.
· The reasons for this are multifold. Global agencies or channels may not have bureaux in every country and probably there is just one bureau to cover a large region. The bureaux are staffed with either one or at most a couple of other correspondents; hence the capacity of coverage is limited.
· Within the limited coverage then, focus tends to be more on events in greater proximity to the location of the bureau. E.g. BBC has just one bureau in Delhi to cover the entire India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Attention would therefore be more on events in proximity to Delhi. Further, over the last few years economic recession has led to downsizing of overseas bureaux.
· The net result is that global audiences tend to believe that developments in the western world are of far greater significance as compared to what is happening in their own or any other Third World country.
· Hence there is greater awareness about the Western world as compared to one’s own country. E.g. US election Vs Russian election. Paris terror attacks Vs attacks in Beirut.
· Worldwide also, within the time and space allotted, Global channels tend to give more weightage to news emanating from countries where the respective governments may have political proximity or a vested interest. E.g American (at least in this case) coverage of Israel or Kuwait gets more salience where as things like the Civil Wars in Congo or Rwanda are under reported though the magnitude of the problem may be far more comprehensive. Similarly the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria received far more salience than in Tunisia.
· Global media’s coverage of Third World countries is not sustained but incident related, namely issues like terror attacks, conflict, violence, change of government or coups, and natural disasters like earthquakes, floods etc.
· Further, Third world countries are always projected as under developed and in a negative light like victims of poverty, hunger, epidemics etc. Very few positive stories are featured on issues like culture, social or economic development.
· E.g. BBC covered drought in Marathwada i.e. water shortage, parched lands, impoverished and starving people etc. but the unique agricultural development in certain drought prone districts of Orissa and the new found prosperity of the agricultural community have been ignored.
· Events related to economic development are generally covered only when there is collaboration with the First World countries. Even here, the third world country is projected as inferior and being in need of aid, unable to develop on its own. E.g. BBC headline was ‘Indo Japanese Collaboration to Upgrade India’s Creaking and Outdated Railway System.’ What was ignored was that India has one of the largest railway network connectivity and penetration in the world.
· Terror attacks in Third World countries were initially dismissed as regular acts of violence. It was only after 9/11 that global media started giving salience to terror attacks. (More details from notes on topic)
· In the event of ethnic or communal violence, the focus is on death and destruction, and the country is shown as incapable of dealing with the issues. E.g. BBC coverage of Muzzafarnagar riots.
· The impression created is that many Third World countries are afflicted by continual violence and insurgency because only incidents of violence are highlighted.
· Conflicts of any sort ethnic or political, receive widespread coverage but the focus is on death and destruction. Government efforts to curb the conflict are downplayed. In the case of First World countries the Government efforts are highlighted. In the case of the Bosnian conflict the efforts of the Serbian Government were underreported while mediation by the U.N. or Western countries was often the thrust area.
· In the case of natural disasters too the focus is on statistics of death and destruction as well as the western aid coming in. National Government initiatives are downplayed. Third World countries are shown as dependent on aid and incapable of handling the situation on their own.
· E.g. In the case of the Hurricanes in the U.S., initiatives by the U.S. Government were highlighted as much as the death and destruction, where as in the Bhuj or Kashmir earthquakes the focus was more on international aid rather than national initiatives. (Details from notes).
· Social Media and networking sites are emerging as major channels of Global News dissemination and are proving to be an alternate source of information. However, the credibility and authenticity are in doubt. [expand from notes]
· The media has a crucial role to play in the process of cultural development in any society. The role is twofold namely creating awareness about and preserving cultural identity and projecting the right image about any culture or cultural practices.
· As people take more and more in varying forms of higher education, they gradually start moving out of the cultural mould. It is then the responsibility of the media to instill the need to encourage and preserve cultural practices.
· Since global media has a more widespread audience, it can play a more vital role in cultural development and preservation.
· Earlier folk art and folk theatre formed an elaborate part of the cultural component of any society and very often provided a medium to disseminate social messages. E.g. nautankis is a form of folk theatre that is gradually dying out.
· TV therefore has assumed the role of cultural preservation. Programmes, soaps etc. showcasing various cultural nuances or practices are becoming a media channel for cultural awareness and development.
· Global media may not have dedicated programmes for cultural awareness or development, but through their programmes and soaps, do showcase only western culture to a global audience. Cultural issues pertaining to Third World countries are largely ignored. In other words, global media seldom airs any programmes that highlight the positive aspects of Oriental or African Culture.
· Since tremendous salience is given to Western culture, it has an adverse impact on audiences in Third World countries, as in the social and cultural identity of these communities gets weakened.
· Many governments of Third World countries have voiced concern that with the younger generation there has been a virtual cultural invasion from the west to the detriment of their own local cultures, particularly in areas like music, dress, food habits etc. More importantly, local languages are losing priority.
· Advertising messages too project the Western culture and are often not in sync with the culture of Afro-Asian countries. This can work to the detriment of cultural development and awareness.
· The culture invasion has also led to a dilution of local customs and rituals as well as social and ethnic norms. E.g. religious rituals and ceremonies are either being modified or discarded or even at times westernized i.e. playing of Bollywood or disco music during Ganapati celebrations or tendency towards live in relationships etc.
· Students tend to follow American norms like Friendship Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween etc, under the influence of media exposure, where as less salience is being given to indigenous norms and practices.
· This over exposure to Western Culture particularly among the younger generation could well lead to major cultural disorders in Third World countries. Also it is leading to an identity crisis among the youth who are torn between the practices of their own country and the West
Emergence of NWICO
New World Information and Communication Order
· The term New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO or NWIO) was coined with regard to media representations of the developing world. The term was widely used by the MacBride Commission, a UNESCO panel chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Seán MacBride, which was charged with creation of a set of recommendations to make global media representation more equitable.
· The MacBride Commission produced a report titled “Many Voices, One World”, which outlined the main philosophical points of the NWICO.
· Concerns regarding the biases in global media began surfacing with the meeting of non-aligned movement (NAM) nations in Algiers in 1973, again in Tunis 1976, and later in 1976 at the New Delhi Ministerial Conference of Non-Aligned Nations.
· The ‘new order’ plan was textually formulated by Tunisia’s Information Minister Mustapha Masmoudi. These proposals were titled the ‘Mass Media Declaration.’
A wide range of issues were raised as part of NWICO discussions.
Ø News reporting on the developing world that reflects the priorities of news agencies in the West.
Ø Four major news agencies controlled over 80% of global news flow.
Ø There was an unbalanced flow of mass media from the developed world (especially the United States) to the underdeveloped countries.
Ø Advertising agencies in the developed world have indirect but significant effects on mass media in the developing countries. Some observers also judged the messages of these ads to be inappropriate for the Third World.
Ø Satellite broadcasting of television signals into Third World countries without prior permission was widely perceived as a threat to national sovereignty.
Images of agricultural and industrial facilities were often captured by satellites and conveyed to Western countries. The possibility of espionage could not be ruled out. The UN voted in the early 1970s against such broadcasts.
· The MacBride Commission at the time was a 16-member body created by UNESCO to study communication issues as outlined in the Mass Media Declaration. Its aim was to analyze communication problems in modern societies, particularly relating to mass media and news, consider the emergence of new technologies, and to suggest a kind of communication order (New World Information and Communication Order) to diminish these problems to further peace and human development.
· Many Voices One World, also known as the MacBride report, was approved by the General Conference of UNESCO in Belgrade in 1980.
· The MacBride Report recommended a new world information and communication order which included:
Ø elimination of the imbalances and inequalities in the flow of news
Ø elimination of the negative effects of certain monopolies
Ø removal of the internal and external obstacles to a free flow and wider and better balanced dissemination of information and ideas
Ø freedom of the press and information;
Ø the capacity of developing countries to achieve improvement of their own situations, notably by providing their own equipment, by training their personnel, by improving their infrastructures and by making their information and communication media suitable to their needs and aspirations;
Ø respect for each people’s cultural identity and for the right of each nation to inform the world public about its interests, its aspirations and its social and cultural values;
Ø respect for the right of all peoples to participate in international exchanges of information on the basis of equality, justice and mutual benefit
Ø this new world information and communication order should be based on the fundamental principles of international law, as laid down in the Charter of the United Nations
· While the report had strong international support, it was condemned by the United States and the United Kingdom as an attack on the freedom of the press. The US saw these issues simply as barriers to the interests of American media corporations. Both countries withdrew from UNESCO in protest in 1984 and 1985, respectively (and later rejoined in 2003 and 1997, respectively).
Four Ds’ Ulla Carlsson
Four cornerstones emerge out of the material; they were referred to as ‘the four Ds’. They represent themes that recur time and again in the discussions of the new order.
· News flows are castigated as “one-way flows”, and measures to ensure a more equitable balance of news flows between countries is demanded (Democratization).
· The ‘one-way flow’ and misrepresentations are interpreted to reflect a lack of respect for the countries’ cultural identities, a matter of great importance to the non-aligned countries (Decolonization).
· The monopoly status of transnational corporations in terms of communication technology is perceived as a threat to national independence (Demonopolization).
· The vital role of mass media in the development process is underlined, and the non-aligned countries join together to demand a more just distribution of communication resources in the world (Development).
Non-Aligned News Agencies Pool
· Non-Aligned News Agencies Pool (NANAP) was an arrangement of exchange of news between the news agencies of non-aligned countries who have for long been victims of imbalances and bias in the flow of news. It started operations in January, 1975. The aim was to project a more realistic image of NAM countries.
· It was also known by many different translations, such as the News Agencies Pool of Non-Aligned Countries, the Consorce of Non-Aligned News Agencies, and the Common Agency of Non-Aligned Countries.
· NANAP operated as an international, collaborative, charges-free, and institutional cooperation between news agencies of the Third World. Its main goal was to provide the mass media channels in NAM countries with news which would be unbiased — or, at most, biased with their own worldview — and offer a counter-hegemonical report on world news concerning developing nations.
· NANAP was initially led, funded, and supported by Yugoslavia‘s Tanjug. Tanjug, specifically, had a leading role not only by hosting and lending equipment, technicians, and training journalists from underdeveloped, poorer countries, but also by taking into the system its own self-management model.
· Although the Pool had no official headquarters, most of the operations in the first years were controlled in Belgrade.
· Other active agencies in the Non-Aligned Pool were the Morocco (Maghreb Arabe Presse) Tunisia (TAP), Iraq (INA) Iran (IRNA), Indonesia (Antara), Cuba (Prensa Latina), Bahrain (GNA), Sri Lanka (Lankapuvath), Vietnam (VNA via Kyodo), Malaysia (Bernama), India (PTI) and Zimbabwe (ZIANA)
· The NANAP began a slow decline after 1980 when Marshal Tito, the director of Yugoslavia, passed away. The new leaderships in Yugoslavia deviated focus to other priorities. Besides, the entire country was soon plunged into a bitter civil war.
· IRNA then assumed leadership of NANAP. Then, Iraq and Iran started their 8-year war and the agency was used by both INA and IRNA as a channel for their own propaganda. Thus it lost credibility.
Non Aligned News Network
· Following the decline of NANAP global news coverage in terms of western domination was back to square one.
· In 2005 a ministerial conference of Information by the Non-Aligned Movement at Kuala Lumpur called on the creation of some kind of a Non-Aligned News Network to resurrect the NANAP.
· The ‘Kuala Lumpur Declaration on NAM Information and Communication Collaboration”- which echoed the call for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO)- formed the platform for the creation of the NNN, with funding and support from Malaysia and its Bernama news agency.
· NNN headquarters were to be hosted by Bernama at Kuala Lumpur.
· NNN operated through a website Any accredited news agency from NAM countries could upload stories and pictures to the website on a 24-hour basis, and also download and print any stories from others available on the site, with due credit given to its source.
· NNN Editorial Policy: To strive to ensure that the ethics and canons of journalism, accuracy, objectivity and common decency are steadfastly upheld.
Ø NNN will handle news stories and images about NAM, from NAM and by NAM.
Ø Content will be informative, comprehensive, wide-ranging and progressive on economics, socio-political and cultural development.
Ø Content and information should not be in support of a particular proprietor or ideology.
Ø Content and information should be freshly presented but not driven by hidden agenda.
Ø Each participating news organisation has the right to transmit and receive information (news stories, images, feature articles and news commentaries).
Ø Each member news organisation writes its own material and chooses what material to offer to the NNN on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest to NAM members.
Ø Attribution for content and credibility of information are paramount.
Ø Each member agency or country has the right to re-angle NNN stories to suit its requirements.
· Concentration of media ownership (also known as media consolidation or media convergence) is a process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media. Contemporary research demonstrates increasing levels of consolidation, with many media industries already highly concentrated and dominated by a very small number of firms.
· Successful media companies usually buy out or merge with other companies to make them more powerful, profitable, and able to reach a larger viewing audience, making media ownership more concentrated.
· Over time the amount of media merging has increased and the amount of media outlets have increased. That translates to fewer companies owning more media outlets, increasing the concentration of ownership. In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by fifty companies; today, 90% is controlled by just six companies.
BBC – CNN Rivalry
· They have always been rivals for capturing the global markets. Both started out as national agencies in respective countries with some form of government support.
· They both had two sections: news and entertainment. Initially, the entertainment section was revenue generator while the news section was the information provider and just a cost centre.
· With advent of satellites, there was a far greater demand for international news coverage. Hence the arrangement where only the entertainment section was run commercially was no longer economically viable. Hence the news section was also made a profit centre to generate income.
· CNN launched its international operation in the mid 1980s. The big break for CNN came during the Gulf War of 1991 when CNN became the first channel to launch 24-hour coverage. This made it globally popular.
· BBC launched its operation in the 1990s. BBC’s big moment came during the death of Princess Diana.
· In early 1991, BBC launched its world service TV, which was its international arm.
· Meanwhile CNN had captured the European and Latin American markets. So BBC turned its eyes on Asia.
· BBC entered into a strategic partnership with Star TV of Hong Kong. It now made use of the entire Star infrastructure in South East Asia and was able to capture the Asian market.
· These international channels were very popular in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These countries had become free form colonial rule post World War II and the broadcast media was generally either state owned or state controlled. Hence Third World audiences who were yearning for international news turned increasingly to global channels
· CNN desperate to find a place in Asia launched Asia Week Business Program, which is still fairly popular.
· BBC reacted by, for the first time in its history, outsourcing business programs to Indian production houses.
· BBC also started simultaneous translations of it news telecasts into Mandarin and Urdu to retain its hold in Asia.
· BBC was thus able to capture the entire South Asian market.
· Shortly after this Rupert Murdoch, BBC’s main competitor bought majority equity in Star TV. Hence when the contract period ended the strategic partnership between BBC and Star was dissolved. However, by then BBC had managed to acquire its own foothold in South Asia.
Press Trust of India
· Press Trust of India (PTI) is the largest news agency in India, headquartered in Delhi. It is a nonprofit cooperative among more than 450 Indian newspapers and has a staff of about 2,000 writers spread across 150 offices nationwide.
· It took over the Indian operations of the Associated Press and Reuters soon after India’s independence on August 15, 1947. It provides news coverage and information of the region in both English and Hindi.
History of PTI
Birth of Associated Press of India, PTI’s forerunner floated by K C Roy
Reuters takes over operations of API but still uses API credit line
API registered as a private limited Indian company wholly owned by Reuters
1947, August 27
Press Trust of India incorporated in Madras
1949, February 1
PTI begins news services, taking over operations from API but still maintains links with Reuters.
PTI becomes a free agent, independent of Reuters
PTI Economic Service is launched
PTI, UNI, Samachar Bharati and Hindustan Samachar merge under pressure during emergency to become ‘Samachar’
PTI and the other three news agencies go back to their original units to restart independent news operations
PTI Feature Service launched
PTI Science Service launched
PTI launches Scan, on-screen news display service
PTI service launched for subscribers in USA
Computerisation of news operations starts PTI service launched for subscribers in UK
Experimental broadcast of news and pix via Insat-IB begins, Computer system made fully operational
Stockscan I launched
PTI photo service launched
PTI Mag launched
PTI Graphics service launched
PTI launches StockScan II
PTI invests for the first time in a foreign registered Company, Asia Pulse, which provides an on-line data bank on economic opportunities in Asian countries
PTI introduces photo-dial up facility
PTI celebrates Golden Jubilee. PTI goes on internet
PTI launches internet delivery of its news and photo services
News Agency / Channel Profiles
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
· Incorporated in the United Kingdom by government charter, it employs 28,500 people in the country alone.
· In addition to being the largest broadcasting corporation in the world, BBC Newsgathering is the largest news system through its regional offices, foreign correspondents and agreements with other news services
· The BBC reaches more than 200 countries and is available to more than 274 million households, significantly more than CNN’s (its nearest competitor) estimated 200 million. Its radio services broadcast on a wide variety of wavelengths, making them available to many regions of the world. It broadcasts news – by radio or over the Internet – in some 33 languages.
· The BBC was the first national broadcasting organisation[and was founded on 18 October 1922 as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd; It was subsequently granted a Royal Charter and was made a publicly funded corporation in 1927. The corporation produces programs and information services, broadcasting globally on television, radio, and the Internet.
· BBC News provides services to BBC domestic radio as well as television networks such as the BBC News, BBC Parliament and BBC World News, as well as BBC Red Button, Ceefax and BBC News Online. New BBC News services that are also proving popular are mobile services to mobile phones and PDAs. Desktop news alerts, e-mail alerts, and digital TV alerts are also available.
· BBC News forms a major department of the BBC, and as such is constantly facing allegations of holding a left-wing, right-wing or liberal bias.
· Criticism of the BBC’s middle east coverage from both sides, including allegations of anti-Israeli bias, led the BBC to commission an investigation and report that said that while there was “no deliberate or systematic bias” in the BBC’s reporting of the middle east, their coverage had been “inconsistent,” “not always providing a complete picture” and “misleading”. It suggested that in fact BBC coverage implicitly favoured the Israeli side.
· In 2008, the BBC was criticised by some for referring to the terrorists who carried out the November 2008 Mumbai attacks as mere “gunmen” however many other broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4 also used the term rather than “terrorist” as at the time of the event the motives of the attackers were not entirely clear.
· While the BBC received accusations of bias, both for and against Israel, for its coverage of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, it received particularly intense criticism in January 2009 for its decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies for victims of the airstrikes against Gaza.
· BBC officials said the decision stemmed from a policy of maintaining impartiality in the dispute. But many parties criticized the decision, including Church of England archbishops, British government ministers and even some BBC employees.
· The BBC Online website includes a comprehensive news website and archive. It was launched as BBC Online, before being renamed BBCI, then bbc.co.uk, before it was rebranded back as BBC Online. The BBC states that 13.2 million people in the UK visit the site’s more than two million pages each day.
Associated Press (AP)
· The Associated Press (AP) is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists. Many newspapers and broadcasters outside the United States are AP subscribers, paying a fee to use AP material without being contributing members of the cooperative.
· As of 2005, the news collected by the AP is published and republished by more than 1,700 newspapers, in addition to more than 5,000 television and radio broadcasters. The photograph library of the AP consists of over 10 million images. The Associated Press operates 243 news bureaus, and it serves at least 120 countries, with an international staff located all over the world.
· Associated Press also operates The Associated Press Radio Network, which provides newscasts twice hourly for broadcast and satellite radio and television stations. The AP Radio also offers news and public affairs features, feeds of news sound bites, and long-form coverage of major events.
· The AP Stylebook has become the de facto standard for news writing in the United States and Canada. The AP employs the “inverted for writing that enables the news outlets to edit a story to fit its available publication area without losing the story’s essential meaning and news information.
· The economic demise of the long-time rival of the Associated Press, United Press International, as a major American competitor in 1993 left the AP as the only nationally oriented news service based in the United States. Other English-language news services, such as Reuters and the English language service of Agence France-Presse are based outside the United States.
· The Associated Press began diversifying its newsgathering capabilities, and by 2007 AP was generating only about 30% of its revenue from United States newspapers. 37% came from the global broadcast customers, 15% from online ventures and 18% came from international newspapers and from photography.
· In 1994, London-based Associated Press Television (APTV) was founded to provide agency news material to television broadcasters. Other existing providers of such material at the time were Reuters Television and Worldwide Television News (WTN).
· In 1998, AP purchased WTN, and APTV left the Associated Press building in the Central London and merged with WTN to create Associated Press Television News (APTN) in the WTN building, now the APTN building in Camden Town.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)
- Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French news agency, the oldest one in the world, and the largest French news agency. The agency was founded in 1835 by a Parisian translator and advertising agent, Charles-Louis Havas.
- AFP is based in Paris, with regional centres in Washington, Hong Kong, Nicosia, São Paulo, Montevideo and bureaux in 110 countries. It transmits news in French, English, Arabic, Spanish, German, and Portuguese.
- When German forces occupied France in 1940, the news agency was taken over by the authorities and renamed the French Information Office (FIO). On August 20, 1944, as Allied forces moved on Paris, a group of journalists in the French Resistance seized the offices of the FIO and issued the first news dispatch from the liberated city under the name of Agence France-Presse.
- Established as a state enterprise, AFP devoted the post-war years to developing its network of international correspondents. One of them was the first Western journalist to report the death of Joseph Stalin, on March 6, 1953. AFP was keen to shake off its semi-official status, and on January 10, 1957, the French parliament passed a law establishing its independence.
- Editorially, AFP is governed by a network of senior journalists. By statute, AFP’s mission is to report events, free of “all influences or considerations likely to impair the exactitude” of its news. And “under no circumstances to pass under the legal or actual control of an ideological, political or economic group.”
- The primary client of AFP is the French government, which purchases subscriptions for its various services. In practice, those subscriptions are an indirect subsidy to AFP. The statutes of the agency prohibit direct government subsidies.
· Reuters is a UK-based, Canadian controlled news service and former financial market data provider. That provides reports from around the world to newspapers and broadcasters. News reporting once accounted for less than 10% of the company’s income. Its main focus was on supplying the financial markets with information and trading products.
· Reuter’s agency built a reputation in Europe for being the first to report news scoops from abroad, like the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. After many decades of progress, almost every major news outlet in the world subscribes to the Reuters Company’s services. It operates in at least 200 cities in 94 countries, supplying news text in about 20 languages.
· Reuters was financed as a public company in 1984 on the London Stock Exchange and on the NASDAQ in the USA. However, there were concerns that the company’s tradition for objective reporting might be jeopardised if control of the company later fell into the hands of a single shareholder.
· To counter that possibility, the constitution of the company at the time of the stock offering included a rule that no individual was allowed to own more than 15% of the company. If this limit is exceeded, the directors can order the shareholder to reduce the holding to less than 15%.
· That rule was applied in the late 1980s when Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation, which already held around 15% of Reuters, bought an Australian news company that also owned stock in Reuters. The acquisition meant that Murdoch then held more than 15%, and then he was compelled to reduce the holding to less than 15% to stay in line with the rules.
· Reuters began to grow rapidly in the 1980s, widening the range of its business products and expanding its global reporting network for media, financial and economic services. Recent key product launches include Equities 2000 (1987), Dealing 2000-2 (1992), Business Briefing (1994), Reuters Television for the financial markets (1994), 3000 Series (1996) and the Reuters 3000 Extra service (1999).
· In the mid-1990s, the Reuters company engaged in a brief foray in the radio sector — with London Radio’s two radio stations, London News 97.3 FM and London News Talk 1152 AM. A Reuters Radio News service was also set up to compete with the Independent Radio News.
· On 15 May 2007, Canada’s The Thomson Corporation reached an agreement with Reuters to combine the two companies, in a deal valued at US $17.2 billion. Thomson now controls about 53% of the new company, named Thomson Reuters. The new chief of Thomson Reuters is Tom Glover, the former head of Reuters.
· In October 2007, Reuters Market Light, a division of Reuters, launched a mobile phone service for Indian farmers to provide local and customised commodity pricing information, news, and weather updates.
· Reuters has a team of several thousand journalists who over the years have covered major news events, sometimes at the cost of their lives. For example, In May 2000, Kurt Schork, an American reporter, was killed in an ambush while on assignment in Sierra Leone.
· In April and August 2003, news cameramen Taras Protsyuk and Mazen Dana were both killed in two separate incidents by US troops in Iraq. During 2004, cameramen Adlan Khasanov in Chechnya and Dhia Najim in Iraq were also killed.
· Al Jazeera is now acknowledged as a global channel and received worldwide acceptance particularly after the Arab Spring. It is the only global channel that is not Western.
· Moreover, it gives substantial salience to coverage of news from West Asian and African countries
· Initially, the world looked to Al Jazeera as an alternate voice which would counter the Western monopoly over news coverage and provide objective coverage of Asian, African and Middle Eastern News
· Al Jazeera was increasingly being perceived as the voice of change in Middle East and a platform for critics, analysts and activists to propagate their views.
· Views and counter-views about the Middle East issues were appropriately expressed through Al Jazeera, particularly during the early days of Arab Springs, where Al Jazeera gave expression to the forces of change.
· Later, however, Al Jazeera, itself became a victim of various biases and was being perceived as not being objective. It tends to concentrate more on countries with an Islamic population or Islamic government. Also, the focus of its support began shifting to fundamentalist forces.
· The general perception, nowadays is that Al Jazeera ignores IS atrocities and highlights Western countries’ misgivings. E.g.: Al Jazeera calls out IS and Taliban’s atrocities and acts of violence as ‘acts of struggle’ and ‘acts of resistance.’
· In Egypt, Al Jazeera was critical of Hosni Mubarak but later started supporting Muslim Brotherhood. Several Al Jazeera correspondents were arrested. A court in Cairo ordered Al Jazeera to stop broadcasting in Egypt due to its perceived pro-Brotherhood bias and “inciting violence that led to the deaths of Egyptians.”
· Al Jazeera is perceived to have an anti-India bias. During the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Al Jazeera refused to use the word ‘terrorists’ and instead used the term ‘attackers’ and refused to acknowledge the Pakistani connection of the attack. Al Jazeera also tries to highlight the oppressive stance of Indian army in Kashmir.
· Al Jazeera is strongly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. An often-repeated example involves an on-air birthday party organized by Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief for a Lebanese militant convicted of killing four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl.
· Al-Jazeera has also been accused of focusing exclusively on Palestinian suffering and ignoring Israeli suffering, especially on the Israeli residents of Western Negev, who have been the target of rocket attacks by Gaza.
· In Syria, its coverage was far from balanced. The channel’s reporting has been described as largely supportive of the rebels while demonizing the Syrian government. It is anti- Bashar Al Assad.
· Hence it can no longer be considered an alternate voice in the true sense. Besides 2whether it can be considered a Global Channel is also a matter of controversy.
· The Al Jazeera effect:
Expression of opinions voices through new media and gives opportunity to the marginalized groups. This leads to government taking their opinions seriously. (E.g.: Kurds in Iraq got a voice through new media, which is recognized and given a platform by Al Jazeera)
· The greatest accusation about Al Jazeera is that it is the mouthpiece of the government in Qatar. Al Jazeera never talks about worker exploitation in Qatar. Also, it strongly supports groups to which the ruling family of Qatar is sympathetic.
The “Big Six”
The Big Six
· Media Outlets
· NBC Universal (a joint venture with General Electric from 2011 to 2013), NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 television stations in the United States and cable networks USA Network, Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, Syfy, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Esquire Network, E!, Cloo, Chiller, Universal HD and the Comcast SportsNet regional system. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia Flyers through a separate subsidiary.
· Holdings include: ABC Television Network, cable networks ESPN, the Disney Channel, A&E and Lifetime, approximately 30 radio stations, music, video game, and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and theme parks in several countries. Also has a longstanding partnership with Hearst Corporation, which owns additional TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and stakes in several Disney television ventures.
· Holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company; Fox Sports, cable networks Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, and the regional Fox Sports Networks; print publications including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post; the magazines Barron’s and SmartMoney; book publisher HarperCollins; film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios. As of July 2013, News Corporation was split into two separate companies, with publishing assets and Australian media assets going to News Corp, and broadcasting and media assets going to 21st Century Fox. However, Rupert Murdoch remains involved in both.
· Formerly the largest media conglomerate in the world, with holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, HLN, NBA TV, TBS, TNT, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros., Castle Rock, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and New Line Cinema.
· Holdings include: CBS Television Network and the CW (a joint venture with Time Warner), cable networks CBS Sports Network, Showtime, TVGN; 30 television stations; CBS Radio, Inc., which has 130 stations; CBS Television Studios; book publisher Simon & Schuster.
· Recently the Fox channels have been bought over by Disney.
· Concentration of media ownership is also very frequently seen as a problem of contemporary media and society leading to a number of undesirable consequences. The negative effects that could come into play are lack of competition and diversity as well as biased political views.
· Critics have accused the large media conglomerates of dominating the media and using unfair practices.
· This can be seen in the news industry, where there is increasing commercialisation of media. News corporations refuse to publicize information that would be harmful to their interests. These practices also lead to sensationalism at the expense of the coverage of serious issues.
· Secondly there is also a tendency towards news manipulation where information is moulded and projected to suit the interest of the owners.
· Commercially driven, mass media is primarily loyal to sponsors, i.e. advertisers and government rather than to the public interest. Dissemination of news often caters to the interests of the advertisers. Healthy, market-based competition is absent, leading to slower innovation and increased prices.
· Reporters have often seen their stories refused or edited beyond recognition. An example would be the repeated refusal of networks to air “ads” from anti-war advocates to liberal groups regardless of factual basis.
· Consequently, if the companies dominating a media market choose to suppress stories that do not serve their interests, the public suffers, since they are not adequately informed of some crucial issues that may affect them.
· The general view is that the media owners influence the content and its structure. Healthy or balanced debates or discussions on an issue tend to get downplayed and instead the view point convenient to the owners is put forth.
· It is evident that, the mainstream media supports the fundamental tenets of capitalism such as private enterprise, the open market, profit etc. A small cluster of powerful owners of media conglomerates have power over what the populace reads, watches, and hears, or cannot access in terms of information.
· They are also accused of being a leading force behind the standardization of culture and are frequently criticized by groups that perceive news organizations as being biased toward special interests.
· International conglomerates may on occasion have a dominant influence on culture, mainly when they venture into countries that had previously been subjected to corrupt media systems or had previously experienced considerable state suppression of mass media. This however may popularise western culture at the cost of local cultural practices or norms. [expand from cultural bias]
· Critics of media deregulation and the resulting concentration of ownership fear that such trends will only continue to reduce the diversity of information provided. The ultimate consequence, critics argue, is a poorly informed public, restricted to a reduced array of media options that offer only information that does not harm the media conglomerate’s growing range of interests.
· The net result is that free expression is in jeopardy not just deliberately by authoritarian regimes but also by international media conglomerates that have constantly lessened meaningful diversity in expression all over the globe
· One of the largest media conglomerates is The Walt Disney Company. Robert Iger, Walt Disney Company’s current CEO actively supports the Democrats. Secondly, Disney’s ownership of ABC directly influences what television programs and news are produced. For instance, ABC does not produce stories that show Disney sweat shops or child laborers.
· News Corporation is an emerging media giant as well. This conglomerate owns, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal and New York Post. News Corporation’s CEO, Rupert Murdoch admits he is politically conservative which is evident by the reputation of Fox News for airing conservatively biased news programming, before Fox was bought over by Disney.
· General Electric is a perfect example of how a corporation can drive media content. The conglomerate owns 27 television stations and multiple cable networks. As the owners of NBC, General Electric does not allow for reporting on the inadequacies of the company and also doesn’t allow any controversial stories regarding General Electric to be produced.
· CBS Corporation not only owns multiple television and radio stations. CBS News President David Rhodes’s brother Ben Rhodes was Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication. This example shows there is a direct connection between the CBS News President and the Obama Administration.
· Today, media conglomerates control the majority of media outlets production and distribution and they exercise power and influence in multiple facets of operation and content. It is clear that programming is now driven by profit and corporate influence. When one entity controls the information, we must question the validity of the information we receive. As media consumers we must sift through the information and question the source.
Reporting in Hostile Environments (also embedded journalism)
· Reporting from within hostile environments is a true challenge for the journalist. Hostile environments comprise conflict zones where the root of the conflict could be economic, political, ethnic; religious i.e. it could be a war between two countries or a civil war etc.
· Personal Safety: The biggest challenge is the risk to life and personal safety. Innumerable cases of media persons being killed in and around the theater of war are being regularly reported from conflict zones. E.g three German journalists were killed in a bomb blast in Bosnia. A reporter and photographer of A.P. died in a blast during the civil war in Sierra Leone. At least 15 journalists have been reported killed in the Middle East.
· Further cases of journalists being kidnapped and held hostage have also come to light. Daniel Pearle was kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan and later beheaded. Terry Anderson was held hostage in Lebanon for around six years.
· Besides, there have been numerous instances of journalists being arrested and jailed and even charges of espionage have been leveled against them.
· Parachute journalism: Parachute journalism is an often derogatory term used to describe the practice of thrusting journalists into an area to report on a story in which the reporter has little knowledge or experience. This normally occurs when a conflict breaks out.
· The lack of knowledge and tight deadlines often result in inaccurate or distorted news reports, especially during breaking news. As opposed to expert foreign correspondents who might live in the locale, news organizations will sometimes send either general assignment reporters or well-known celebrity journalists into unfamiliar areas.
· Critics contend this type of journalism usually consists of reporting mere basic details and often includes the misrepresentation of facts and ignorance of contextual issues. The journalist often lacks in-depth knowledge of the situation and is usually disoriented because of the strangeness of the environment he or she is in. Often the only information immediately available is from other news organizations or from “official” or bureaucratic or diplomatic sources that may contain propaganda.
· Journalists ‘parachuted’ into a strange situation often lack proper contacts. They may rely on stringers for their sources, or often have to depend on interpreters whose credibility cannot be guaranteed.
· Due to lack of time and knowledge, background research and independent investigation of the events at the site of occurrence is seldom conducted, the result being superficial day to day event related coverage.
· However, one advantage of this type of journalism is that the parachuter is an outsider who can look at the news event from a fresh perspective and more likely to be able to pinpoint what a global audience will be interested in.
· Very often journalists are faced with a dilemma when the operating laws of their home country are different from the laws in the country of action. E.g. journalists covering events in Iran have been hauled up for disseminating photographs of women, which is an offence in Iran but a normal practice in any western country.
· Spin Problem: Parties involved in a conflict often develop their own websites which becomes a platform not only for conveying information but also for propaganda. Other media particularly print media at times tend to use such websites as sources of information. As a result global coverage of the conflict is not fully objective. E.g. the site www.vijayinkargil.com created by the Indian army during the Kargil conflict, became a source for large sections of global media. International opinion, therefore, turned strongly in favour of India.
· Burnout and trauma: Working in alien and hostile conditions and often putting in long hours causes undue stress, leading at times to a total burnout. Coupled with this is the factor of trauma when a journalist is caught in a dilemma between official duty and humanitarian demands. The journalist is trapped between trying to help or rescue those in distress and proceeding with professional demands like filing scoops about death, distress and destruction. Burnout and trauma can often lead to psychological disorders.
· E.g. Photographer Kevin Carter photographed a starving child being pecked at by a vulture in Ethiopia, but did nothing to help the child. Though he got awards for his exclusive photography he committed suicide on account of guilt at having let the child die.
· Adding to this is the Death Knock Syndrome where journalists have to rush to the scene of death and interview members of the immediate family, which can be a psychologically traumatic experience.
· Then there is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], a syndrome that can arise after an individual is exposed to a life-threatening stressor. This has several typical symptoms like re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, dreams or involuntary thoughts and images; the development of negative moods and thoughts, including a sense of estrangement from family, friends and colleagues; and finally problems like insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating etc. War journalists can be victims of two other disorders as well namely depression and substance abuse.
Changing Role of War Correspondents
· The War Correspondent has to report from the scene of action namely the war zone or conflict zone. Traditionally war correspondents have been accredited representatives of media whose job was to provide day to day coverage about the progress of the conflict, advances, retreats, causalities, destruction etc.
· They were never sent to the frontline but followed army formations wherever feasible and to some extent their safety and well being was the responsibility of the army. Hence they enjoyed some kind of a semi official status.
· Hence most war correspondents largely depended on official sources of information from the frontline. Also there was a tendency of bias towards the country they represented.
· These correspondents were never targets of attack. The press tag gave them some extent of immunity from attack by both hostile sides.
· The situation began to change after the civil war in Yugoslavia. The Serbs realised that the media was not really helping their cause and also that there would be little recourse if they attacked media persons. The net result is that journalists have now become a highly vulnerable segment. Today very often, particularly in Iraq and Syria, journalists have to go in disguise.
· James Foley was captured and later beheaded at Aleppo in Syria and his death was video graphed and posted on YouTube.
· Moreover in a war between countries, there is a certain code of conduct. Today most of the conflicts are between insurgents and militants who do not bother about the ethics of warfare. This makes journalists all the more vulnerable.
· Another trend started during the Gulf War is that many journalists watched live coverage of the action from their hotel rooms and filed reports. This definitely affected the objectivity of the reporting. Moreover media persons, unlike military, paramilitary or civil defence personnel, have no training in combat warfare to train them for the frontlines.
· They are often parachuted from the safety of a newsroom desk to the war zone and for sheer survival may attach themselves to a militant group or an official army, which means that the coverage would be largely biased.
· E.g. Christina Lamb, a war correspondent with The Sunday Times caught in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan while embedded with a company of Marines.
· There has been an increasing towards freelancers travelling to the scene of conflict and sending footage to multiple newspapers or channels. This trend picked up more after the Arab spring. Travel is cheap lightweight digital equipment like a camera and recorders is easily available and this facilitates amateurs looking for adventure to travel to conflict zones and assume the role of war correspondents.
· Using their footage proves highly economical for the media, whereas from the freelancer’s point of view it is important to get the story and images through into as many outlets as possible. Hence there is a tendency towards sensationalism, focusing on death and destruction vis-a-vis an in-depth analysis or delving into the background and the issues involved.
· However as war reporting becomes more and a more a stringers’ initiative, there can be no guarantee of the total authenticity, credibility or factual validity of the information dispatched. Often these freelancers have little or no access to official information and hence they connect with local residents or sources again casting aspersions on the authenticity of the information.
· Vice magazine published a long piece by Sunil Patel a young British man of Indian origin. The headline read “I Went To Syria To Learn How To Be A Journalist – And Failed Miserably at It While Nearly Dying A Bunch Of Times”. Patel’s story is only an apt example of a growing trend.
· Marie-Lys Lubrano, a 32-year-old French journalist who travelled to Libya from Cairo, where she had covered the uprising of 2011. In Libya, she travelled mostly with rebel groups, and hardly spent a penny. She claims ‘’It was dangerous because I was not independent. I did not have enough money. I was always embedded.’’
· Sometimes freelancers do extraordinary work. For example, the most spellbinding footage of the war in Syria has come from a 41-year-old freelance French photojournalist and videographer code named Mani.
· Without Mani, much of the conflict in opposition-controlled areas would have been beyond view. In filming the furious close-quarters battles, he fulfilled a central duty of the war reporter. Millions of people had a view of what was actually happening in Syria: not only Government oppression of civilians, but also a ruthless fight back by the opposition and the conflict’s civilian collateral damage.
· In a market saturated with images and videos of war, much of it shot by amateurs, there is a need to do better than competition. Sometimes the courage of a star reporter is highlighted and becomes the focus of the story.
· Sunday Times correspondent Miles Amoore entered Tripoli with a group of Libyan rebels. As they approached Gaddafi’s base, Amoore was shot in the head by a government sniper but survived because of his Kevlar helmet. He just dusted himself down and continued his work. A few hours later, he became the first reporter to enter Gaddafi’s compound.
· He thus had a world exclusive. But that scoop only made the inside pages of the Sunday newspaper. On the front page, the Sunday Times ran a first-person account of Amoore’s near-death experience.
Coverage of natural disasters.
· The media generally assume that news of war, crime and natural disasters will always win an audience. Coverage of war has attracted criticism for its lies, jingoism and general bias. Crime reporting traditionally exaggerates the danger of violence in society, creating an unnecessary sense of insecurity.
· Media coverage of natural disasters – floods, blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes – is, on the contrary, largely accepted as accurate. Actually the opposite is true. Stereotyping is common: whichever the country involved, there are similar images of wrecked bridges, half-submerged houses and last-minute rescues.
· Most usually the extent of the damage and the number of casualties are exaggerated, particularly in the developed world
· The reporting of natural disasters appears easy, but it is difficult to do convincingly. Haiti had its worst earthquake in 200 years, which killed more than 250,000 people. Exceptionally heavy monsoon rain turned the Indus River into a vast dangerous lake, forcing millions of Pakistani farmers to flee their homes and take refuge on the embankments. Less devastating was unexpectedly heavy snow in Britain in December and the severe blizzard which struck New York at Christmas.
· All these events are dramatic and should be interesting, but the reporting of them is frequently repetitious and dull. This may be partly because news coverage of all disasters, actual or forecast, is delivered in similarly stereotype tones.
· Governments are warier than they used to be in dealing with disasters, conscious of the political damage they will suffer if they are seen as unfeeling or unresponsive. The best-remembered single picture of the New Orleans flood is probably not of water rushing through the streets, but of President Bush peering at it with distant interest out of the window of his aircraft from several thousand feet above the devastation.
· Once the initial drama of a disaster is over, coverage frequently dribbles away because nothing new is happening. After a day or two, accounts of disasters sound very much the same. There are the same bemused refugees on the road or in a camp of tents or huts; houses destroyed by an earthquake, be it in Kashmir or Haiti, the force of the water in rivers in floods often leaves nothing standing but a few walls and some rubble. Every disaster has uplifting rescue stories when a few survivors are miraculously pulled alive from the wreckage of houses. Refugees always complain, often with reason, about the slow response of their government and the aid agencies.
· Even the worst of disasters has a limited life as a news story unless something new happens. The Indus floods were like any great flood, except that their extent was enormous and the waters very slow to subside. In this vacuum of fresh news, spurious reports took life. One claimed that Islamic fundamentalist charities were taking advantage of the failure of the government and Western aid agencies to act and were spreading Islamic militancy among angry and receptive refugees.
· The story of the Islamic militant charities first emerged during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 and was widely believed. Eventually, the World Bank, which found that donors were discouraged by the idea that aid was falling into the hands of militants, felt compelled to fund a survey of Kashmiri villagers to disprove the story.
· Public most often switch to media for accessing disaster updated information and also trust the information provided. The audiences may feel dreadful seeing misfortunes of others but yet are attracted to such stories.
· At the same time the media must fulfill their commitments to sell the news to acquire business and promote and safeguard their political motives. According to Benthall ‘disasters do not exist -except for their unfortunate victims and those who suffer in their aftermath- unless publicized by the media. In this sense the media actually construct disaster’. Though, the media myth of being the first at the disaster scene is a fact it is arguable whether in reality they are there for humanitarian cause or to sell the events to the outer world.
· Media have always been concerned with events and stories which have human impact. As soon as a big disaster hits, media suspend regular programming and start broadcasting “disaster marathons”. Media provide the latest information and updates on the catastrophe and ongoing occurrences.
· No reporter covering a disaster can avoid reporting casualties, collateral damage, causes of the disaster, rescue and relief activities. But the economic priorities of media compel them to send half-baked information about a natural hazard at its early stages without sufficient background research, which can lead to misinforming and misleading the public. Information is disseminated without much “quality control”.
· Responding to the increased interest of people for information about natural hazards in the wake of a natural disaster, media often go to their resource files and disseminate background information about natural disasters to cover the time and space allocated for disaster news stories. Such background information helps create awareness among the people about causes, impacts and aftermaths of a natural disaster.
· However, in many disasters, the media remained focused on the single story event. During Hurricane Katrina, the media had the invaluable role of reporting the ‘breaking news’ and everyday developments of the disaster, but were unable to gather contextually rich information about the causes and consequences of the natural disaster.
· Media such as television and newspapers also tend to favour the dramatic components of the disaster if they are available to “pump up ratings” and to be critical of governments.
· During disaster, hype is accelerated by journalistic competition with a drive to be the first “with the scoop”. So journalists try to reach the scene immediately and use traditional as well as non-traditional methods to gather information which in turn becomes a commodity. Their sole purpose to be there at the scene of disaster is to uphold their status of information provider in the eyes of the audience.
· Media quite often represent the desperate mob searching for food as looters. Repeated media myths of individual behaviors of looting and lawlessness not only distort the image of the whole community during a disaster but also lead people to believe that victims are looters. Aid agencies and relief workers may feel uneasy about visiting these areas and most of the relief funds are then diverted towards law and order situation instead of primary concerns of food, shelter and relief works.
· E.g. Haiti earthquake resulted in a situation of helplessness and devastation and instead of highlighting the miseries of the victims, international media intensely focused on a few Haitian outlaws, allegedly escaped prisoners with long knives in their hands engaged in looting.
· Media overemphasizes destruction and devastation. Media often portrays these communities as helpless waiting for external aid and support, unable to cope and deserving of charity. News reports and media stories that depict victims and survivors as dazed and confused can create an environment of public misunderstanding. Also Media may fail to cover rescue and relief efforts by focusing only on the death tolls and material losses.
· Media often build negative image of minorities in both developing and developed countries. In repeated photographs in Katrina’s aftermath, African Americans were consistently shown as ‘looting’ goods, while white people involved in exactly the same activities were described as ‘finding’ supplies. As a result of media portrayals and decisions of official bodies, ‘black victims were seen and treated as unworthy victims”. However, media’s role needs to be positive and to avoid sensationalism and trivialisation.
· On an average, mass media covered natural disasters for shorter periods of time than other issues; that media coverage tended to focus on the current impact of disasters on humans, the built environment and the natural environment (i.e., who was hurt or killed and what was destroyed); that disaster media coverage generally focused on the state and region related to the event; and that disaster news was largely about what was happening now.”
· Nearly two-thirds of the coverage, 62.8%, occurred in the first 30 days after the disaster began.
· Early coverage tends to focus on physical damage, while later coverage looks at the human interest and political dimensions.
· Aid efforts are always portrayed as too slow / ineffective. Delivering aid in disaster areas is hard. Even though much of the criticism leveled at aid efforts during disasters is warranted, doing this through the media means that the public are bombarded with inconsistent messages. On the one hand being urged to give, yet at the same time told that donations aren’t making a difference,
· Related to this, coverage of disasters almost never mentions local efforts to respond. Local charities, local government and local people are nowhere to be seen in these reports. The message is that these countries are dependent on Western countries for aid and support. Third world countries are projected with a “begging bowl” image.
· The impact of all of this is that Western audiences become desensitized to the magnitude and human tragedy of these disasters and tend to view them as part of a broader narrative of hopelessness and incompetence in “Africa” and “Asia.”
Global Media’s Coverage of Terrorism
Media and Terrorism: A symbiotic Relationship
- A terrorist group is one which indulges in acts of violence against the establishment or state in pursuit of a specific cause. The cause could be religious, political, ethnic or even economic. They believe in violence and bloodshed to achieve their goals.
· Studies have pointed to a generally mutually beneficial relationship between terror organisations and the media.
· Terror organisations make use of the media for their operational efficiency, information gathering, propaganda and even recruitment. Their goals are standard: attention or awareness, recognition, and perhaps even a degree of respectability, legitimacy and support among their various target publics.
· Winning the attention of the media, national and foreign opinion leaders and decision makers in governments is one of the primary goals of terror organisations. To achieve this terrorists carefully select the sites for attack in order to optimise media coverage. They generally choose locations and sites of public importance which would have a greater impact on the community. E.g. they would attack a metro or a city in preference to a rural area.
· Through the media they aim to publicise their causes, inform friends and enemies of their motives as well as explain their rationale for resorting to violence and bloodshed. Of late the official media has been replaced by social media to spread their message.
· The media in turn, through its coverage of terror attacks and terrorist activity, receives greater attention of its audiences which pushed up TRP and readership.
· Terrorism has proved an active boon for media coverage. It proves an attractive subject for the media because reports of terror focus violence, human tragedy, danger, bloodshed, miracle stories, shocking footage etc. which is most appealing to audiences.
· The problem however lies not in why the media covers terrorism but how the media covers terrorism. The media tends to sensationalise acts of terror, the resultant human tragedy and focuses on who is to blame etc. repeating the same images over and over again as well. The media then provides greater salience to certain issues, leading the public to believe that acts of terror committed by certain organisations or in certain countries are more significant than others.
· Opinions created about terrorist organisations are always negative. They are portrayed as dangerous and a threat to the world.
Disproportionate Coverage of Terror Attacks
· Coverage of all terrors attacks in the media is extensive and prolonged. The emphasis is on the attack, death and destruction. There is no analysis on the root cause of the issues involved or the demands of the group involved.
· International media shows a distinct bias while covering terror attacks globally. Incidents of terror attacks in Europe and North America receive extensive media coverage while incidents in other parts of the world tend to be under-reported.
· For example the terror attacks in Brussels and Paris received excessive coverage. In the same month of the Paris attack i.e. November 2015 attacks took place in Mali and Tunisia, and subsequently there were attacks in Djakarta and Mogadishu to name a few. All of them resulted in death and destruction. The media coverage was however incomparable.
- The attacks in Paris took place on November 13. This hit the headlines and made for 24X7 coverage in all major news channels. Hours earlier terror attacks had claimed lives in Baghdad and Beirut. Analysts were shocked not merely by these attacks but by a comparable lack of media attention to them. There were only 392 articles online on the attacks in Baghdad, 1, 292 articles on the attack in Beirut and over 21,000 on Paris.
- Similarly the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in which 12 persons were killed saw 22,000 articles online while on the same day a bomb blast in Yemen which killed 38 persons saw only 565 articles.
- The situation of terror attacks is far worse in non western countries as compared to western countries, but it is totally downplayed in the media. E.g. the Boko Haram in Nigeria. Nigeria witnesses a large number of terror attacks which are cursedly dismissed in the media. The only time it really came into the limelight was when the kidnapping of the schoolgirls took place.
- Moreover terror attacks in non-Western countries are covered in a detached stereo type style focusing on weapons used, location, death toll, group responsible and possible political ramifications. Greater focus is placed on the group responsible and very little on the plight of the victims or the rehabilitation programmes.
- If Westerners are killed be it at home or abroad, then it is the victim that makes the headlines. E.g. one terror incident in Afghanistan three Afghans and one Briton were killed. Top stories were headlined “British National among four killed in Kabul Suicide Car Bomb” or “Briton Killed in Kabul Car Bombing.” Similar was the case in a later bomb blast in Afghanistan in which 3 American nationals were killed.
- The net result is that public opinion rears round to the view that terror groups active in the western world are major threats, where as groups operating in other countries are trivial.
Coverage of Al Qaeda
- The Western Media took terrorism seriously only after the 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Centre. After that phrases like War on Terror and Islamic Terror started making an appearance.
- Prior to 9/11 Al Qaeda was hardly focussed on in the international media and projected as a somewhat localized terror outfit in Afghanistan and its surrounding areas.
- After 9/11 the media virtually raised hysteria calling for war and revenge against terrorists which also implied action against Muslims mainly Arabs. The Al Qaeda was portrayed as a growing international danger.
- The media conveyed the message that even the US was vulnerable to terror attacks, which brought the Al Qaeda into a greater limelight.
- The Al Qaeda again came in for tremendous negative publicity with the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Media worldwide hailed the act, there was no analysis on the legal and diplomatic propriety of the killing.
- The Arab media gave a more balanced coverage to the Al Qaeda. Al–Jazeera aired the Bin Laden tapes. The channel was hence dubbed as a supporter of Terror and a mouthpiece for the Al Qaeda. The Western media however overlooked the fact that Al-Jazeera had put on air British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as other spokespersons of the western world to provide the Western view.
- Post 9/11 several Arab media outlets publicised a fatwah by six prominent Islamic scholars condemning the terror attacks as contrary to Islam and called for extreme punishment to the perpetrators. However in their reference to Al Qaeda attacks outside the Islamic world, the media referred to them as “so called Terrorism.” As for the Al Qaeda attacks within the Arab World the Arab media used loaded terms like “suicide attacks” and “terrorism”.
- The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was referred to in the Western media as a “Global War on Terror” and highlighted American victories and the retreat of the Taliban and the ensuing celebrations, the A-Jazeera covered the human toll and suffering of the Afghans on account of US bombings and aired footage of damage to civilian sites. This angered the US and may have led to the so called mistaken bombing of the Al-Jazeera office in Kabul.
Coverage of Taliban
- The Taliban has been continually receiving widespread coverage in the Pakistani media.
- Taliban came into focus in the international media immediately after 9/11 as it was ruling in Afghanistan and the media highlighted the nexus between the Taliban and Al Qaeda
- The Taliban again became the centre of media attention after the attack on Yousuf Malala in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakthunawa province.
- Currently suicide attacks by the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan are reported in the media though do not receive the kind of salience that an attack in the western world would receive.
- U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan in which Taliban leaders are killed are also highlighted in the international media. However the plight of civilian victims and the damage to civilian sites are somewhat ignored. This however is reported in the regional media in Pakistan and in sections of the Arab media.
Coverage of ISIS (ISIL)
- As compared to Al Qaeda and Taliban, the ISIS gets tremendous salience in the media. The coverage has been largely negative focusing on the atrocities, beheadings etc. Hence the focus is more on the organisation and its activities and propaganda. In contrast the international media coverage on Al Qaeda post 9/11 focussed more on the American response to the attacks.
- The ISIS is being portrayed as a global danger wanting to destroy the U.S. It is also being portrayed at being successful at attracting recruits. This is proving counterproductive as in it results in motivating more individuals to join the cause.
- The media also highlights the human interest aspect like the Jihadist bride practice for which it is reported that young women willingly leave home to become brides of ISIS soldiers.
- Also justified are US air strikes in support of the Iraqi forces. The resultant civilian causalities and damage are largely downplayed.
- The ISIS has increasingly used social media to spread their propaganda. The social media flood has created the perception that the ISIS has more support and is larger than it actually is.
- Videos of ISIS beheadings and executions have gone viral on social media. These are being aired on American Channels as well as Al-Jazeera thus creating a greater scare about the organisations. Coverage should actually be on news not on propaganda, which can prove counterproductive.
- The salience given by the media has helped create the perception that the ISIS is the world’s most jihadist organisation, as the media seems to highlight the group’s growth and progress. This image may even prove alluring to potential recruits.
- On the contrary there are several smaller militant groups many backed by Iran, which are fighting the ISIS, but these receive scant media coverage.
- The media however is totally omitting coverage of the root causes of the rise of ISIS, the reason for whatever support it has gained among a section of the community. Also issues like where it is getting its arms from or how is the organisation getting its funding to sustain itself are totally sidetracked.
- The main source of income of the ISIS is the sale of oil at below market prices, but there is no probe or analysis into how the financial transactions are facilitated or which are the banks providing credit.
- In comparison media coverage of terrorism in Israel does not give undue salience to the organisation. Israeli media now understands that terrorism’s goal is to create a fear psychosis. Hence no undue weightage is given to the group responsible or the aftermath in terms of continually telecasting disturbing images. The terror attack is reported as any other news item without devoting too much time or space.
- Further the media’s focussing on the religious aspect of ISIS has created mistrust about the entire religious community worldwide. So much so, that Muslims opposed to terror have united under the hash tag #NotinMyName to highlight their point of view.
Development of New Media as a Channel of Global Journalism
· New media most commonly refers to content available through the Internet, usually containing interactive user feedback and creative participation. Common examples of new media include websites, online newspapers, blogs, wikis, video games and social media.
· A defining characteristic of new media is interactivity. It enables people around the world to share, comment on, and discuss a wide variety of topics. The rise of new media has increased communication between people all over the world.
· Globalisation is a result of the evolution of new media. Globalization involves expansion of communication activities beyond the boundaries of particular nation states. It shortens the distance between people all over the world by the electronic communication
· “Virtual communities“ are being established online across geographical boundaries, eliminating social restrictions. New media connects like-minded others worldwide who establish virtual communities to exchange ideas on a particular issue.
· Also New Media has been used extensively by social movements to create awareness and enlist support for social or political movements. E.g. Arab Spring, Nirbhaya case, Dalit agitation etc. Blogs has allowed numerous views and practices to be more widespread and gain more public attention. [Refer JPO notes]
· It also serves as an important tool for groups like terrorist organisations to spread their message and lure supporters. E.g. ISIS . [Refer JPO notes]
· In the field of political and electioneering also the new media’s reach is growing. The new media has had a significant impact on elections during the 2008 presidential campaign in the U.S. and the 2014 election campaign in India. . [Refer JPO notes]
· The introduction of new media has challenged the traditional form of journalism as global emphasis shifts to online, real-time reportage of events. Today, news is delivered in a unique manner, combining audio and visual in such a way that its impact can never be over-emphasized. New media has silently, but steadily, become a force to be reckoned with in today’s world.
· Unlike its predecessors, TV and radio, the Internet is also a storehouse of knowledge providing access to huge piles of information. It is the most recent communication tool of the world where a user can transcend borders and have access to the encyclopedias, newspapers, bulletin boards, video arcades, hyper malls, broadcast stations, the movies, grapevine, travel agency, and mail order—all at one stop
· With new media, journalism is no longer a sermon but rather interactive: The audience is now part and parcel of the information gathering and dissemination.
· There is a ground shift happening in the media industry because of the widening reach of social media networks. Mass media is passé. Today, it is all about personal media. In the old days, a reporter was given a lead or went out to find a story. Today, many stories are received third hand (sometimes even fourth or fifth hand) through Facebook posts or Tweets or Digg so that by the time a story is assigned to the reporter, the story in some form or another is already out there in the social media universe. The reporter now has to take that into consideration and find some angle to the story that is not yet being talked about.
· As to the notion of scoops and breaking news, a lot of tips or leads these days are from the web or what’s “trending” in social networks like Twitter, Facebook or its popularity rating on Digg or based on search volume patterns in search engines like Google or Bing. This is radically changing the industry’s concept of what a scoop or breaking news is.
· Journalists are forced to accelerate the traditional journalistic process because people now want real time information as soon as the journalist or the media outlet receives it. So to sit on a story until it is complete is to risk being out-scooped by competitors or even worse to be dubbed slow by the public. It is now a necessity to give the audience constant updates as soon as the information is available.
· While social media networks churn out viable leads, there are also a lot of hearsays going on and even hoaxes. In October 2008, a citizen journalist, a CNN iReport poster reported that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had been rushed to the hospital after a severe heart attack citing an anonymous source. The story turned out to be false. CNN removed the story from the site and referred to it as fraudulent. That false story impacted the financial markets. Apple’s stock in US trade took a major hit and dived to its lowest that year before bouncing back.
· If the press is the Fourth Estate, William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute termed social media as the emergence of the Fifth Estate. Dutton said “we are witnessing the emergence of powerful new voices and networks which can act independently of the traditional media.” A good example of this is the case for “citizen journalists”.
· But another real competition for traditional media outlets is news aggregators. Many different news aggregators exist, those run by search giants such as Google and Yahoo and those based on reader interaction such as Digg. Google News however, also collects brief excerpts from articles on its homepage, and makes them available via a search function. Others like huffingtonpost.com and thedailybeast.com, provide aggregation alongside original reporting and commentary. Five year old The Huffington Post is now seen as a viable threat to the more established The Washington Post as a news and opinion site.
· Twitter in particular, opens up new possibilities in journalism” (Lowery). She continued by saying both her news organization and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle quoted from the Twitter feed. However, she pointed out an important step they took. “We filtered the information and confirmed facts,” she wrote (Lowery).
· Citizens Journalism is also an important aspect of the new media. (expand) While news organisation often quote from twitter and use tweets as a source the information has to be filtered and the facts confirmed, since authenticity cannot be guaranteed.
· However, while some of the information reported through social media is correct, blogs and Twitter also may be responsible for spreading rumours. “Traditional newspapers are eager to harness the power of social networks to find and distribute information, but they also want to do it in a way that fosters responsible use.”
· With the growing use of social media to report news people now expect to receive news instantaneously and expect constant updates of developments. This is significantly influencing the direction and practice of journalism. The availability of these online blogs and social media networks has changed the way that journalists are able to operate.
· It is important to note that social media and blogs are not replacing journalism, but they are adding another layer of information to existing news sources. One key way that social media has changed how journalists approach the news is through helping journalists in newsgathering and crowd sourcing. Social media also helps journalists to source eyewitnesses quickly,
· One of the greatest positives of social media for journalists is the way that it has the power to engage with greater audiences. Social media is able to move information quickly among a large group of people, and can provide a valuable two-way engagement with the audience, changing significantly how journalists talk to their audiences and listen to the audience’s response. This can mean that local news is able to transform into international news very quickly as social media has the power to transfer information across the world instantaneously.
Media in Japan
· The Japanese media has certain unique features. The freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution of Japan hence officially there is no censorship. However, the media works under severe social and political pressures. Certain issues are taboo e.g. criticism of the Royal Family.
· At the same time the media has a large presence in Japan. Over 70 million copies of newspapers are printed everyday and the population depends heavily on the media for information and updates.
· The Japanese media is dominated by five national newspapers each of which has an associated TV Channel.
Nihon Keizai Shimbun
· In addition there are numerous regional newspapers: Hokkaido Shimbun, popular on the island of Hokkaido; Chunichi Shimbun popular in Central Japan etc. There are also a large number of periodicals being published.
· The English media does not have a strong presence in Japan. The only paper Japan Times is read mainly by expatriates.
· A unique feature of the Japanese media is that the entire media speaks with one voice, as in the coverage is identical on all issues. The points of focus, highlights, news angle etc. are all the same. There is a kind of self imposed censorship with very little variation in the reports, the reason being that the media obtains its information from one single source only.
· A Press Club or Kisha Kurabu system exists in Japan with respect to all Government Departments and organisations. All media persons have to become members of each Kisha Kurabu individually in order to be able to attend press briefings or access hand outs. Institutional membership of the Kisha Kurabu is not permitted.
· The news is reported from the official angle only. Any deviation or criticism could result in suspension of the reporter from the concerned Kisha Kurabu. Till recently, magazine journalists, freelancers or foreign journalists could not become members of a Kisha Kurabu. Lately the restriction has been relaxed.
· Political Coverage: Generally a reporter is attached to a politician for life. Hence a personal rapport is built up, as a result of which political reporting becomes biased.
· This system ensures that the Government is the major agenda setter for news coverage as the audience receives news solely from the Government’s perspective.
· Despite strong Government influence and indirect control over news coverage, the Japanese media too has exposed its own share of scams and scandals. The exposure of the scam is generally initiated either by political opponents but more so by the foreign media.
· E.g. In 1974 a financial scandal was exposed which led to the resignation of the then Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. This scam was first reported by a foreign news agency and later picked up by the Japanese media.
· An organisation called Foreign Press in Japan [FPIJ] exists in Japan. All foreign correspondents and media organisations have to be recognised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and accredited by the FPIJ in order to be able to report within Japan. Deviation from the norms can result in expulsion.
Media in China
· Since China is a Communist country, there is Government ownership and hence rigid Government control over the media.
· The media has a large presence and a wide reach in China. Over 2000 newspapers are published. The largest circulated is the People’s Daily [Renmin Riba] with over 20 editions. This paper is mainly a vehicle for communist Party and Government propaganda.
· The official Chinese news agency Xinhua is also state owned. The official Chinese TV Channel China Central Television [CCTV} is also state owned.
· There is only one English Daily China Daily read mainly be expatriates, but its content is the same as any Chinese newspaper.
· The media in China can be classified into two categories – the CCP – Chinese Communist Party media which is run and managed directly by the Chinese Communist Party’ and the non CCP media.
· Since there is official censorship, both may carry the same news, but the angle of focus and emphasis may be different. E.g. the CCP media would have to publish a speech by a party leader in verbatim, while the non CCP media would carry it as a report. However, instructions are sent out as to which points need to be highlighted.
· All senior appointments in the CCP media are made by the local units of the Communist Party. Senior appointments in the non-CCP media have to be sanctioned by the Government.
· Post liberalisation the Government has granted financial autonomy to the non CCP media. It is responsible for managing its own income and expenditure and hence can publish advertisements which also have to be censored. No political autonomy has been granted.
· However since the non CCP media has become market driven, there now is a certain amount of sensationalism, crime, human interest and community based stories which are carried.
· Newspapers and TV gave the pro democracy protests in 1989 substantial coverage. The Government came down very heavily on the media and a rigid censorship was imposed. The Tiannanmen Square massacre was blacked out by the Chinese media.
· Several senior journalists were either dismissed or imprisoned. E.g. Qui Behli, Editor of World Economic Herald, was dismissed. Dai Qing, an Editor of Guangming Daily was jailed for 10 months without trial. Several publications were shut down.
· Jiang Zemin a CCP leader who later became the Premier made a statement: “Truthfulness in news means precisely to toe the party’s ideological line.”
· Later when he became the Premier he tightened the Government control over content and banned any kind of material which “endangers social order, criticizes the Communist Party and threatens national integrity…”
· Media coverage takes place as per Government guidelines which are laid down by the People’s Daily and Xinhua.
· E.g. In 1999 on the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising the Chinese media lauded the so called progress in Tibet and highlighted the happiness of the Tibetans over the last 40 years. Anti China and pro Dalai Lama protests were totally ignored.
· Of late with financial autonomy being granted to the non CCP media a few watchdog stories have been appearing exposing certain irregularities in Government functioning. But these are generally released by opponents within the Government or the CCP.
· All foreign news agencies have to operate through Xinhua which coordinates, approves and then disseminates the stories. No media is permitted to subscribe directly to a foreign news agency.
· Post 1990s internet became a popular medium in China. Fearing Western influence, the Government has issued stringent laws for internet users. All internet communication has to go through a Government approved service provider. All users have to register with the local police station, which can even access the accounts if required. User access is allowed only to ‘convenient’ websites.
State of the Media in USA
· The US has the most highly-developed mass media in the world. Its dramas, comedies, soap operas, animations, music videos and films have a global audience and are part of the staple fare of broadcasters worldwide.
· Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and some broadcast outlets give airtime to extreme hues of political – often right-wing – and religious thinking.
· The U.S. media today is frequently known as the Fourth Estate. The press or “Fourth Estate” plays a vital role as a guardian of U.S. democracy. That role is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1789, stipulating that Congress cannot enact any laws abridging freedom of the press.
· TV is America’s most popular medium and there is a multiplicity of channels of all genres – news, movies, entertainment, children’s etc.
· There are around 10,000 commercial radio stations. In cities, there are services to satisfy almost every taste. News, sports and talk stations predominate on medium wave (AM), with music on FM. Subscription satellite radio offers hundreds of channels and has attracted millions of customers. Community radio stations are largely popular. E.g. Successful use of Black community radio by Barrack Obama during his election campaign.
· There are some 1,300 daily newspapers in the US, most of them with a local or regional readership. Hard-copy circulations are in decline as readers go online.
· The US is the home of the internet. Some 287 million Americans are online comprising more than 88% of the population.
· Around 65% of American adults use social media. There are more than 150 million Facebook users.
· The print media
Wall Street Journal – business daily
Los Angeles Times – daily
Washington Post – daily
New York Post – daily
New York Times – daily
Chicago Tribune – daily
Newsweek – news weekly
Time – news weekly
ABC – major commercial network
CBS – major commercial network
NBC – major commercial network
Fox – major commercial network
CNN – pioneer of 24-hour rolling TV news, operates domestic and international streams
MTV – pioneer of music television
HBO (Home Box Office) – pay TV network; originator of some of American TV’s most critically-acclaimed programmes
Voice of America – government-funded, programmes for global audiences in many languages
Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty – government-funded, targets Eastern Europe, former
Radio Free Asia – government funded, targets China, North Korea and Southeast Asia
Radio Sawa – government-funded, Arabic-language radio for Middle East
· News agencies
· In recent years however, the American media has been plagued by different issues.
· The emergence of conglomerates and concentration of ownership in the hands of a few has drastically reduced diversity in media coverage and opinion. [Refer notes on media conglomerates].
· This has also led to the increasing commercialisation of media, with news being moulded and inserted to suit vested interests or interest of prominent advertisers.
· Media bias in the US is something acknowledged by many outside the USA, and is slowly realized more and more inside the US. [Briefly explain qualitative and quantitative bias].
· The net result is that the American audience does not get the holistic picture of any issue or an objective view of world affairs. Often information provided on global, particularly Third World issues, within the US is grossly inadequate and does not get due salience.
· International coverage by the US media is often low on priority. In recent years only few regions have received noteworthy coverage namely Israel, Syria – Iraq, Iran and Af-Pak, largely because of vested US interests in these areas.
· On account of non coverage of global issues American audiences get a very narrow view on many important issues. This makes it easier for propagandists to use media to cover their own agenda. Voters are often left at the mercy of paid political propaganda.
· This imbalance in the coverage of global issues has eroded the central requirement of a democracy that voters should be well informed.
· Long before the Soviet Union broke up, a group of Russian writers touring the United States were astonished to find, after reading the newspapers and watching television, that almost all the opinions on all the vital issues were the same. “In our country,” said one of them, “to get that result we have a dictatorship. We imprison people. We tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. How do you do it? What’s the secret?”
· Another effect of these so-called market forces at work is that mainstream media will go for what will sell and news coverage becomes all about attracting viewers. Yet the fear of losing viewers from competition seems so high that many report the exact same story at the very same time! Objective coverage gets a back seat.
· Even honest journalists from the major networks can find that their stories and investigations may not get aired for political reasons.
· However, politicians can often be hesitant about criticizing the media too much because a handful of media operators control how those politicians will be presented — or not presented — to the voters. Political variety among the mainstream media has disappeared
· Cultural bias within the US media has an effect on how issues are reported. For example, look at how publics in Europe and USA perceive the Muslim/Islamic world and the “threat” of Islam, due to media concentration on certain aspects of the news.
· Further the media is often used by different power lobbies to promote their cause and mobilize opinion in their favour. E.g. the Arms Lobby often ensures articles and opinion pieces advocating war.
· There is no formal censorship in the USA, but there is what some call “Market Censorship” — that is, mainstream media do not want to run stories that will offend their advertisers and owners. In this way, the media end up censoring themselves and not reporting on many important issues, including corporate practices.
State of the Media in North Korea
· North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has a highly repressive communist form of Government. Ironically however Article 67 of the North Korean constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
· In reality the media is totally state owned and state controlled. There is strict censorship and the media is virtually a vehicle of propaganda for the Government and the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The main objective is to ensure loyalty to the President Kim Jong-Un. Every journalist has to be a member of the WPK.
· Access to foreign media is restricted. No foreign publications are available for sale and being in possession of foreign publications or tuning in to foreign broadcasts is a crime punishable with imprisonment.
· The country has 12 main newspapers and 20 periodicals, all published from Pyongyang. The newspapers generally are an organ of some aspect of the government. Some of the main newspapers are:
Rodung Sinmun [Labour Daily – KWP]
Joson Inmingun [Korean People’s Army Daily]
Minju Choson [Democratic Korea – govt. organ]
Rodongja Sinmun [Workers Newspaper]
· There is only one English daily Pyongyang Times read mainly by expatriates.
· The main source of news to the media is the state owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Any foreign news also has to be routed through the KCNA.
· In 2007 the first news magazine to be based on independent reporting, named Rimjingang, was launched by Japanese journalists and North Korean refugees. It is brought out clandestinely and its reporters work as undercover journalist and provide information about happenings in North Korea. However the publication is intermittent. A few other news outlets like this one operate from outside the country.
· Also several independent radio stations launched by North Korean refugees operate from South Korea which broadcast anti government propaganda. Noteworthy among these are the Free North Korea Radio and Radio Free Chosun.
· Besides a number of foreign news telecasts and programmes are circulated clandestinely through CDs and DVDs.
· The North Korean media is often used to send out contrasting messages in order to influence North Koreans and confuse the outside world. E.g. When a severe famine prevailed in parts of the country the domestic media reported that sufficient foodgrains were transported to the affected areas whereas internationally it was reported that North Korea was a country of agricultural surplus.
· Salience is given to the issue of reunification but under the North Korean regime. The so called “threat “of an “imminent attack” by western powers and other foreign countries is often played up. Anti Government demonstrations in South Korea are portrayed as pro communist protests, when in reality they are demanding fundamental rights. Satellite and missile launches are highlighted as a symbol of the country’s economic progress.
· Generally international media is not allowed to post correspondents in North Korea. However, recently the AP was permitted to open a full-fledged bureau with full time correspondents. However the correspondents have to be North Korean journalists and the agency’s office is located at the headquarters of the KCNA. Later Xinhua and Kyodo News agency of Japan have been permitted to open bureau under similar conditions.
· Television and Radio broadcasting is managed by the Central Broadcasting Committee of Korea. Radio and TV sets are supplied pre-tuned to North Korean stations. The television just operates for a few hours in the evening. The main TV channels are
Korean Central TV
Mansudae Television – an educational channel available in Pyongyang onus
Ryongnamsan TV –an educational and cultural channel
Kaesong Television which indulges in govt. propaganda and target South Korea
· All broadcast media promotes the regime’s ideologies and regularly condemns actions by South Korea, USA, China and Japan.
· Global Internet is banned in North Korea. People have access to Kwangmyong, an internet setup by the government. But access is restricted only to internet cafes. Global social media sites are banned but the government has opened its parallel sites to Facebook and Twitter.
· The online presence of the North Korean official media has increased in recent years. E.g. the Rodong Sinmun has launched its Korean and English websites. KCNA has also launched its news portal.
· Al Jazeera is now acknowledged as a global channel and received worldwide acceptance particularly after the Arab Spring. It is the only global channel that is not Western.
· Moreover it gives substantial salience to coverage of news from West Asian and African countries
· Initially the world looked to Al Jazeera as an alternate voice which would counter the Western monopoly over news coverage and provide objective coverage of Asian, African and Middle Eastern News
· Al Jazeera was increasingly being perceived as the voice of change in Middle East and a platform for critics, analysts and activists to propagate their views.
· Views and counter-views about the Middle East issues were appropriately expressed through Al Jazeera, particularly during the early days of the Arab Spring, where Al Jazeera gave expression to the forces of change.
· Later however, Al Jazeera, itself became a victim of various biases and was being perceived as not being objective. It tends to concentrate more on countries with an Islamic population or Islamic government. Also the focus of its support began shifting to fundamentalist forces.
· The general perception, nowadays is that Al Jazeera ignores IS atrocities and highlights Western countries’ misgivings. Eg: Al Jazeera calls out IS and Taliban’s atrocities and acts of violence as ‘acts of struggle’ and ‘acts of resistance.’
· In Egypt, Al Jazeera was critical of Hosni Mubarak, but later started supporting Muslim Brotherhood. Several Al Jazeera correspondents were arrested. A court in Cairo ordered Al Jazeera to stop broadcasting in Egypt due to its perceived pro-Brotherhood bias and “inciting violence that led to the deaths of Egyptians.”
· Al Jazeera is perceived to have an anti-India bias. During the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Al Jazeera refused to use the word ‘terrorists’ and instead used the term ‘attackers’ and refused to acknowledge the Pakistani connection of the attack. Al Jazeera also tries to highlight the oppressive stance of Indian army in Kashmir.
· Al Jazeera is strongly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. An often-repeated example involves an on-air birthday party organized by Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief for a Lebanese militant convicted of killing four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl.
· Al-Jazeera has also been accused of focusing exclusively on Palestinian suffering, and ignoring Israeli suffering, especially on the Israeli residents of Western Negev, who have been the target of rocket attacks by Gaza.
· In Syria, its coverage was far from balanced. The channel’s reporting has been described as largely supportive of the rebels, while demonizing the Syrian government. It is anti- Bashar Al Assad.
· Hence it can no longer be considered an alternate voice in the true sense. Besides whether it can be considered a Global Channel is also a matter of controversy.
· The Al Jazeera effect:
Expression of opinions, voices through new media and gives opportunity to the marginalized groups. This leads to government taking their opinions seriously. (E.g.: Kurds in Iraq got a voice through new media, which is recognized and given a platform by Al Jazeera)
· The greatest accusation about Al Jazeera is that it is the mouthpiece of the government in Qatar. Al Jazeera never talks about worker exploitation in Qatar. Also it strongly supports groups to which the ruling family of Qatar is sympathetic.
Donald Trump Vs Kim Jong-un Twitter War
· On August 29, 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un fired a ballistic missile over Japan saying it was a “meaningful prelude” to containing the American territory of Guam.
· On September 15, 2017, North Korea launched another missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.The launch was the second to fly over Japan in less than a month, and the first since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and new United Nations sanctions on the country.
· South Korea, United States, Japan and many other countries opposed North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-Un. In a strong statement against North Korea, Donald Trump tweeted “This situation will be handled” as he vowed to slap new major sanctions on North Korea. Donald Trump also said that he would totally destroy North Korea if they didn’t abide by the rules.
· North Korea in reply said that they would make Trump pay if the US interfered in this matter. Kim Jong-Un’s New Year message to America said “Nuclear button always on my desk.” Donald Trump on the next day, tweeted that he too had a nuclear button which “is much bigger and it works.”
· Tensions arose between the two countries with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un being the face of the fight.
Media Coverage – International
· The Twitter war has been covered by all the major US publications as well as the global media in general. The highlight has only been given to the tweets of Trump. Bold and outright words have been used in headlines by the international media.
· Amidst tension between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the International Media covered each and every reply from either of the sides. Evening Standard of UK in its article showed a glimpse of Donald Trump’s first year as President of the United States in which it also covered the war of words between Trump and Kim.
· The popular news channel BBC also provided detailed coverage including all of North Korea’s nuclear whereabouts. Articles such as “North Korea crisis in 300 words”, “All you need to know about the NK missile program”, “How to defend against North Korea?” were some of the examples of how the BBC covered this issue.
· Japan’s media gave a lot of coverage regarding this issue as they constantly highlighted the range of missiles that Kim Jong-Un fired. When President Trump tweeted about his country’s Nuclear capabilities, it was very much highlighted by popular Japan’s news website – Japan Times
· The U.S. Media went berserk on North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-Un to the extent that they didn’t even spare his sister Kim Yo-Jong. The media gave a lot of salience to each and every reply from Donald Trump. The New York Times, in one of its reports stated the opinions of other politicians on Social Media. U.S. Media also published various editorials as to what may happen in the future in context of nuclear war. Some media organizations in U.S. were critical of Trump’s approach towards this particular issue. But the strong reply from President Trump was given tremendous coverage.
· U.S. Media also gave a lot of coverage to Kim Jong-un’s sister during the Winter Olympics held in South Korea. The New York Times headlines stated – “Kim Jong-Un’s sister turns on the charm, taking Pence’s spotlight.” CNN were attacked on Social Media for coverage of Kim Yo Jong. The Washington Post in its headlines stated – “The media should stop fawning over Kim Jong-un’s sister. She’s an emissary of a vicious regime.”
· Salience is only given to the two world leaders Trump and Kim Jong-un
· Less salience is given to the questions of what will happen if a nuclear attack has been launched. The possibility of a cold war between US and China has not been covered by any other media house except for CNN where a strategist shed light on this issue. The causes of the war or the consequences that it will lead to have not been highlighted.
· Snapshots of their tweets are included amongst all the coverage without giving salience to the fact of what caused a rise to this issue.
· The role of US meddling with its ally South Korea and the Winter Olympics has also been downplayed by the global media.
· Trumps’ tweet on ‘my nuclear button is bigger and it works’ has gained a lot of criticism amongst the international media. It has been called as a stupid move by Trump in provoking Kim. The media showcased the tweets and started creating international panic amongst the public and informed them about the possibility of a nuclear war.
· Al Jazeera kept highlighting the details and pointing out how the issue could be resolved. It gave a balanced perception of both the countries. When North Korea threatened U.S. with the nuclear button jibe, they also mentioned talks with South Korea to improve ties. This was majorly highlighted as they saw a potential that North Korea can actually abide by the rules.
Media Coverage – India
· The Indian Express provided a detailed report on the whole matter and also published few editorials as to where the fight was heading.
· The Times of India had a different and a humorous take on this one. “Kim Jong-Un fires missile at Indian news channels, was fed up of news shows based on him.”
· Hindustan Times too provided constant details on this issue. In one of its report, it stated that Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan praised the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s tough anti-US stand.
· Various media outlets pulled up their socks and went detailed about this issue. The International media were going gaga over Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un specially after Kim Jong-Un threatened U.S. with its Nuclear threat. However different media organizations had different take.
· While the Japanese media were constantly focusing on the range of missiles and the potential impact that it could have, the U.K. media were more focused as to what may happen in the future. U.S. Media were constantly opposing North Korea as it was pretty evident in their reports, it also meant that for the first time they supported President Trump as they always had issues. Even media coverage done by India too focused on the potential threat that North Korea possess.
Donald Trump’s Take on Jerusalem
· On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a speech he Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that officials say will take at least three years.
· The president’s announcement provoked condemnation from US allies, and a furious reaction from Palestinian leaders and the Muslim world. Within minutes of Trump’s announcement, US embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Germany and Britain issued security alerts urging Americans to exercise caution.
· The move marked a break with years of US precedent – and with general global opinion, which sees the fate of Jerusalem as a matter for comprehensive “final status” negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
· Following Trump’s speech, protests were reported in Ramallah and old Jerusalem where Palestinians clashed with Israel Defence Forces.
· Islamist militant group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) condemned the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called on militants to close ranks to support Palestinians
· Trump’s decision sparked protests across the Middle East. More than 50 Muslim leaders, meeting in Istanbul on December 13, 2017, criticized the decision and urged the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
· In a United Nations General Assembly meeting Member States demanded by an overwhelming majority that all countries comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem. Through a resolution adopted by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to nine against , with 35 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly expressed “deep regret” over recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem and stressed that the Holy City “is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant UN resolutions.”
· The global media went into overdrive with President Trump’s announcement.
· CBS Correspondent Seth Doane warned of violence on a global scale:
· CNN Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller said President Trump’s action was like hitting Palestinians “over the head with a hammer.”
· ABC described it as President Trump “reversing nearly seven decades of U.S. policy.”
· NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel said a lot of countries would look at this and say the president took a dangerous foreign policy decision that has real world consequences and could cost lives. He also called it “profoundly unsettling.”
· The BBC covered the issue extensively informing the world about Trump’s declaration, the aftermath and called it a “controversial recognition of the contested city of Jerusalem”.
· Al Jazeera took a more pragmatic stance while explaining the root cause of the Palestinians’ anger towards the decision.
· It charged US media and international media with supporting international voices over that of Palestinians. Palestinians are not given a voice but focus is on the views of analysts or experts who have never experienced the consequences of Israeli oppression.
· Relatively few Palestinian voices were granted a media platform to get at the context, the conditions of life under an Israeli occupation that has lasted half a century.
· Conservative US media lent widespread support to the decision. At National Review, David French called the move a blow against international anti-Semitism.
· Breitbart’s Joel Pollak called the decision “an event of almost Biblical significance, showing that the U.S. will stand with our allies regardless of terrorist threats.
· On Fox & Friends, Ben Shapiro called the decision “an act of not only political bravery, but moral courage” and called the Muslim dominated portions of Jerusalem dangerous.
· The general media was more critical ajor newspapers also covered the issue and published opinion-laden pieces, with the New York Times saying that “Trump administration was making matters more bewildering and stressful for everyone”.
· The Guardian went ahead to say that “Donald Trump’s abandonment of decades of US policy has set him at odds with the rest of the world and could have far-reaching consequences”.
· Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, ordered media outlets in the kingdom to not focus “too much attention” on Washington’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
· Times of Israel called Trump’s announcement an endorsement of a “two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians”, rather than defining it in straight terms. They also later focused on how Arab countries expected countries like India to defy the decision in stronger terms than they did.
· Indian media, mainly online publications such as Mint Live, The Wire and Quint focused more on India’s tepid response against the decision and later, its vote against the US’s decision at the UN.
· While most of the international media, be it BBC, CNN or Al Jazeera focused on why the decision was inappropriate and wouldn’t serve the purpose the US intended for it to, only Al Jazeera, headquartered in the Middle East, went into detail about why Palestine and largely, the rest of the Middle East opposed it and the deeper consequences it would have on the lives of the Palestinians.
· While most sections of the media talked about the speech, the subsequent protests in Jerusalem and the United Nations General Assembly meeting that led to the US’s decision being declared null and void, barely any coverage was reserved for the effect the speech had on the lives of the people embroiled in the conflict- the Palestinians and Israelis. There was no focus on their opinions on the issue, and how Jerusalem being the Israeli capital and movement of the US Embassy to the ancient city would affect their daily lives.
· Also, while Trump’s speech making the declaration and half-heartedly assuring that the decision wouldn’t make much of a difference to the peace-making efforts in the region (and even going on to presume that taking Jerusalem off the table would pave the way for a more peaceful agreement) was covered by every single player in the media, be it nationally or internationally, not enough salience was given to Secretary of State Tillerson’s statement saying that the movement of the embassy would take time and clarifying that Trump never mentioned the exact time frame. Had the media focused on Tillerson’s announcement, people would have realised that Trump’s announcement was not much more than an empty string of words and the violence and protests that ensued would perhaps not have been so serious.
#Me Too Movement
· The “Me Too” movement (or “#MeToo“, with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
· The phrase created by Tarana Burke was popularized by Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. Since then, the phrase has been posted online millions of times, often with an accompanying personal story of sexual harassment or assault.
· The response on Twitter included high-profile posts from several celebrities, and many stories of sexual violence were shared, including from Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman.
· The phrase “Me too” was tweeted by Milano around noon on October 15, 2017 and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term.
· The original purpose of #MeToo by creator Tarana Burke was to empower women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women. In October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these events themselves.
· After millions of people started using the phrase, and it spread to dozens of other languages, the purpose changed and expanded, as a result it has come to mean different things for different people. Burke stated in an interview that the conversation has expanded, and now in addition to empathy there is also a focus on determining the best ways to hold perpetrators responsible and stop the cycle.
· The use of the #MeToo hashtag on social media spread quickly in India, where sexual harassment is commonly referred to by the word ‘eve-teasing’, a term described as misleading, tame, and diluting the seriousness of the crime. In response to #MeToo, there have been attempts to teach Indian women about workplace rights and safe reporting, as well as educate men about the scope of the problem. Some have likened #MeToo to a 2012 social movement which followed a violent gang rape in New Delhi that later resulted in a women’s death, which caused the Indian government to institute harsher punishments for rape.
International Media Coverage
TIME magazine named the ‘Silence Breakers’, those who spoke out against sexual violence and harassment as a part of the viral #MeToo Movement, as its ‘Person of the Year’. This honour is generally given annually to the person or people who have most influenced the news during the past.
- The #MeToo movement received coverage in all mediums including print but it was strongly covered online. It was the only topic that dominated social media for a week after it was initiated.
· In the international print media, The Guardian covered it, The Straits from Singapore also covered it, The Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Herald News, The Asahi Shimbun, Die Welt, China Daily, The Times Of Israel, Journal Do Brasil, The Mosco Times, Yedioth Ahronoth are some of the newspapers that gave massive amount of salience to this issue with most of them having a front page report on the issue and also editorials talking about the issue.
· They also had follow-up stories and the coverage was done in depth. Most of them were supporting the movement, except for countries like Afghanistan, China, France and Italy which backlashed against the people who came out to speak about it and underplayed the issue in its media. The victims’ stories were largely covered. Most of the victims were celebrities or popular public figures. The true picture of the issue was portrayed in the international news media
· These international news media initially covered the issue and were dependent on wire agencies as their primary source of information but after the issue took pace, different countries had their own independent stories adding to the issue. They were sympathetic to the issue throughout.
· Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Press Trust of India, American Press Agency, ANI and different other wire agencies also covered it.
· The New York Public Radio also had covered the issue which reaches out to the rural pockets of the country and a large number of the population living in that area were aware because of its broadcast.
- Newspapers and Magazines that covered the #MeToo movement –
The Daily News
The Washington Post
New York Times
The Chicago Tribune
The Week Magazine
- Channels that covered the #MeToo Movement –
Social Media Coverage
· The movement has received extensive coverage over social media
· “You are not alone.” was the slogan used along with #MeToo.
· The hashtag was trending in the social media in at least 85 countries. Globally, social media played a big part in the movement. It brought together women from different parts of the world who had faced sexual assault of any kind. Social media played an active role in collective activism- getting people together on various different public platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others and getting them involved and mobilizing as well as creating awareness. It brought about a change, social media started a revolution in this case be it internationally, nationally or regionally.
· The New York Times’ Facebook page, HuffPost Women and HuffPost covered the issue too. Their pages posted multiple high-impact articles about the movement and reshared them a few times using different headlines. In addition, they engaged their readers further by posting images with quotes.
· Now, The Bombay Review’s founder was accused of sexual harassment at work by his employees on Facebook by putting up a post and screenshots as evidence which led to him resigning from the post. Several national dailies in India reported the issue.
· Indian media covered Me Too campaign vastly.
· In the broadcast media, IndiaTV, News X, NDTV, Aaj Tak news channel, The Quint, ABP News, Samay Live news channel had a debate, News World India, India Today, DD news covered the issue for days. They supported the issue and covered it without underplaying. Some channels had panel discussions, debates, feature shows with activists, victims and women from different fields talking about it.
· In the print media, the issue was given coverage with most of them having a front page coverage on the issue. Indian Express, Hindustan Times, DNA, The Hindu, Asian Age, Afternoon Dispatch, Mid Day, Times Of India, Mint, Free Press Journal, Daily Hunt covered the issue extensively with reports on what was happening globally and how women in India had also joined the movement.
· The radio stations didn’t give the movement importance at all except some stations that talked about it from the surface.
· Online news channels like The Wire covered it extensively and in depth and several YouTube channels also made documentaries on it.
· As compared to the international coverage, national coverage of the issue was less but it was given salience but no follow up and was done extensively.
· In the broadcast media, Telugu TV channel Mojo TV. 99TV Telugu channel also reported about it and had a show on it covered it, Malayalam news channel Manorama News also covered it with a panel discussion with reference to Bhavna’s case (an actress called Bhavna who was molested recently in her own car), Mathroobhumi TV also covered it with a feature show on the issue, asking young college girls about it, a Malayalam online news website called Samayam Viral also reported about it. Amar Ujala, a Hindi news channel covered the issue. Malaylam and Telugu channels covered the issue extensively but it was also incident-based
· In the print media, The Hans India from Hyderabad covered the issue, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar also covered it too but no follow up was done, Delhi Patrika newspaper also covered it with only 2 articles, Amar Ujala newspaper, Lokmat news channel also covered it. Malayala Manorama was the only newspaper that gave more salience to the issue as compared to the rest of them. But no in-depth analysis was done.
· POPxo, an online website for women also talked about it, also YOYO Times had Konkona Sen Sharma and Radhika Apte talking about the movement.
· Trends Desk of The Indian Express wrote many Indian men are speaking up as a part of #MeToo, including discussions about consent and how some men are also abused. Rina Chandran of Reuters said #MeToo is ignoring the 16 million women in India who are currently sex workers against their will, and are typically poor without education or family.
· The #MeToo movement received wider coverage in the international media, specifically the west. Almost every newspaper and magazine, including the regional media gave in depth coverage to the movement. Stories were shared by celebrities and activists which gave impetus to the movement.
· The movement spread to other parts of the world and received fairly good coverage in India, as well. However, the regional media did not cover the movement as much. Only limited channels conducted discussions in the wake of the movement. The movement was associated with rape cases and incidents that had taken place in India. Newspapers like The Times of India and Indian Express helped share stories of women who had been victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the light of the #MeToo movement.
- Triple Talaq is a form of divorce used by Muslims. In India Talaq is aptly translated as repudiation. It comes from a root of (tallaka) which means to release a wife or to free her from the bondage of marriage. According to Muhammadan law any husband who is of sound mind and has attained puberty may divorce his wife whenever desired without assigning any specific reason. Further he may do so by mere words means without any deed of divorce. The practice is 1400 years old and has banned in many majority Muslims country including Pakistan and Bangladesh. One should note that it (triple talaq) is not mentioned in the Quran or Sharia law also has been disapproved by Muslim legal scholars.
- The practice of triple talaq has faced opposition from Muslim women. Some of whom filed a public interest litigation in the SC terming the practice “regressive.” The petitioners asked for section 2 of the Muslim personal law (shariat) application act, 1937 to be scrapped, describing it as being against article 14 of the constitution of India (equality before law).
- On 13th may 2017, during the hearing before its final judgment, the Supreme Court described instant triple talaq as the “worst form of marriage dissolution”. It noted that the custom is banned in the Muslim-majority countries of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- On 8th December 2016, over 1 million Indian Muslims, a majority of whom were women, signed a petition to end instant triple talaq. The petition was started by the Muslims Rashtriya Manch, an Islamic organization affiliated to the right wing Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
- On 22nd august 2017, a 5 bench of Supreme Court judge has barred the controversial triple talaq practice and directed the center to bring proper legislation. It was decided that the practice of triple talaq was void, illegal and unconstitutional.
· A day after India’s Supreme Court invalidated instant triple talaq, the Khaleej Times of the UAE pointed out that at least 19 countries, including UAE, “have enacted laws to deal with ‘talaq-e-biddat’ (instant triple talaq).”
· Several Pakistani English dailies (Dawn, The Express Tribune, The Nation, The News, and Daily Times), Khaleej Times, Al Arabiya (online news portal/The UAE), and Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey) also highlighted this fact.
· However, Dawn and other newspapers added that “Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has long pushed for a uniform civil code, governing Indians of all religions.” They also state that the general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board claimed that this issue “was made into a media campaign to malign the image of Muslims”.
· All these newspapers also mentioned the names of a few victims of triple talaq, including Shayara Bano, who fought the case in the Supreme Court. Khaleej Times published a photograph of a victim and also published two letters to the editor written by women that welcomed the court’s decision.
· The coverage of the issue in the news media of Islamic majority countries in India’s neighbor-hood highlighted main aspects.
· The newspapers indirectly pointed out that India has belatedly decided to reform this controversial practice that has already been banned in much of the Islamic world.
· Also the coverage highlighted the inclusive, multi-faith nature of the Indian judiciary. Most of them characterized India as a secular country but also noted that a Hindu nationalist party was in power and that the issue of triple talaq is linked to the proposed uniform civil code.
· The coverage claimed there was a human face to the problem of triple talaq by including the perspective of victims. However, Al Jazeera did not cover victims’ responses to the ruling in its otherwise extensive coverage.
· Apart from the Khaleej Times which alone covered the issue on its first page, The Daily Times and Al Jazeera provided significant space to the subject.
· Unlike other newspapers that only referred to the responses of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Daily Star gave a balanced view and covered both sides of the issue. It noted that the board, along with the All India Shia Personal Law Board, called it “a victory of Islam and Muslim women in the country.” But The Daily Star was also the only one to publish a photograph of women protesting against interference in Muslim personal law.
· Al Jazeera provided the most extensive coverage that also differed from the rest of the media discussed this as it gave a lot of space to those critical of the development.
· Also news channels like BBC and CNN support the Indian Supreme Court’s decision.
· Almost all media outlets wrongly reported at the start that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of triple talaq.
(It may have happened because Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar, one of the two judges (in the minority) who upheld the practice’s validity, was the first to read his judgment.
Chief Justice Khehar and justice S Abdul Nazeer held triple talaq to be part of fundamental right to religion of Muslims and said it was not unconstitutional.)
· Then, TV channels, in a rush to be first, went ahead with the CJI’s version and started flashing that “SC upholds triple talaq practice”.
· Media, in its urge to break the story, broke and twisted the covenant of adhering to facts while reporting.
· Indian mainstream media failed to cover the issue as deeply compared to international media’s coverage. On the other hand zee news published the view of AIMPLB on Triple Talaq Bill stating it was against the fundamental rights of Indian Muslims. They also mention that they aren’t opposing the bill but raising certain objections to some of its provisions.
· Regional media created hype about talaq. Instead of focusing on real issues, they purposely misled the public.
· Like the national media regional media’s coverage was on how Muslim women are dominated by men.
· Example: CNBC Awaaz: Tihre Talaq ko Talaq
NDTV India: Will government answer Muslim women’s war cry?
· This kind of sensationalizing news reporting misrepresenting Muslim women can never give justice to victims.
· Also regional media welcomed the issue calling it a historical judgment or victory of Muslim women.
· Regional media and national media should have focused more on the issue itself rather than the false interpretation of Muslim women in society.
· Western countries should have given more salience to the issue.
· National media need to focus more on Muslim women issues.
· Mainstream media also need to cover the progress of Muslim women and should not only focus on how they are exploited by men in society.
(Compiled by Mr. Shridhar Naik)
Liberal reforms in Saudi Arabia
· Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist Islamist dictatorship, an ultra-wealthy oil economy, and arguably the most powerful country in the Middle East. It was formed in 1932, and hence is a relatively young country.
· Saudi society is built on a sort of pact between the royal family which is called the House of Saud and the vast religious establishment run by conservative Islamic clerics called the Wahabi Clerics. The clerics give the Saud family religious legitimacy by giving them their blessing as rulers of the kingdom and in exchange the family allows the clerics to strictly enforce their uncompromising puritanical version of Islam within the kingdom.
· Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, (MBS) has vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam” and asked for global support to transform the hard-line kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.
· Seen as the force behind the King’s decision to rescind ban on women driving, the Crown Prince grabbed international headlines when he promised that his country will return to “moderate Islam” that is “open to all religions”.
· In his battle against fundamentalist forces, MBS stripped Saudi Arabia’s infamously brutal Haia religious police of its powers. He also lifted the de facto ban on women driving and liberalized other long-observed customs, enraging fundamentalist factions in the country.
· Prince Mohammed has presented himself as the face of Saudi youth, devoutly Muslim but in a way different from the older generation of clerics, being more open to the outside world and more accepting of its cultural influences.
· The Saudi leadership’s responsiveness to years of protests and activism by women’s rights activists has been limited. Saudi women have long suffered under the “male guardianship” laws, under which a woman must have a male guardian — father, husband, uncle or son — without whose approval she cannot see a doctor, file a police complaint, leave a prison, travel outside the country, apply for a passport, marry or use various public services.
· Rights groups welcomed a decision to end a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, but have called for more comprehensive changes to the kingdom’s “guardianship system”, which Human Rights Watch describes as the main obstacle to realising women’s rights.
· Leading female scholars from Saudi Arabia have described the moves to ease restrictions on women as a government spin aimed at an international audience to bolster support for efforts to liberalise the country’s failing economy.
· The rapid reforms do not stretch as far as addressing Saudi Arabia’s lack of freedoms of expression, assembly, or its liberal use of capital punishment. They also do not fundamentally change the guardianship system which effectively makes Saudi women second-class citizens.
· Across all media, there was well-researched coverage of the history and the power structure in Saudi Arabia as it was crucial to understand what the suggested changes meant for the fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia.
· The pattern that could be noticed around the coverage was that initially there was an encouraging tone to the announcement and later the skepticism could be seen as other aspects of the proposed changes were explored.
· Overall the coverage of the reforms by the western media was positive, favouring the changes and steps taken by the Prince. The plans were deemed necessary, though perhaps harsh, and were considered as efforts to change Saudi Arabia for the better.
· MBS’s rise has electrified Saudi society. Unlike older generations of the royal family, he has embraced media attention and his face beams down from billboards and television screens everywhere.
· His remarks were met with applause and a front-page article in Britain’s Guardian Newspaper.
· The announcement was covered by all the major international newspapers and websites. The liberal nature of the reform was of immense interest to the western media. The purge or the arrest/detention of the princes In Saudi Arabia was also covered extensively. The New York Times, BBC News, Washington Post, Independent, the Telegraph, etc.
· The headline of a Patrick Wintour article in The Guardian described the crown prince as “a risk-taker with a zeal for reform”. The author goes on to describe the purge as part of a larger “cultural and social revolution”. This glossed over the brutality of similar actions in the past. (Amnesty International reported that from July to October the Saudi state put 60 people to death and many of the people Saudi Arabia sentenced to death and executes are denied fair legal process and often convicted entirely on the basis of “confessions” extracted under torture.)
· Indian media (The Hindu, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Economic Times etc.) also covered the announcement in depth and provided an analysis on the question if Saudi Arabia is ready for this leadership and the reforms.
Middle East Media
· Middle-eastern media covered the reforms in a way that provided a critical point of view, questioning the rationale behind the reforms as well as the reliability of a “reckless” Prince.
· Al Jazeera came out with a series of critical pieces, inviting opinions from experts and scholars, that showcased the other side of these reforms, Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper (and website) talked about the danger of Israel’s ties with Saudi Arabia post the announcement for Saudi Arabia has seen and will experience drastic changes in a span of few months.
· Middle East Monitor discussed the challenges of the political change in Saudi Arabia, Al-Monitor and Middle East Eye also covered these reforms in analytical pieces that discussed the possible repercussions of such rapid change.
· Middle East Eye released an opinion piece that was critical of the whitewashing of the Yemen war and Saudi’s involvement by the Western Media. The focus towards the atrocities in Yemen and Saudi’s involvement in Syria is diverted by discussions of reforms and MBS’s fast-paced decisions to bring change and the Western media is largely responsible for it, considering their strategic ties with Riyadh.
· Arab media has voiced its concern over the purge wherein at least two media moguls were detained, further saying that the purge essentially was an exercise to control the media and curb the freedom of speech. According to them, the crackdown and potential takeover of media assets comes at a time of unprecedented, more freewheeling public debate on social media about Prince Mohammed’s reforms and policy changes as well as the kingdom’s foreign policy and national security challenges.
· On the other hand, websites like Saudi Gazette have been favourable in their coverage of the Prince and the reforms. They have highlighted the public satisfaction with the changes and supported the Prince.
· Conservative newspapers and Islamist editorial writers — generally keen on all matters Saudi and quick to comment on any slight against Islam — are mostly quiet this time, or timid in their defence of Wahhabism.
· According to an op-ed piece in the New York Times, “…all manner of Islamists are feeling the anxiety of being orphaned. The moderate camp, blindsided, may try to play catch-up with the prince. But the fundamentalist camp, bereft of its familiar markers, may turn against the Saudi kingdom to claim a new kind of legitimacy — and wage a sort of holy war against the holy land.”
· A widely popular opinion is that of the reforms being a part of MBS’s narrative to invite economic interest from the rest of the world. In essence, it is viewed as a PR stunt that has little to do with progressive liberalisation, it is rather a conscious publicity move.
· While the steps towards ensuring women’s rights are seen as positive, the simultaneous restriction to the freedom of speech wherein those who more or less objected to MBS’s vision found themselves in jail or out of a job. Dozens of leading clerics, journalists, writers, academics, and human rights activists arrested in the weeks before and after the announcement.
· Opinion pieces also highlighted the fact that Vision 2030 could not have come at a better time for the kingdom, which has been bogged down in a war in Yemen with no end in sight. The plans come as a distraction satisfying the very urgent for good news in and for the country.
· The coverage has been comprehensive in the sense that all the aspects of the reforms have been covered and forgotten pressing issues have been discussed by the global media. The attention that Saudi Arabia and the Prince have received has been enormous and in general, good for a country that is in desperate need of a change in all areas.
· The entire issue has its fair share of supporters and critics, while most of the media agrees that the world will have to wait and see if the policies bring about a progressive change or result in more instability in the country.
Crisis in the Indian Judiciary
- On 12 Jan, 2018, the country witnessed an unprecedented event. Four senior Supreme Court judges -Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph- publicly questioned Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for what they called selectively assigning matters of national importance to judges; a situation that threatens to undermine the top court’s credibility. “Democracy is in danger” they said, and these words were quoted over multiple news channels and newspapers worldwide.
- The issue was covered in almost all the leading international newspapers, although unlike the Indian media, it wasn’t featured every day. It was covered objectively, with no clear bias, with the exception of the coverage by Al Jazeera. There was, however, no in depth analysis that would explain to the people the real problem. The US media did not cover it as much as they cover issues of countries that diplomatically matter more to them.
- Chinese media like Xinhua, briefly carried the news item as it is, without any attempt going into details.
- Pakistan media, Pakistan Today to be specific, carried a headline that said “Differences among judges are nothing new.” Under this headline, it carried a detailed report criticising the judiciary, showing India in a more negative light than any other media. Another headline for an Urdu daily regarding the crisis was “For the first time, judges face people.”
- British media like The Guardian, Daily Mirror, BBC and The Daily Star covered the news very objectively, without any bias or analysis. The articles usually began by mentioning how this was an unprecedented event.
- The issue did not receive too much amount of coverage in the US media, the Voice of America, Fox news, The Washington Post.
- Al Jazeera, the leading voice of the Middle East, did not cover the issue extensively, but featured it a couple of times. They alternately referred to the public address of the issue by the judges as ‘lashing out’ and ‘complaining.’ Gulf News also reported on the issue.
- The regional media in India covered the issue, but did not offer any in depth analysis. It did not probe into the issue to find the roots of it or the bigger picture, it only reported it as a single event. The relation of the public conference held by the judges to the death of Judge Loya is something that was mildly touched upon by some Hindi and Telugu media, the rest of the regional channels ignored the connection.
- Although the issue was initially covered in the front page and as breaking news on the channels, for most regional media, it lost its priority very quickly. Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam news media followed up on the issue, but not the rest of the regional channels. Telugu news channels in particular kept giving their views timely updates, while Malayalam media broke down the issue into pointers, for the easy understanding of their viewers.
- Hindi newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and Navbharat Times featured this issue extensively. The initial coverage was front page news.
- Punjabi newspapers like Rozana Spokesman covered the news on the front page.
- Tamil Newspaper Eenadu did not just deliver the news, but also kept the readers updated with the new happenings.
- Kannada paper Kannada Prabhan focused more on PM Modi’s comments about the crisis about how political parties should stay away from the problem of the judiciary.
- Malayalam newspapers Matrabhumi and Malayalam Manorama covered the issue with great details, and included pointers. Matrabhumi News ran the headline ‘Will closed doors find a solution?’
- Telugu news channels kept their viewers up to date by airing updates every day. The judiciary crisis was called by TV9 ‘A Game changing moment.’
- Marathi Channels like Jai Maharashtra and newspapers like Sakal carried the news but did not report on it extensively.
- From the time of this press conference, around noon, TV news channels ran minute-by-minute updates speculating on what could have led the four judges to approach the press to complain about their own colleague. Over the weeks following the public press conference of the judges, TV channels did far more than just keep the viewers updated. They offered in depth analysis on the issue, breaking in down to its roots, while also repeating footage and coming up with theories when there was no new update.
- Mirror Now saw the issue from a wider perspective and put everything on the table, and while they analysed it themselves and had experts give their opinions, they also took phone calls and read out tweets of the ordinary people, giving viewers an insight to different angles of the issue.
- Zee News spent a good amount of time analysing the issue, rather than merely reporting it.
- CNN News 18 called this the ‘Biggest story ever since Independence.’
- India Today said that ‘The judiciary had been compromised.’
- The leading newspapers of India, quite obviously, cashed on this issue. They ran detailed articles on the front page every day for more than a week. While the articles had the updates and new happenings, they had also analysed the issue. They gave the Judicial Crisis top priority in the coverage, it sidelined other important things happening in the nation. This issue was also sensationalised by most, and criticised by many as well, in a subtle manner. Some of the newspapers religiously follow up the issue even today, 2 months later.
- Indian Express ran daily coverage on the issue, which was considered of national importance. But it also probed deeper into the matter, analysing if the matter was about individuals or institutions, and if the solution lies in debate or discord. It examined the letter, the press conference, the build up, the CJI’s powers, and even went one step further and gave a possible solution, a way forward.
- Times of India too, like all other national newspapers, covered the issue on its front page every day. It added a sense of sensationalism to the news, one such headline being ‘After stormy morning meeting, Supreme Court judges get back to work’, adding a sense of drama to otherwise plain news. It featured articles with differing opinions of former judges and lawyers, giving a good balance.
- The Hindu featured daily updates throughout the week too, but had an interesting take in one of its editorials, which was determined that is was a great misfortune that an internal rift has moved towards a full-blown crisis
- Daily Excelsior, the leading daily of Jammu and Kashmir, gave the issue a fair amount of coverage. It covered the issue objectively, but referred to the judiciary as ‘smeared.’ It also ran an editorial that criticised but also analysed the entire situation, breaking it down to its roots.
- The Wire had an article with the headline “A sad moment in judicial history’ which addressed the fact that if the Supreme Court is to be saved, a bench comprising all its judges must take stock of the situation and consider the legal position dispassionately and wisely. It went on to feature 10 important questions that must be answered.
- Quint was also very firm on its opinion that this matter could not be pushed aside or called trivial, it needs to be taken seriously. It carried a headline that said “Justice Denied by Pendency, Corruption and Inequity.”
- Scroll explained why the nation was harping about the judges breaking the silence, while The Print carried fresh reportage before the other new media.
The Rohingya Crisis
· Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic minority group, are fleeing persecution in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, fueling a historic migration crisis.
· Under pressure from Buddhist nationalists protesting the Rohingya’s right to vote in a 2015 constitutional referendum, then-President Thein Sein cancelled the temporary identity cards in February 2015, effectively revoking their newly gained right to vote.
· Clashes in Rakhine broke out in August 2017, after a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for attacks on police and army posts. The government declared ARSA a terrorist organization and the military mounted a brutal campaign that destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages and forced more than 650,000 Rohingya to leave Myanmar. At least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of attacks, between August 25 and September 24, according to the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Myanmar’s security forces also allegedly opened fire on fleeing civilians and planted land mines near border crossings used by Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
· Rights groups and UN leaders have condemned the escalating violence and atrocities, which have been described by a number of observers as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
International Media Coverage
· International reaction through media has focused on pressuring Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the atrocities and address human-rights issues. Suu Kyi’s power is restricted under the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar, which places key ministries like home, border affairs and defense under military control and reserves 25 percent of seats in the Myanmar parliament for serving military officers.
· Most international news agencies though talk only about the plight of Rohingyas. A lot of salience is given to their problems, plight and issues faced by them. The reason why this is happening isn’t specified in the global media.
· A lot of coverage is given to what aid is being sent to them by western countries and what international organizations are doing to provide the Rohingyas with relief.
· Myanmar is shown in a bad light due to the Rohingya refugee crisis. However not much is said regarding why the unrest began in the first place and the history of Rohingyas.
· A lot of international news agencies have been criticizing Aung Sang Suu Kyi for not being able to stop the military revolt against the Rohingyas.
· Most International news agencies also carry human interest stories on the life of the Rohingyas, struggles they face, their life stories etc which gain international sympathy.
· There are constant updates regarding the death toll and atrocities committed by the military on the Rohingyas. The camps, graves and housing are given a lot of salience.
· However international media doesn’t talk a lot about what can be done to bring relief to the Rohingyas in the long run.
· South East Asian countries have been severely criticized for not allowing the Rohingya refugees to take shelter within their country.
· Amnesty International published a detailed report titled “My World is Finished” which details the crimes against humanity endured by the Rohingya people in Myanmar, including a variety of first-hand accounts. Amnesty International also published a report called “Caged Without a Roof”, which looks at the treatments of Rohingya people in Myanmar over the past several years, concluding that the treatment amounts to apartheid. Save the Children published their own report called “Horrors I Will Never Forget” focusing on the children fallen victim to the Rohingya crisis and the horrors they have witnessed.
· Some international newspapers have also covered the Rohingya crisis in depth. Jeffrey Gettleman from the New York Times did an interview with a Rohingya refugee whose baby was thrown in a fire by Myanmar government soldiers. The Independent’s Will Worley covered the stories of several Rohingya children and their terrible experiences. Kym Blechynden writes for ABC News about her experience working as a Red Cross volunteer in one of the refugee camps in Bangladesh. “Between us, we have more than 35 years’ experience working in emergency response – these are still the worst conditions any of us have seen,” Blechynden wrote.
· Many organizations claim that the Myanmar’s government has made it extremely hard for journalists to access Rakhine and report on the Rohingya crisis. In fact, authorities have blocked all media access to Rakhine and the only way journalists can visit the area is through guided tours. A few in-depth reports have been published on the crisis as refugees have settled in camps in bordering Bangladesh and are able to tell their stories.
· Between August 30 and September 5 2017, The Myanmar Times has four articles on its website on the Rakhine state. However, none of these address the issue of displaced Rohingya seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
· Instead, three of the articles make reference to “terrorist attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA),” while the other states the Kofi Annan Commission’s finding that “local communities” in Rakhine state resented the Myanmar government as they were being excluded from the planning of large-scale development projects.
· One article reports of a visit from Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Matsudi and her separate meetings with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
· What is missing in the media coverage is a fair, accurate and balanced reporting by the local media. One case that can be looked at is an online news portal “The Irrawaddy” that states that it has “a mission to cover the news in Burma/Myanmar and Southeast Asia accurately and impartially.” However, some of The Irrawaddy’s coverage of the Rohingya crisis is questionable.
For instance, most of its reporting has been largely focused on ARSA, the Rohingya militant group who attacked police posts in August. In an article published in October, they state: “ARSA created the crisis now facing Myanmar, Rohingya refugees, and the international community.” Several other articles on the issue heavily focus on ARSA and the violence instigated by the group as being the sole reason for the current Rohingya crisis. The atrocities committed by the Myanmar army must have been totally overshadowed by this. Bustle reports that several former employees of The Irrawaddy have claimed that the publication “has become a parrot for the Burmese government and anti-Rohingya.”
· The coverage of the Rohingya crisis in the Indian media is strictly restricted to whether the Indian government should allow the refugees into the country. With the current population of around 40,000 Rohingyas in the country the government has been debating whether to let the Rohingyas into the country or not.
· The Indian media doesn’t give a lot of salience to the Rohingya crisis despite the fact that it is happening in our neighboring country and is directly affecting the nation.
· Regional newspapers of the north east have given more salience to this issue than the national dailies have. Papers such as Shillong Times and Dhaka Tribune not only highlight the Rohingya crisis but also talk about the coverage of this issue in the Myanmar papers. It talks about the connection of Rohingya with Assam.
· Other than the North Eastern papers not a lot of salience is given to the Rohingya crisis in the regional media.
Dalit Agiiation in Maharashtra
· The battle of Koregaon, also known as Koregaon-Bhima battle took place on January 1, 1818. It was fought between the British East India Company and the Peshwas at Koregaon Bhima. It was one of the last battles of the Third Anglo-Maratha War, which ended the Peshwa domination.
· Historically, Dalits were considered untouchables and Peshwas as high caste Brahmins. Inspite this, Dalits approached Peshwa Bajirao II asking him to let them join his fight against the British. After their offer was rejected by the Peshwas, they approached the British and were soon welcomed into their army. In the battle of Koregaon, the British defeated Peshwas. And as the British army had Dalit soldiers, it was a win for them too and also against the caste discrimination. 60-foot-commemorative obelisk was erected at the battle site in Koregaon-Bhima to honour the fallen soldiers of the Bombay Native Infantry. The pillars had the names of soldiers inscribed on it and out of the 49 names, 22 of them belonged to the Dalit community. Every year on January 1, the Dalit community holds a commemoration at the pillar site, a ritual started by Bhimrao Ambedkar.
· In the first week of January 2018, Dalit protests in Maharashtra were about violence in Pune district during the 200th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Koregaon on 1st January 2018 – Shourya Divas. The immediate provocation was the attack on the people who participated in the function. The function was seen as an assertion of Dalit identity by some groups and the attack on it as a challenge to the same. The incident evoked a strong reaction from the community. Due to the violence a Maratha youth, Rahul Phatangale was killed by the Dalit community people by seeing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj tattoo on his t-shirt.
The protest had an impact on state politics. The government went into damage-control mode and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. Hundreds of people stalled train operations at Mulund, Chembur, Bhandup and other nearby places.
Media Coverage – Regional, National, International
None of the mainstream media organisations, including regional channels covered this attack of January 1. It was recorded on new media and went viral. It was only on the evening of Tuesday, January 2, when Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar called for a state-wide bandh that TV news media started taking note of Dalit protests that had erupted in parts of Maharashtra and the cause of bandh.
Channels change the narrative: ‘caste politics’ and ‘traffic problems’. The bandh was mostly portrayed as a “clash” of two castes. Republic and Aaj Tak put the blame on Congress president Rahul Gandhi, and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani for the January 1 attack. Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote – Hindutva leaders with links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were not mentioned.
The bandh was covered by national media as a “traffic problem” causing major inconvenience. But they did not cover the police lathi charge that allegedly killed 14-year old Dalit boy in Nanded and injured 3 others at Chembur, Mumbai.
· Channels like Aaj Tak and NDTV ran a programme “Protest over Pune violence, Dabbawala service suspended in Mumbai” or reported something like “during Maharashtra Bandh, Dalit protesters block trains, buses in Mumbai”. The mention of FIR against Mevani and Khalid was given salience in both digital and print coverage but an FIR being lodged against Ekbote and Bhide was downplayed.
The coverage and images flashing on TV screens, and exaggerated headlines in the newspaper only helped in creating negative sentiments against the Dalit community for causing a “disruption”.
The anger of Dalit protesters on the streets of Mumbai was palpable. It was not just directed at the Maharashtra government, but at Big Media, too, for its obscurantism. NDTV journalist Sumit Singh was howled down by the protesters as they asked him to shut down his camera and to stop misreporting.
· Indian Express reports that two officers and eight constables were injured in clashes in Aurangabad, another nine injured in Mumbai while five cops were hit by missiles in Latur. A BJP MLA’s office was vandalised in Chandrapur, more than 55 buses were damaged, arterial Mumbai trains were stopped in tracks, traffic halted, businesses, shops and commercial establishments forcibly shut. Schools remained closed and exams were affected.
· Times of India reports that the mob tried to set alight a police station in Powai. The newspaper says 20 cops were injured in the attack and some police bikes were set on fire. Around 90 BEST buses were also damaged and four drivers sustained injuries from glass shards.
· The focus is always more on the damage and the violence that has been caused rather than the underlying issue. Very few of the media houses touched upon the cause of the bandh. Mainly the coverage was more sustained and not incident based in regional media.
The roles of Bhide and Ekbote in the protest was fairly discussed in regional channels mostly Marathi. An attempt was made to dissect these issues and bring into the light the cases of Dalit atrocity in Maharashtra and not just confine their coverage to the Maharashtra protests, calling it “Clash of Castes”. Regional media deem it necessary to talk to the protesters. Dalit women were out in large numbers to agitate but one did not see reporters rushing to them, except for few regional channels covering it asking them about their grievances.
· Comparatively little salience was given to the protest in the international media.
· Al Jazeera reported an article written by Sudipto Mondal was titled Indian media wants dalit news but not dalit reporters. The article underlined how the upper caste/class Indian (English) newsroom obliterates the Dalit voice and viewpoint by denying them a seat at the high table of telling stories.
· Huffington Post reported it by releasing an article on how the Indian media covered it. It’s possible that there is a conscious media bias involved while reporting incidents of “Dalit violence” and in the playing down of the street protests — seen by Dalits as a new wave of resistance against caste oppression — as “traffic nightmare” and “inconvenience”. It’s not that there wasn’t actual violence in the protests.
· People were also updated through tweets by Mumbai Police, Central Railways and Western Railways on road and rail clearance respectively. ANI (Asian News International) gave most of its updates through Twitter. Hashtags such as #MahaCasteWar, #MaharashtraCasteClash, #DalitViolence, #BhimaKoregaonViolence among others trended.
· The protest did offer a rare opportunity for Dalit activists to mobilise and make their voices heard. Although, the coverage and conversation around was more focused on the impact of the demonstrations – on traffic, vandalizations.
· Coverage of the protest was entirely dissociated from the political content and instead simply complained about the disruption to city life that came with a bandh.
· An error was marked yet again, of ignoring the specific context of the protests – centuries-old oppression of Dalits that makes it hard for voices to be heard – and instead expresses equal concern for the “common man” who was unable to go to work that day. Media coverage was more incident-based and less sustain. Dalits were portrayed in a negative light downplaying the causes and developments.