‘Army Isn’t Asking for War, Indian Media Is’: Journalism Students

‘Army Isn’t Asking for War, Indian Media Is’: Journalism Students

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“The army is not saying we will to go to war, the prime minister is not saying we should go to war, the Indian [news] anchors want a war. I don’t know for what reason, for what joy.”
Bhadra, Student, Asian College of Journalism

As India and Pakistan traded blows following India’s air strikes in Balakot, TV channels and social media was abuzz with ‘breaking news’. Several Indian media organisations drew flak for telecasting fake news without any verification and many news anchors were accused of jingoistic reportage.

The Quint, in its chaupal series, caught up with students of Asian College of Journalism in Chennai to know their thoughts on the media coverage of the India-Pakistan crisis.

Also Read : India-Pakistan Tension: What Next?

‘Who Gets It First Is More Important Than Who Gets It Right’

Some of the students said the problem today is that news channels are caught in the rat race of prioritising breaking news over presenting verified news.

“Anchors are becoming defence ministers, Bollywood actors are becoming spokespersons because they did a movie on such a subject...calling them for shows, taking their opinions.”
Bhadra, Student, Asian College of Journalism

The students said that personal bias of media organisations against political leaders and parties often interfered with their editorial content, thus distorting facts.

Also Read : Pakistan May Want Peace Today But First Needs to Kill Militancy

Living in a Time When Media Channels Propagate Agenda And Fake News

Since the day the air strikes took place, WhatsApp and social media platforms have been buzzing with unverified information. Ananya Datta, a student, said that the huge concern today is how media channels are carrying such fake news with the tagline, ‘Source: Unverified’.

“An old video from last year of a MIG-21 being shot down by Indian Air Force was uploaded on Twitter. It was a fake video...it took us a day or two to find out that it was a fake video. We have seen top TV channels and online media houses upload it, in which they said, ‘We can see Indian Air Force attacking Jaish-e-Mohammed’. Actually, it is a video from a video game. It is not even a real video. As a working journalist, I couldn't find that thing. As common people, it's nearly impossible to figure out that a video is real or not,” said Naman, a student of Asian College of Journalism.

Another issue raised was how channels report half-baked information, crediting it to ‘sources’.

“During the whole thing, we were getting messages like, ‘Fuel your tank, you should have food essentials for 30 days, hospitals are painted with cross signs so there is a possibility of air strikes’ ... they tried to scare people... this virality that they tried to achieve is really endangering journalism right now.”
Sachin, Student, Asian College of Journalism

Also Read : Trevor Noah Slammed For Racist and Insensitive Indo-Pak Comments

Journalism with No Care for Privacy

When the video of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman speaking to Pakistan officials surfaced, media channels flocked to his parents’ house. Abhinandan didn’t reveal any details, but media did that job.

“We want the ears of the parents, the eyes or side profile of the parents, else we will get fired from the job. It all comes from the higher order. We blame the reporter for being jingoistic, but it’s the editors who should really be blamed.”
Tejaswin, Student, Asian College of Journalism

“When hordes of VVIPs, MPs, MLAs and celebrities go (to his house), journalists also follow because they need that PR coverage. But this questions the integrity of the media, the journalist. Whenever you ask journalists, ‘why are you doing this, what is the reason?’, they say it is all a game of competition – If we don't get this we will be fired from our job,” he added

Srishti had another interesting point-of-view about what she had noticed from tweets online. “You have people coming to his house and saying, ‘Oh! he is a Tamilian. So you can rescue one Tamilian from Pakistan, then why can't you bring back the others from Sri Lanka?’. Then it becomes a cultural issue, an ethnic issue,” she said.

Also Read : Debate | Are Politicians Using Indo-Pak Crisis For Electoral Gain?

The students spoke of how we are living in dangerous times as even reputed media channels are part of the vicious fake news cycle. They also stressed that as citizens of this country, it is each person’s responsibility to verify a forwarded piece of information before spreading the message.

(Participate in the second edition of The Quint's My Report Debate and win Rs 10,000. Write an essay on how to fix India and Pakistan's relationship. Submit now)

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