Media’s role is very crucial in Indo-Pak already tense relations as most media outlets in both of the countries report violent incidents and/or exaggerate, spread sensation such incidents for viewership plays an important part in highlighting, escalating or de-escalating the issues. Even slight routine clashes at Line of Control between India and Pakistan is given unnecessary hype.
The incident of surgical strikes was taken on provocatively by media houses of both countries and serves as the best example of how well can media play in such incidents. Confrontational statements from officials or both sides were presented as headlines and use of value-based words had become a norm.
Since the inception of India and Pakistan; both these states of South Asia have shared animosity and mistrust towards each other. Long lingering issues have always remained a bone of contention between the two neighbours. Instead of enjoying the normal relationship and reaping benefits of proximity, both states have strived in a dilemma. The dilemma of reaching a solution to their problems, and for this purpose both countries have waged wars on one hand and made peace efforts on the other. However, conflicts remained unresolved and the situation of persisted stalemate.
Intriguingly the mainstream media is also shaping social media and vice versa. Any news regarding any minute tension between the two states is sensationalized which is reflected on social media or in some cases issues are picked and highlighted on social media to increase public hatred among the two neighbours which later also becomes part of mainstream media. Public voice is becoming crucial more than ever before. Citizen journalism has become a routine phenomenon. In light of these changing dynamics and increased individual input into the affairs of states, peace journalism is the answer. Media has the potential to escalate or de-escalate a conflict/s, also worsen or regularize relation among states. How and what media portrays can induce a great change.
Media is not supposed to portray anything positively or negatively, it is supposed to depict news in a neutral manner but media have certain choices to make. The notion of journalism is not just about reporting facts. It is about ‘what’ to report and ‘how to report’ it; which is exactly the choice media has. This gives added selection and responsibility, especially while reporting a conflict.
There is a dire need for peace journalism between the two states as it has become imperative to look for alternative ways in order normalize the relationship between two states. It is not just only in Pakistan’s and India’s long-term interests but also regional and international peace and security. Peace journalism can reduce the animosity found in common people from both sides against each other’s state. Also, it can normalize the relationship or at least induce the sense of normalization. This will have long-term benefits. The two states can use this space for trade initiatives and enhanced confidence-building measures which may lead to ultimate conflict resolution between the two.
‘Aman ki Asha’, a peace journalism initiative from the past between India and Pakistan can be considered as a sound example. It might not have reaped the desired results was much relied upon and infamous among the public. There is the need for such efforts between the two states, they might fail but they have the potential to better the situation. There will be challenges and implications but these obstacles can be overcome. Peace journalism will not only improve perception among the common public of both states but also work as a confidence-building measure between the two countries.
Peace Journalism should be given a chance; concerned people from both sides with collaboration can form a mechanism that works on this idea. The persisting strategies by media houses of both sides only make business; this can make peace. Peace journalism initiatives and framework can convert counter-productive debates and hostile statements into productive analysis and discussion towards peace.
Lack of sufficient research on peace journalism with respect to Indo-Pakistan relationship despite its significance is one of the reasons that the idea is not much worked upon. The absence of peace journalism has provided spoilers the space to exploit sensitive situations time and again. The relationship that is considered as a nuclear flashpoint in South Asia and often exploited by external powers for their power game can be shifted in a way that helps both states to benefit from each other. For those reasonable efforts to normalize this relationship and de-escalate the tensions through incorporating peace journalism are not only significant for the two countries but also vital for regional and global peace.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.