NDTV argues back: Dont shoot the messenger

IN Opinion | 10/06/2002
Media and Conflict

Media and Conflict


Taken from www.ndtv.com

NDTV argues back: Dont shoot the messenger

By Rajdeep Sardesai

In the aftermath of the failed Agra summit (or `inconclusive` as the prime minister has chosen to describe it), the search for scapegoats has begun. And for many, the fall-guy has been found: the media, or more specifically, 24 hour news channels, are being held responsible for the failure of the summit. South Block Mandarins are accusing us of conducting a `parallel diplomatic summit` aimed at sabotaging the Indo-Pak dialogue, others accuse us of trivialising the event and reducing it to a ball-by-ball cricket match. Worse still, there are those who have chosen to see the news channels as `anti-national`.

Lets first deal with the anti-national argument because it is the most pernicious, and is an echo from the criticism of the media coverage of Kargil and Kandahar. In this new India of hyper-nationalism, it appears that more and more people believe that nationalism must be worn like a badge on the waistcoat. In the process, an `us` versus `them` syndrome is being perpetuated. So, those who choose to invite Pakistani analysts and journalists to their studio are seen to have somehow betrayed the `national cause`. Its astonishing that we should see ourselves as such a weak and insecure nation that hearing a Pakistani criticise our Kashmir policy is immediately likened to anti-national forces at work.

The fact is that in this rapidly globalising environment, media boundaries cannot be defined by the geographical constraints of the nation-state alone. Indeed, for much too long, neither Indians nor Pakistanis have had an opportunity to hear the other side, or to engage in an open debate. In that sense, Agra provided a unique platform for Indians and Pakistanis to reach out to each other. Sure, some of the shrill voices from across the border may have angered Indians, but is that reason enough for us not to hear those views? Indian democracy is surely much too mature and resilient to worry about a Naseem Zehra or an Asma Jehangir choosing to criticise New Delhi`s stand on Kashmir.

Lets now come to the trivia argument. There`s little doubt that over the years the media has been infiltrated by peripheral issues that seek to titillate more than inform. This gradual `dumbing down` is a problem that is not confined to the electronic media, but the print media as well. The growing importance of colour supplements, the wide coverage given to the social circuit and fashion extravaganzas are part of the problem. But while introspection is called for, lets also stop being hypocrites. The fact is that for every person who is obsessed with the `grave` issues of strategic importance, there are also those who would like to know the menu at the Vajpayee-Musharraf lunch or just where Begum Musharraf went shopping.

The trivialisation argument also need

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