There are contradicting perceptions among the media and authorities on fighting terrorism, though both are equally committed to the cause of fighting it. The best approach will be in harnessing the positive energy of the media in tackling such conflicts, P.K. Hormis Tharakan, former Chief of Research and Analysis Wing, said here on Friday.
At a seminar on ‘Conflict Reporting and Peace Journalism' organised by the Amrita School of Communication, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Ettimadai, he said that authorities felt the media was not sensitive to the national security requirements, which demanded certain vital information be withheld from the public while investigations were in progress.
“Media has an important role in dealing with terrorism. It needs to take note that very often terrorist incidents can lead to backlashes, especially if the impression gains ground that a terrorist act has been carried out with the intention of targeting a popular ethnic or religious group. Media should be careful and responsible in their coverage of such incidents, lest they fan the fires of hatred and vengeance inadvertently, leading to serious consequences,” Mr. Tharakan said.
Pointing out that even terrorist groups wanted publicity, he said they needed the media to create fear in the minds of people.
Mr. Tharakan urged journalists not to lose sight of the larger picture while highlighting only the petty details in a conflict.
In times of conflict, insurgency or terrorism, it was important to have a media centre where information could be made available to media persons.
He also suggested the setting up of an Institute of Media Studies and Analysis on the lines of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis where media personnel could interact with professionals dealing with security issues.
On ‘Managing Media in Conflict Areas', Lieutenant General (Retd.) K. Nagaraj, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief and Chief of the South-Western Command, Indian Army, said there was a line where freedom of the press stopped and national security took over.
“There are certain information that cannot be revealed during times of war. The aim, timings, groupings for battle, equipment profile, formations, names of commanders, besides a few others are those that should not be included in press reports,” he said.
Before going into a conflict area, journalists had to assess whether there was accessibility to the conflict area, whether they were well equipped, knowledgeable about terminologies, hierarchy in terms of ranks in the Armed Forces, etc.
Support in the form of responsible conflict reporting was necessary to win wars, he added.
Keywords: Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham