Truth Vs Counter Truth: Mapping the media divide on Kashmir

Post the scrapping of Article 370 in J&K, a section of media aggressively pursued the narrative of normalcy while the other showcased the daily hardships faced by locals

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Aug 16, 2019 8:06 AM Updated: Aug 16, 2019 8:20 AM

2.5k Views

Kashmir

Ever since the communication blockade in Jammu & Kashmir, the old debate of truth versus counter truth has once again come up vehemently.

It started with some international media houses showing few incidents which were decried and labeled motivated. Later, the reports were verified by authorities as credible.

During the coverage of J&K post the scraping of Article 370, a section of media aggressively pursued the narrative of normalcy while the other showcased the daily hardships faced by locals in the newly formed Union Territory. In this tug of war involving local and international networks, one thing is clear: there will be no winners from either side.

How the media got divided

It is interesting to note how the media got divided in its reporting. On one side of this divide are some reputed networks that showcased the normalcy on ground and how the law & order situation remained under control. The other side of the divide has equally reputed media houses that largely highlighted the problems faced by the people due to the strict security clampdown.

While both sides traded charges against each other, the only common factor between these differing narratives remains the news consumers who are grappling with what to believe.

Sensing the divide, the Editors Guild of India was forced to issue a statement saying, “The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over the continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley and the consequent curtailment of the media’s freedom and ability to report fairly and accurately on current developments.”

What explains this divide?

The big question is: Why is the same situation witnessing different portrayals, and why are two narratives emerging from it?

In our pursuit to fathom this divide, we spoke to some reputed journalists to understand it better.

According to senior journalist and author Rajdeep Sardesai, the reason for this divide lies in the clampdown itself since it provides ground for fake news to flourish.

“Clampdown only leads to spreading of fake news and it is another reason to ensure greater information flow. The fear of a potential law & order disturbance cannot be a reason for muzzling the media,” said Sardesai.

Pradeep Bhandari, who hosts the popular shown on Republic TV Lalkaar and is the Founder of JanKiBaat, strongly believes that media reportage should align with national interest. In his view, this factor plays a critical role in this divide of media narratives.

“The basic ethic of journalism is to reveal the source in matters of national security. Unfortunately, international media organisations need to be reminded of this basic principle. Indian media representatives have the right to report all sides of the story, but any side of the story should not compromise with national interest,” explained Bhandari.

It must also be mentioned that the factor of national interest was the reason why a report by an international media organisation on Kashmir was first labelled fake news till it stood the test of authenticity. For now, the surge of narratives and counter narratives continues to keep the media divided and there seems no end to it.

Summing up this divide, Bhupendra Chaubey, Executive Editor, CNN News 18, said Kashmir is a narrative which has become a clash of propaganda warfare.  He agreed that the information blackhole due to the clampdown is making it tough for the real narrative to emerge, and thus a divide is created.

“It’s virtually impossible to come to a conclusion unless there is total freedom to roam around one’s own self. At this stage, situation on the ground is a clear blackhole. When you have top politicians all away from public glare, no matter what the spin, to suggest that all is normal would be a bit of an exaggeration,” he explains.

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