J&K Diary :Misinformed Media Viewers
Intro: An appreciable section of the media was giving correct/fact-based information on Article 370, but a large and effective part of the media was “bombarding” people with completely wrong information
Media is a powerful source of information which helps build public opinion. With the emergence of informational technology, and emerging social media the dissipation of information has acquired the speed of light; and, news and opinions today reach people in the blink of an eye. Last week, Indian mediaconventional and non conventional, initiated discussions on Article 370, and the debates and information spread like a fire in the jungle. Suddenly everyone was curious and wanted to know about article 370. This sudden discussion on the controversial article on one hand showed the strength of information technology, on the other, it also sent cautionary signals. An appreciable section of the media was giving correct/fact-based information on the Article 370, but a large and effective part of the media was “bombarding” people with completely wrong information. Whether it was intentionally or un-intentionally is the matter of accountability but it definitely raises certain serious concerns.
In the era of social media many prominent Indian political personalities with large fan following have an effect that is comparable to a fully fledged media house. Things get worse when these politicians with certain vested interests try to fill this information space by twisting and turning facts to direct public opinion in their favour. For example, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah’s statement in response to Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (MoS), Prime Minister’s office (PMO), was not only mis-informative but was also threatening in nature. The statement of Omar came in response to another misinformation (misquoted statement of the Minister). This was not the first time when Omar said that the accession would be revoked if Article 370 is deleted (Accession of J&K happened on 26 October 1947 and Article 370 was enforced from 26 Jan 1950 in the form of a temporary Article). At the time of accession nobody thought that someday J&K’s fate will hang around an Article.
It was not only Omar many writers/columnists and politicians are toeing to the same line of giving incomplete information about Article 370. Hindi language news papers have been giving wrong information too. Amar Ujala, a daily hindi news paper writes that the instrument of accession for Jammu and Kashmir before it was signed by Hari Singh, Maharaja of J&K was formed by Omar’s grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah. Shocking!
Wrong information such as accession of Jammu and Kashmir was conditional and that if article 370 is removed then J&K would not be part of India can have perilous effect. The truth is there was a common instrument of accession for all the states and when it was signed, Article 370 was nonexistent. Article 370 like any other article is under the authority of our Constitution and as far as discussion/deletion/amendment of any article is concerned our Parliament can do it with the process specified in the constitution.
Politicians have their vested interests when they misinform people but, it is the responsibility of media to present the true picture for the public. In fact, by discussing what Minister Jitendra Singh said on Article 370 and, not targeting the Omar for his venomous tweet the Indian media has completely missed the point.
New positive and solution oriented trends are set if the information is correct and free from propagandist’s view. Hiding/misinterpreting the right info is not only unethical but it may create chaotic situation for a country and society. With the recent debate, almost every Indian got to know that there is something called Article 370 and, they formed their opinion according to the source of information they had.
In today’s time, information trends change faster than ever. It’ll be appreciable if our media takes suo moto notice of its responsibility and accountability because, we cannot afford the freedom of expression to be used as a freedom to spread misinformation and that to on a constitutional issue related to the sovereignty of our nation.
-Arvind (The writter is a researcher at J&K Study Center, New Delhi)