Dear Mainstream Media, Nation Building is far from Over
20 years of building: The time it took for completing this bridge over River Siang at Passighat in Arunachal Pradesh
“When was it ever on the media map?” is how Subir Bhaumik, BBC Eastern India Correspondent and Author of “Troubled Periphery” began the Media Dialogue on North East: Fallen off the Media Map? at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in New Delhi. The dialogue was called upon to address the query that does the media, described as mainstream, give little space to the North East out of an assumption that readers are not interested? Or because their marketing departments tell them advertisers are not interested?
After him, the series of invited panelists from various media houses including Dibang, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, stressed upon facts and issues such as how there are not many reporters posted in the north east regions, the stringers hired our often not trained, their posted stories put on hold forever, the region being too far and too scattered, and how not many sexy stories are coming out of the region. Several of these facts were countered by the audience which largely included individuals from the North East region and media students and advisers.
The issue of reporters getting caught between the militants and the government forces while reporting in these regions, in their effort to practice their profession was also elaborately discussed by the panel. However, the fact that the conflicts in the North East are much less reported than those in the North West also surfaced from time to time in the course of the discussions. The point to ponder here was does Indian civil society show as much concern over the militarization of the region comprising Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland as it does over the militarization of Kashmir?
Nation Building: a hitherto unknown and pending exercise in the NE
An important conclusion that came out of the panel discussion and counter questioning from the audience was that although the national, rather the metropolitan, media has taken to pushing news based on television audience measurement (TAM) systems and a struggle is on for fitting news in the papers–the media is forgetting the key role it must play in the nation building excercise.
Perhaps the media, as is the delusion of several other agencies, thinks that nation building for the over 60 years old Indian Republic is now a thing of the past. That we have already crossed the stage where media can, to a great extent, overlook its this responsibility and keep others agenda viz. beating the competition, as its main focus. However, for the north east region, nothing can be further from truth than this. The region is struggling on the road to development, which is broken and full of potholes.
And at a time when India really needs to get its Look East policy right, it becomes absolutely essential that the Indian Government first looks East a little closer home before it should take that giant leap. The media thus has an even greater responsibility and should rework its own internal policies to champion this cause for national integration yet to be achieved.
Bottom Image courtesty Liyi Marli Noshi