Role of Media in the conflict
By Kamala Sarup
Can Nepali media play a meaningful role to restore peace in Nepal? Should media be actors in the resolution of or in the prevention of conflict? These are the questions that need answers.
In a democratic polity, media is considered an important component of a peace-seeking political culture.
Photo Source pradesh.com
The role of the media in preventing and ending conflict and in ensuring peace can only be realistically assessed if its effect is understood as a component and expression of overall social conditions. We know that a democratic political culture as well as the functioning rule of law is not prevalent in large areas of Nepal.
The media works in tandem with non-governmental organisations and intelligentsia, and they together form civil society in a conflict situation. Further, reality on the ground is often reflected through the media. If people do not get enough information, their choice will not be an informed one. So the rights of journalists are important to report events of diverse nature without fear and favour.
At least seven journalists were reported missing during the emergency period in Nepal in 2001-02.
Analysts say Nepali media has been playing a responsible role. Media should continue its efforts towards a just resolution to the conflict. It should highlight efforts towards peace and downplay events that escalate conflict, they say.
Journalists can criticise, analyse and question the politics of those in power and they can try to prevent the reduction of national identities to hostile images and thus bring about more empathy between the contesting groups.
"Simply, journalists should should aim at acquiring an impeccable reputation as promoters of peace, they should enlighten the public, and tell the stories of the victims of conflict and not of the perpetrators of violence. Sometimes, it is even suggested that perhaps the media may be the most powerful means of resolving future conflicts or even of avoiding wars," argues journalist David Mayar.
Media can effectively be used either to fuel conflict, or to reduce conflict. Media should not allow its interests or that of its owners to undermine the principles of fairness, objectivity and diversity in coverage of events.
“Journalists should not allow their personal views and emotions as well as ethnic, religious, political and ideological sentiments to influence their reports on conflicts," says David. “Journalists should have adequate knowledge of the history, politics, geography, etc of the country, region or area where they are covering conflicts,” he said. “Newspapers and magazines should avoid undue sensationalism in casting headlines of crisis reports. They should collectively strive to maintain editorial independence and should give over-riding consideration to the public interest in all their reports,” he added.
Dr. Anup Pahari, Nepali professional based in Washington DC, says "Media is vital to all democracies. This is why all non-democratic regimes, and we've had a few of those in Nepal's history, target the free press. People and movements that are truly democratic will defend the free press to the last, although they themselves may feel periodically victimized by it.
The role of the media in any democracy, therefore, is to make those in power think twice before they make decisions, and to keep the public informed and conscious about the affairs of the nation. In Nepal, unfortunately, monarchists, democrats, and Maoists don't think twice before going after the free press. The situation of internal conflict makes various sides even more callous towards the fourth estate.
Media plays a key role in conflict and must become, as it were, the moral compass of society. In order to do this successfully, it is imperative that the media is not be swayed by ideologues on either side who have vested interest in having reality portrayed in ways that suit their political and power agendas. The challenge for the media in today's violence-ridden Nepal is to resist the polarisation that is evident all around them and to uphold core values of liberal democracy.
Some media in Nepal have taken sides in the present conflict. This is unfortunate, but perhaps unavoidable. Fortunately, some of the major media houses like Kantipur, Himal Media, and some of the upcoming publications like The Nation and Samaya Magazines have maintained their independence. “Democracy will be safe as long as the media in Nepal remain courageous and independent," said Dr. Pahari.
(Sarup is doing her Ph. D in Conflict Resolution. She contributes to Nepalnews from the USA. Post your comments/suggestions etc. at)