Among the multiple roles played by media, the most important one is to enable readers make intelligent choices. Is that purpose served by the media/ in Manipur? It has been observed often that the credibility of media in Manipur seen as a conflict zone, is questioned due to the pressures from different sides and media in Manipur is often seen as pro-revolutionary. This issue deserves a bigger space, so it will be discussed at a more appropriate space. The space here will try to analyse the responsbility and not credibility of media.
In most parts of the world, especially in USA, news have transformed after the 9/11. Dead bodies are not shown to restrain instigating people. There is a certain coming of age of media, a kind of maturity in the quality of news. News has shifted base from being sensational to sensitive. The media people seem to have waken up to the truth that the readers or viewers do not want their morning cup of tea or evening supper to be spoilt by gross images of blood and glory. Though the readers and viewers do not expect flowers with the news, they might not complain if the violence in the news is toned down without compromising on the news value. Of course news is basically about calling a hear and feel, and how they think and act. The way in which the world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do. Media is an important player in shaping public opinion and in the case of rabies too media ignited the imagination of the people and many dogs met their untimely ends.
One cannot ignore anymore the ever present scope for an alarming possibility of the media developing some sort of a vested interest in catastrophe. If they can spot a fight, they will play up the fight. If they can uncover a tragedy, they will headline that tragedy. So a question arises as to how the readers could distinguish between the truth and truth-likeness, between what is exhibited and the essence. Media cannot plead innocence for their role, conscious or unconscious, in mystifying people on many issues.
However, it would be wrong to not acknowledge the warming up of media. to the need for handling certain issues delicately keeping in view the repercussions that will come due to negative reporting. HIV/AIDS is one such issue. It has been reiterated, requested and realized that media can play a very constructive role in playing down the stigma and discrimination and in helping the positive people keep their self-respect in place.
Likewise media can adopt a more responsible approach spade a spade. However, the creativity of the media people should be used at calling a spade without sounding too blunt, if the situation demands and allows.
The print as well as electronic media in Manipur has enough potential to depress even the strongest. The young children whose imaginations are still a vast blank landscape are gradually getting cultured to violence. Nowadays children play ‘encounter games’ instead of the good old hide-and-seek. When I asked a three years old who has just started the basic A, B, C…..to read out the newspaper for me, she starts right away with “2 people gunned down and killed”. So one can well imagine the impact our daily news has on tender minds.
Even in the present fixation with rabies, many harmless dogs were slaughtered in different parts of Manipur. Whether any of those dogs were rabid or not is left hanging since the dogs have been slaughtered before anything could be proven. As of the last report from the health department there were no official death reports due to rabies. But media has already carried many. news reports on rabies casualties causing panic and mass slaughter of dogs, man’s best friend!
The simple truth about human psychology is that what they know largely determines what they see in reporting news, ensuring that the news are not under reported to lull the readers to ignorance or sensationalise to such degree that the public are not given enough space to think and make their intelligent choices. The power vest on media should always go hand in hand with the responsibility towards the people. Freedom of expression should never forsake the unwritten law of responsibility.