[Notes] Internal Security - Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges

Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges

1.  Media:
Any communication channel through which any kind of information, news, entertainment, education, data, promotional messages etc. can be disseminated is called media.
Media could be broadly classified as:

  1. Print Media (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.)
  2. Electronic Media (news websites, social networking sites, mass SMS schemes, television, internet, radio, cinema etc.)

Besides there are many other forms of mass communication which can’t be classified in either of the above forms like various forms of dances etc.

2.  Principles governing media:
The experience of freedom of press with the British made our founding fathers realize its importance and hence it was included in the constitution in the form of freedom of speech and expression as articulated in the constitution in Article 19(1) a. This freedom of speech and expression is not absolute but is limited by scenarios given in Article 19(2) of the constitution. The article says that nothing in the freedom of speech and expression shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

3.  Internal security challenges:
According to Wikipedia, Internal Security could be defined as the act of keeping peace within the borders of a sovereign state or other self-governing territories, generally by upholding the national law and defending against internal security threats.
What could be the internal security threats facing India?
1.   Terrorism
2.   Communalism
3.   Naxalism
4.   Cyber Hacking and its aftermath

Role of Media:

In terrorism:
India has been home to terror activities since its independence. Terrorism funded through foreign land is not new to India. Pakistan has funded terror in J&K area, while many of its state and non-state actors are allegedly involved in many of terrorist  attacks in various parts of the country, the most talked of being the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Similarly India has many terror outfits operating within its own frontiers which have carried out terrorist activities in the country.
TV has been the most important broadcast media with reach comparable to newspapers. With the coming of cable TV in India, there has been a tremendous increase in the news channels available to an individual. Though news through print media comes only a day later, news channels via the broadcast media provide information 24x7. This enables them to provide real time information to the public especially those affected by the terrorist attack. But without any curbs on the amount of coverage, these forms of media can be used by the terrorists to mislead the investigation agencies and/or the public as was the case during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks [1]. In the 26/11 attack, the handlers of the terrorist used the media coverage to tell them the exact locations of the policemen and advised them about the best way to attack the police. Thus the thoughtless media coverage, in a way helped the terrorist [2]. Also the goriest details of the attack were shown virtually non-stop [2].  Situations like the Mumbai attack check the credibility of our media. This incident certainly weakened the media demand to regulate itself.

In Communalism:
India is home to different communities having different religious sentiments. The history of India is full of incidents of communal tensions most particularly between Hindus and Muslims. Broadcast media particularly news TV channels is often criticized for its non-stop live coverage of these incidents which might incite the communities to further wreak havoc. Even print media sometimes thoughtlessly carries messages from the leaders of opposing factions creating further tensions.
One particular incident would be the Gujarat riots of 2002. The report of ‘The Editor’s Guild of India’ on media ethics states that the local newspaper of Gujarat Sandesh had headlines which would "provoke, communalize and terrorize people. The newspaper also used a quote from a VHP leader as a headline, "Avenge with blood". But the same report also lauded some other local newspapers for their coverage [3]. Broadcast media was heavily criticized for the gory images that were shown non-stop.
One other such incident would be the recent Assam riots. The social media and the SMS were blamed for rumour mongering during the Assam unrest. They were alleged of misrepresentation of facts and doctoring news which incited the opposing factions and led to huge migration of north easterners across the country [4].

3.   In Naxalism:
The term Naxalism takes its name from the village Naxalbari in West Bengal where a group of left radical communist brought an uprising against a local Zamindar in 1967. Today, the Naxal movement is spread across various districts of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to varying degrees. Our PM while addressing the police force in 2009 even announced that Naxalism is the greatest internal security threat to India [5]
Media can be used very effectively to mainstream the naxal areas. Innovation is the key here. Street Plays can be used to educate the junta about various schemes of the govt. Recently Home Ministry issued guidelines which apart from providing SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) to security forces while working in Naxal areas gave a directive to screen movies on India’s freedom struggle and national leaders in such areas, which is a welcome move [6].

4.   In Cyber Space:
The problem with cyber security related to massive social media networks is that there is limited knowledge about the consequences of the snooping which is carried by various countries in the name of security. Countries like US are not only snooping on their own citizens but are also able to freely intrude the privacy of any individual in other countries too. US has the specific advantage of having the servers of main social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. within its frontiers and hence in the outreach of their laws.
Experts have suggested India to build our own social networks like the way China has its own. Though the reason China built its own social networks was to suppress public dissent and monitoring online activities to identify troublemakers, India can follow the same to avoid personal information of millions of individuals going into the hands of US and other countries. But then again, this kind of islanding would defeat the purpose of internet.
Also the media networks are regularly hacked by enemy countries to spread false information and to recover classified data. Recently hacking of New York Times and Twitter servers by Syrian agencies was in news. Similarly the US and China continue to exchange blows in the field of hacking.

5.  Possible ways to plug the shortcomings of media:

1.   Sensitizing journalists about the possible effects of non-stop display of gory images during coverage of riots, terrorist affected areas etc.
2.   Preparing guidelines for the coverage of areas affected by man-made disaster.
3.   Building solid networks and creating a task force to combat any kind of hacking.

There could be many more suggestions but then they would grossly interfere with the freedom of press.

Possible Questions:

1.    Enumerate ways to use social media in combating Naxalism.

2.    Enumerate ways in which media could be used to promote social harmony.

3.    Enumerate ways in which broadcast media can be used to create awareness about terrorism.

4.   If you were to prepare guidelines for media to operate in disaster situations, what points would your draft include?

1.‘Ansari trained 26/11 terrorists to mislead media and investigators’; http://www.indianexpress.com/news/-ansari-trained-2611-terrorists-to-mislead-media-and-investigators-/1018217/

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