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Role of media in conflict situations underlined


GUWAHATI, Nov 16 - Asserting that free press and democracy are two sides of the same coin, senior journalist and Editor of Amar Asom Prasanta Rajguru today said that the media has a big role to play in mitigating hostilities in conflict situations.

Delivering the keynote address on �Reporting from conflict area and challenges for media� on the occasion of National Press Day observed at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here, Rajguru said that the burden of history is having a huge bearing in triggering and sustaining conflict situations in the North East.

�Burden of history has been a big factor in creating conflict situations across the world and the North East is no exception. Then, factors such as disparity in distribution of resources, chauvinism concerning identity, etc., are often causes of conflict. In some cases, conflict takes place due to state sponsorship or sponsorship by insurgents,� he said.

Urging the media fraternity to maintain utmost caution while reporting in conflict situations, Rajguru said that even more crucial is the role of the vernacular press as it has a wider reach, and also that many of its readers are semi-literate who can be easily swayed by emotion and passion.

�It is a fact that the English media is restrained and measured compared to the vernacular media. We only need to see their roles during the Gujarat violence. In fact, the contradictory stands of the English media and the vernacular media during the Gujarat pogrom have become a subject for research for media students and analysts across the world,� he added.

Rajguru said that any act of over-enthusiasm and lack of restraint on the part of the journalists reporting in a conflict situation has the potential of aggravating the situation wittingly or unwittingly.

�Reporting of the fact apart, the media has a social responsibility as well and it needs to help mitigate the conflict and not add fuel to fire. Distortion, partiality and provocation must be avoided by any professional journalist,� he observed, adding that highlighting the human angle while reporting in conflict situations should be an imperative for the reporter.

Five senior journalists � Manindra Das of Barpeta, Jyotilal Choudhury of Silchar, Dilip Chakravarty of Dhubri, Himen Bhattacharya of Tinsukia and Ron Duarah of Dibrugarh � were felicitated on the occasion for their contributions to the field of journalism.

The function was organised by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations and Journalist Association of Assam. Earlier, veteran journalist DN Chakravartty gave an account of the evolution and growth of the media in Assam beginning with the Arunodoi in 1836 and the impact of newspapers and journals in Assam�s social and literary spheres.

�Arunodoi, which had a circulation of 1,200 at a time when literacy was negligible, marked a watershed in Assam, heralding the advent of an uninterrupted stream of newspapers and journals. The period from the Arunodoi till 1889 saw as many as 13 newspapers. Then came the epoch-making eras of Jonaki, Bahi, Awahan and Ramdhenu, with many important journals in between. Their social impact apart, these periodicals had a huge role in creating a pool of powerful writers throughout the ages,� he observed.

On the risk the journalists face in the discharge of their duties, especially in conflict zones, Chakravartty said that this was testified to by the fact that as many as 30 journalists had died in Assam in the past three decades. �Globally, 827 journalists have died in conflict situations in the past 10 years. In 2015 alone, 195 journalists including 18 woman journalists have died,� he added.

Hrisikesh Goswami, Press Adviser to the Chief Minister and chief guest of the occasion, said society owes the journalists a lot who have been rendering a yeoman�s service in adverse situations and often in return for inadequate remunerations.

�The State Government is aware of the difficulties faced by the journalists and is consistently endeavouring to ensure that they get the deserved amenities from the managements,� he said.

APCU programme: National Press Day was observed at the Guwahati Press Club today. Organised by the Assam Press Correspondents� Union (APCU), the programme was presided over by APCU president Manoj Singh.

Three noted personalities � journalist-writer Phanindra Kumar Debachoudhury, who is the editor-in-chief of Niyamiya Varta; former editor of Saptahik Janambhoomi Dulal Sarma and former deputy editor of Dainik Asam Probodh Bordoloi � were felicitated on the occasion.

Writer-journalist Debachoudhury said, �The veracity of press freedom needs to be ascertained now. Such a need arises as most of the owners of presses are either politicians or people from the corporate sector. Even in the face of such challenges, a journalist has to work for the wellbeing of society.�

Dulal Sarma said, �A section of people is averse to journalists presenting human interest stories. This is unfortunate. If journalists are not free, if they can�t write freely or if they are not neutral, their job is meaningless. This is not all. Nowadays, journalists aren�t seen going to farmers for stories. They should go to farmers as they are the producers, and they are plagued by numerous problems.�

Probodh Bordoloi said, �At present, journalism is too complicated. The new generation journalists should work with commitment, sincerity and honesty.� Senior journalists Ajit Kumar Bhuyan and Sanjib Kumar Phukan also spoke on the occasion.

Over 30 journalists have been killed by miscreants or militants in the State since 1991. Tribute was paid to them by the APCU and others present at the event. The APCU rued the fact that the cases filed against the killers are stagnant. They appealed to the government to ensure early disposal of the pending cases so as to ensure justice to all of the killed journalists.

GU programme: The Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University, on Wednesday celebrated National Press Day on the university premises by displaying newspaper front pages, especially the headlines of more than 100 different dailies and weeklies from across the world, including newspapers from India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The students also displayed the newspapers that have been archived from the 1960s for the people to understand the evolution of the press in the last few decades.

Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta, Professor, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University, inaugurated the event and said, �The press plays a very powerful role in today�s world, starting from its impact on the American elections to the local everyday activity.� Prof Dutta also spoke about the difference between freedom of expression and freedom of speech and called upon the press to ensure that the rights of the people are not compromised at any point.

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