LEON LIDIGU: What Kenya can learn from India, Pakistan row

Supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, a pro-India political party, hold up placards during a protest against the ban on a Kashmir-based Islamist political party called Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), in Srinagar March 2, 2019. /REUTERS

For a budding Kenyan journalist , the last two weeks have been nothing but interesting with regards to the escalating situation between India and Pakistan. I wish to share a few things we can learn from as a country.

These two nuclear-armed neighbors have for a long time rivaled over Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed in full by both.

Just in case you haven’t been following, on 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying about 2000 security personnel was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber in Pulwama, Kashmir .

The attack resulted in the deaths of 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel and the attacker.

Politically pressured by the upcoming elections and Indian nationalists who vehemently pushed for a surgical strike backed by many leading media outlets, PM Narendra Modi had no choice but to react.

India’s air strike on a terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistan came along few days later as it had been declared that the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide-bomber belonged to the Pakistan-based terror outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad.

India had made its stand unequivocally clear that a strike by Pakistan through unconventional means would not only go without a response on Pakistani territory but also restricted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

KENYA BENEFITS

As a result of the conflict, Pakistan, a major importer of Kenyan tea which has been opting to import cheaper tea from south India has terminated that contract.

It is the biggest consumer of Kenyan tea and purchases more than 40 percent of the total production. This earns us approximately Sh60 billion each year.

In fact, the Chairman of South India Tea Association, Deepak Shah says, “Pakistan imports around 65-70 million kg of tea from Kenya annually and this is bound to increase. This was reflected in the price movement. Kenyan tea prices rose by 12-15 Rupees per kilo.”

I hope and pray that the Jubilee government is wide awake to make most of such a rare opportunity.

MEDIA

When covering terror attacks in Kenya or anywhere else in the world, information control becomes a very useful tool.

This is one major thing that comes out clearly from the Indo-Pakistan situation that we can all learn from. Media and government endlessly exposed a massive misinformation problem in both countries.

Many news channels continue to each ‘side with their own’ disregarding facts, objectivity and verification. Fact-checking site AltNews reported that, several Indian outlets had posted a video clip of a Pakistani jet from 2017, presenting it as footage of the day’s strike.

Pakistani media outlets also posted the same video with a different narrative—saying it showed that the country’s air force had managed to “retaliate” against India.

The biggest take out on what I observed has to be on war and peace journalism. I watched in disbelief as news channels from both countries turned to war rooms and concluded that perhaps around here of importance is viewership supremacy and TRPs.

A few journalists who tried to do the right thing have been branded ‘anti-nationals who do not believe in their own military forces and governments.’ The trend of peace and war journalism is worldwide phenomenon and no one can deny its importance regarding peace and conflicts.

The reporters cover the stories in such a way that change the whole scenario of the event. Media is considered as a tool for the resolution of conflicts.

It can escalate and deescalate the issue. It can play a critical role in international dealings and conflicts because citizens are heavily dependent on media to provide timely, trustworthy information of remote events.

This dependency of news arises because citizens have not any other source of information or the capability to attain first-hand information about remote events and conflicts; they have to rely on media coverage.

In many ways, I now understand Galtung’s model of war / peace journalism, and framing theory much better.

He insists that journalism should provide an opportunity for both opponents to come amicably arrive at a dialogue table and reach a solution.

He also argues that peace journalism makes the conflict transparent and gives right to hear the voices of everybody which are involved in the conflict and diminishing conflict between two opposing parties.

Leon Lidigu is a student of Journalism at Pacific University, India

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