Media’s Role in Shaping Perceptions: A Call for Responsible Reporting

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File photo: Protest at Kwakta/Ichel Express

IN AN ERA where information dissemination is swift and far-reaching, media outlets hold a powerful role in shaping public opinion and influencing societal dynamics. The power to shape public opinion is a double-edged sword. It has become increasingly disheartening to witness certain media outlets operating
within the state heightening tensions by irresponsibly framing narratives that generalize a entire community. Rather than focusing on the alleged culprits or individuals involved, these outlets have taken to highlighting the Pangal community, thereby tainting perceptions and fostering negativity. This practice appears to be a deliberate ploy by vested interests, both within the media and among certain groups, to divert attention from more pressing state-wide issues. What is the reason for mentioning the name of the community while reporting a specific incident or case? This orchestrated approach, characterized by venomous rhetoric, poses a grave threat to our society.

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The dangers of this approach are twofold: first, it perpetuates the fallacy that the actions of a few reflect the actions of the entire community, tainting innocent individuals. Secondly, it obscures the larger issues at hand by directing focus towards a specific group, effectively allowing broader problems to evade
scrutiny. This manipulation of public sentiment is alarming and needs to be addressed head-on.

Inaccurate media coverage has far-reaching consequences. It is not only detrimental to the targeted community but also leads to suspicion and fear between different communities. The repercussions extend beyond mere perceptions, affecting livelihoods and the free movement of individuals. The
fallout includes unnecessary detentions, abuse, and disruptions to daily activities for members of the Pangal community. These consequences are not only unjust but also abortive to the state’s overarching goals. In the long run, such divisive tactics erode the social fabric that holds our communities together.
This strategy is at odds with the state’s progress and development, perpetuating a cycle of mistrust and animosity. The media’s role in shaping public perception is pivotal, and it should uphold the highest standards of verifiable facts and unbiased reporting.

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In the midst of this media-created storm, the role of civil society organizations (CSOs), activists and community leaders becomes pivotal. The responsibility to mend these strained relationships falls not only on the media but also on civil society organizations (CSOs), activists and community leaders. Pangal’s CSOs must unequivocally denounce the practice of holding an entire community responsible for the actions of a few individuals. The community’s leaders need to firmly articulate their stance instead of succumbing to appeasement politics. The absence of strong advocacy during these trying times raises questions about the community’s stand within larger society. Is it an issue of the community’s marginalized position, or is it a reluctance to assert its rights?

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The Pangal community’s accountability is primarily to the collective idea of Manipur rather than catering to individual, group, or community interests. Activists from all communities should play a pivotal role in dispelling divisive narratives and addressing underlying issues. The responsibility to address issues rests on the shoulders of civil society organizations and activists, who should refrain from becoming mere mouthpieces for vested interests. Instead, they should strive for a narrative that builds bridges and nurtures unity.

The media’s role should be to heal and rebuild society, fostering cooperation and compassion. Spreading unverified details, misleading statements, and incomplete information only widens the gap between communities. The responsibility of media outlets is to provide objective and accurate information,
steering away from falsehoods and prejudice. The propagation of misinformation only serves to sow seeds of animosity and misguided assumptions.

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To forge a path forward, media outlets, CSOs, activists, and community leaders must work hand in hand. By adhering to ethical journalistic practices, denouncing the demonization of entire communities, and promoting unity, these stakeholders can work together to rebuild the stricken fabric of society. By doing so, we can hope to mend the divisions that have emerged and lay the groundwork for a more harmonious and equitable society. The future of our state depends on our collective ability to overcome the challenges before us with empathy and understanding. It is essential to emphasize that the actions of a few individuals should never be used as a yardstick to measure the integrity of an entire community.

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Safiur Rahaman Maibam 1

(Safiur Rahaman Maibam is an emerging writer with a focus on tackling a range of current social and political issues. Views are personal. To get in touch, you can reach him at safiurmaibam81@gmail.com)

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