Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Emerging Field Of Defense Journalism As A Career In India – OpEd

Asif Ahmed,

uncaptioned image from article
Real stories about the military don’t come from public relations officers or official statements. The real stories come from soldiers who go to the frontline – and, the only way to get those stories is to talk to the soldiers.
In an age of instant global communication, governments have refined their public diplomacy, particularly in the way defence issues are covered in the media, to market their version of events effectively to their domestic as well as the international public. Indeed, ignorance and misinformation are far more dangerous for the military than is informed reporting, however critical in tone. But the media need help here. Because the press is fragmented, competitive, sometimes ignorant of military realities, and constantly whiplashed between the demands of the market and those of journalistic ethics, however defined, the quality of coverage of military events is inevitably uneven at best. The tendency of unprepared reporters, charging from crisis to crisis, unaware of the issues at stake or of how the military functions, is to frame complex matters in simplistic ways. For its part, the military owes access to information both to media and the Indian people. Furthermore, it needs to get its story out—for the military will be competing with other groups, and enemies, eager to put their “spin” on events. To do this, it needs the media. ...
Military journalists inform the public of events and ideas they might otherwise never hear and counteract the effects of enemy propaganda. Embedded civilian journalists, though vital storytellers are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing inside information and, more importantly, understanding the troops’ perspectives. Journalists within the military in some foreign countries are better able to give voice to the daily lives of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms, delivering the difficult facts without losing sight of the good news (how often do you see that on the 11 o’clock news?).
That makes it all the more imperative for building greater harmony and understanding between journalists and armed forces. The defence forces will keep shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t realize the potentials of media as a force multiplier and a weapon of war. Failure to recognize and counter enemy usage of media could lead to avoidable military failures. We must realize that decisions are no longer based on events but on how the events are presented. So we must lay greater emphasis on the role of media/journalists in war and train them for it in peacetime. They provide a vital service to the troops themselves, keeping them informed and entertained in every clime and place. And let’s face facts: It sure wouldn’t hurt your resume to land a job right out of high school that lets you reach an audience of millions, would it? ...
The Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) acts as the gatekeeper of information. It is the only authorised channel of communication for disseminating information about the programmes, policies and activities of the Ministry of Defence and all establishments of the MoD including the armed forces. Currently, the Directorate of Public Relations (Defence)—a part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD)—interacts with the media on matters related to defence forces.
Through its civilian and defence services officers spread out through-out the country, it indulges in PR exercises during peacetime.The Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) is the nodal agency for the dissemination of information to the media and the public about the pant event, events, programmes, achievements and major policy decisions of the Ministry, Armed Forces, Inter-Services Organisations and Public Sector Undertakings under the Ministry of Defence. The Directorate with its headquarters in New Delhi and 25 regional offices across the country is responsible for providing media support to ensure wide publicity in the print and the electronic media. It also facilitates media interaction with the leadership and senior officials of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces by conducting regular interviews, press conferences and press tours.
As in the previous years, the Directorate conducted Defence Correspondents’ Course for media persons to enhance their knowledge about Defence matters. The Defence Correspondents’ Course (DCC) is one of the most prestigious courses conducted by the Directorate of Public Relations, Ministry of Defence. Now Defence Correspondents Course DCC is also conducted annually by Directorate of Public Relations (DPR), MoD for journalists from the print and electronic media, to acquaint them with the nuances of the armed forces to help them become specialist Defence journalists. Eminent speakers and Defence experts from the three Services, DRDO and Coast Guard among others will share their expertise and views with the journalists on varied military subjects. Media publicity for the major events is officially arranged by DPR in India. Coverage was also arranged in the form of photographs and news reports for various military exercises and assignments including those abroad. Visits of the Indian Defence Minister and Armed Forces Chiefs abroad and the visits of foreign dignitaries to India were also prominently covered. Major decisions of the Union Cabinet and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) including the Armed Forces were also widely publicized. The DPR also conducts media tours to various places across the country for major events and familiarization of visits. This Directorate also arranges all media facilities related to the Republic Day Celebrations and brings out a commentary for the parade on the Rajpath. Other important calendar events such as the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort, Combined Commanders’ Conference and NCC Rally addressed by the Prime Minister and Defence Investiture Ceremonies at Rashtrapati Bhawan were also accorded due publicity. ...

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