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Home OP-ED Columns & Articles Analyzing the role of media in 1971 war

Analyzing the role of media in 1971 war

By Muhammad
Asim Siddiqi

MEDIA is the strongest pillar of every state due to its strong influence on the masses. It tends to shape, reshape, and mold the public opinion and perception towards any ongoing matter. Major General Asif Ghafoor ex- DG ISPR, said in a press conference that if Pakistani media had been independent, the country might not have separated.
At the time of the 1971 war, policies and plans were given by the Indian government to create chaos for Pakistan. International media also put its part by reporting propaganda news against West Pakistan, and Pakistan was cut into two halves and gave birth to Bangladesh’s isolated state.
The reason behind the separation of Pakistan was the involvement of a third party. Indian Media and Mukti Bahini fought the war along with the Bengali people and supported their every step towards war.
At the time of war or conflict, the role of media becomes essential. But during the conflict of 1971, Pakistani media was under the control of the state. No news regarding the killings of non- Bengalis by Mukti Bahini was not broadcasted. Print media and Pakistan Television were completely blackouts by the Government in West Pakistan, excluding the permissible content.
Pakistani armed forces arrested many journalists during operation searchlight, and that stopped the process of first-hand reporting. In a press conference, Major General Asif Ghafoor ex- DG ISPR, admitted that Pakistani media has changed and is guiding the army. Pakistani authorities in East Pakistan were unaware of the sensitivity of preventing first-hand reporting, giving Indian media the chance to manipulate the facts.
Media has always been a part of propaganda. Superpowers, like the United States and China, used media as a tool of propaganda. In 1971 Indian media have also used media for their interest. Indian and the media reported every situation according to their interest, which pushed the anger of Bengali people. Indian Government and RAW used all the tactics to create propaganda against Pakistan. They established the Radio station “Free Bengal Betal Kendra” to manipulate the fact and situation at that time. Their objective was to destabilize Pakistan regardless of the proof.
International media played a vital role during the coverage of any conflict or war. Moreover, it also played an immoral and unethical role during the war of 1971. International media did Un-Authentication of news and biased reporting at that time. One of the severe allegations on International media is the total number of Bengali killed during 1971. International media without the verification reported the number of 3 million killings of Bengalis.
In contrast, as stated in a report, “The missing millions,” William Drummond highlighted that “My finding built-in various tours to Bangladesh and broad discussion with many individuals at the village level as well as in the government, is that the three million death figure is an exaggeration so gross to be absurd.” International media violated journalism’s ethics when they printed the pictures of Jessore massacre victims by quoting it the deadly act of Pakistan armed forces.
New York Times and Washington Post dishonored all the principles of professionalism. There are several stories that international media didn’t verify it and blamed Pakistan authorities for the unrest situation in East Pakistan.
It is significant to understand the role and existence of media at the time of war as media can stabilize and calm the situation among people. Unlike, media played a negative part at the time of the 1971 war, either international media or National media and the fumes of war destroyed Pakistan. The Indian government, with the support of Mukti Bahini, used all the tactics of information disorder and propaganda to manipulate the situation and facts, which lead to the separation of East Pakistan. The media of West Pakistan used discursive strategies to present a soft and winning image of West Pakistan against Bengalis and Mukti Bahini. Having a direct connection with the Indian government and officials, the war of 1971 proved that media could be a distractive weapon and a positive tool if there is no government involvement. Freedom of media and absolute freedom of media is still a conflicting subject all around the world. For authentic, credible, and factual news, media should work as an unbiased tool and portrays the exact and precise information having statistical figures, accurate details to the audience.
The author is a broadcast journalist based in Islamabad.

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