Violence as non-communication : the news differential of Kashmir and Northeast conflicts in the Indian national press
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:40 by Prasun Sonwalkar
This thesis seeks to explain the contradiction of ethno-national conflicts in northeast India involving much terrorism and violence not resonating in the New Delhi-based national press. Evidence suggests that the media cover only a third of ongoing global terrorist conflicts even though terrorism and violence have long been privileged in communications research as being irresistibly newsworthy. The case study is located in India, but selectivity is a global phenomenon with only few conflicts receiving sustained media attention: Northern Ireland, Basque separatism, Quebec, Kashmir, Catalonia, or the Middle East the rest are symbolically annihilated. I propose that the sustained coverage of a conflict in the national or international contexts depends on the key variable of the socio-cultural environment in which journalists operate. A conflict is likely to figure regularly in media content only if journalists see it as affecting or involving what they socially and culturally perceive to be the 'we' a similar conflict involving the socio-cultural 'they' may be routinely ignored or extended ad hoc coverage, even if it involves much violence and terrorism. The 'we'-'they' binary, used here as a socio-cultural concept, also connects with political debates about multiculturalism, recognition, citizenship and Orientalism. Located in the discourse of production of news, this study establishes that terrorism and violence as part of a conflict may not guarantee news coverage. Kashmir and northeast conflicts demonstrate several commonalities, but only the Kashmir conflict is routinely selected for sustained and prominent coverage. By mainly interviewing journalists, it is established that the northeast is routinely seen to involve and affect the socio-cultural 'they' hence its systemised low status in the news discourse compared with Kashmir, which is perceived to be located at the core of the 'we'. This news differential also suggests the existence of 'sub-Orients' within the Orient, even Orientalism within the Orient.