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Friday, June 7, 2024

How Foreign Media Can Influence India’s Security Narrative

In an era where information travels faster than ever, the role of media in shaping national security perceptions cannot be understated. Indian media, in particular, operates in a dynamic environment where it is both influenced by and reliant on foreign media sources to inform its coverage of security-related issues. The interdependence between Indian media and its foreign counterparts plays a critical role in how security threats, policy decisions, and international relations are presented to the Indian public. The influence of foreign media on Indian news outlets is multifaceted. It includes the direct dissemination of information from global news agencies, the integration of international perspectives and the adoption of narrative frameworks that are prevalent in major global publications. This reliance is often due to the extensive resources and global reach of foreign media organizations, which can provide real-time updates and in-depth analyses that are sometimes beyond the reach of domestic media houses.

Moreover, the way security-related news is framed and reported in Indian media can significantly impact public perception and government policy. For instance, narratives around terrorism, border conflicts, cyber threats and diplomatic tensions are frequently shaped by the initial reporting from influential foreign media. This reporting can set the tone and provide the context within which Indian media then crafts its stories. Additionally, the global nature of security threats means that Indian media cannot operate in isolation. Issues such as cross-border terrorism, international cyber-attacks and geopolitical power struggles are inherently international, necessitating a broader perspective that foreign media can help provide. This symbiotic relationship, however, also brings challenges, such as the risk of bias and the potential for external influences to sway public opinion and policy decisions.

This intricate relationship between Indian and foreign media is pivotal in shaping the national security discourse in India. Understanding this interplay is crucial for appreciating how security issues are communicated to the public and how these communications, in turn, influence national security policies and perceptions. Following here are some major roles of foreign media concerning Indian media

The Role of Foreign Media as an Information Source:
It can be witnessed that many regional media outlets rely on foreign sources for timely updates on International and regional events. It is natural to have an integration of the news reporting mediums to have this bridge for international affairs-related events. However, when a few media outlets rely more upon foreign sources without checks and balances about the event then it might lead to the formation of a “foreign-influenced” narrative.

The reliance on foreign media during the Galwan Valley clash by a considerable number of Indian media outlets highlights several key aspects. Firstly, it underscored the challenge of real-time reporting in remote and militarily sensitive regions. International news agencies often have the logistical capabilities and global reach to gather and disseminate information quickly, something that local media might struggle with in such high-stakes scenarios. Secondly, this reliance also pointed to the credibility and perceived impartiality of established international media. Outlets like BBC and Reuters are often viewed as authoritative sources, and their reporting can lend additional credibility to the stories covered by Indian media. This becomes crucial in times of conflict when misinformation and propaganda can cloud the true picture.

Framing and Narrative Influence:
Many times, foreign media can shape the narrative around national security issues. Reporting by foreign media sources can be influenced by the political and cultural contexts in which they operate. Few of the Indian media outlets face the risk of absorbing these prejudices when they primarily rely on these sources. This can distort the public narrative and attitudes toward the situation and twist understanding in ways that might not be consistent with local reality or perspectives. It can be witnessed in the narrative surrounding terrorism where few Indian mass media channels often take cues from the international media. For instance, during the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the global media’s framing of the events as part of a broader terror network influenced Indian media coverage, subsequently affecting public perception and policy responses.

Technological and Professional Standards:
With the increasing media consumption in this digital era, investigative journalism techniques have also evolved for both – foreign and Indian media outlets. The coverage of the Pulwama attack in 2019 saw Indian media employ advanced verification methods and ethical reporting standards with similar adoptions by global practices.

The influence on Indian media further affects the Indian mindset, i.e., the general public. In an age of globalization, the flow of information transcends borders, influencing perceptions and shaping narratives worldwide. In India, the role of foreign media has been particularly significant in moulding public opinion and perspectives on national security issues.

Setting the Narrative: The Power of Foreign Media
Foreign media outlets like BBC, CNN and The New York Times are renowned for their extensive reach and swift reporting. Their narratives often set the tone for how events are perceived globally, including in India. These media giants have the resources to report on international incidents rapidly, providing a perspective that local media often echoes. Foreign media can carry propaganda of their own governments, particularly in times of conflict. Few Indian media outlets may get under the pressure of swift reporting or viewership goals and unintentionally propagate false information or biased narratives, inciting tensions or misleading the audience.

Example: During the 2019 Pulwama attack, international media coverage was pivotal in shaping the global narrative. Reports from BBC and CNN highlighted the attack’s severity and the subsequent military actions by India and Pakistan. Indian media frequently referenced these reports, which influenced public perception and the overall discourse on national security.

Framing National Security: Biases and Perspectives
It is an undeniable fact that often foreign media outlets carry inherent biases based on their home country’s geopolitical interests and shape the narratives accordingly. These biases can seep into Indian media coverage, affecting how issues are framed and understood by the Indian public.

Example: The portrayal of the Kashmir conflict varies significantly between Western and Indian media. Western outlets like The Guardian and Al Jazeera often emphasize human rights issues and advocate for a more nuanced approach, while Indian media may focus on security and sovereignty issues as it is related to the security and constitutional matters for India. This disparity can create a dichotomy in public opinion, swaying segments of the Indian populace towards more internationalized viewpoints.

Soft Power and Diplomatic Influence
Countries with influential media outlets use them to project soft power, shaping foreign public opinion and later forming a public narrative in a foreign country to align with their strategic interests. This form of media diplomacy can impact India’s national security policy and public sentiment towards other nations.

Example: The U.S. media’s reports of China as a growing threat have influenced Indian perceptions, especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific strategy. Reports from The New York Times and The Washington Post on China’s military expansion and Belt and Road Initiative have contributed to a heightened sense of vigilance and strategic countermeasures in India.

Technological Adoption and Professional Standards
The technological prowess and professional standards of foreign media often set benchmarks for Indian media. This influence can enhance the quality of reporting but also bring in foreign perspectives that may not fully align with local contexts.

Example: The adoption of satellite imagery and advanced data analytics in reporting, as seen in the coverage of the Doklam standoff, was initially driven by foreign media. Indian outlets like NDTV and The Times of India soon followed suit, providing detailed and visually compelling reports that shaped public understanding of the border tensions.

Reports and Studies: The Extent of Influence
Several studies and reports have highlighted the significant influence of foreign media on Indian public opinion and national security perspectives. For instance, a 2018 study by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) found that 60% of Indian respondents frequently accessed foreign media for international news. The study highlighted that this reliance on international outlets often led to the adoption of foreign-framed narratives on critical issues like terrorism and border security. Another report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in 2020 noted that Indian media’s coverage of global issues is heavily influenced by Western news agencies. This dependency was seen in the reporting on the global pandemic, where the narratives around the origin and impact of COVID-19 were largely shaped by Western media outlets.

Challenges and Risks: Navigating Misinformation
While foreign media provide valuable insights, there’s a risk of misinformation and propaganda, which can mislead the public and policymakers. Over-reliance on these sources can compromise the quality and accuracy of information related to national security. For example, during the Balakot airstrike in 2019, varying reports from Pakistani and Western media created confusion and conflicting narratives. Indian media had to navigate through these discrepancies, highlighting the need for robust independent reporting to counter potential misinformation.

Conclusion: Striking a Balance
The influence of foreign media on Indian national security perspectives is undeniable. While these outlets offer valuable information and global viewpoints, it is crucial for Indian media to critically assess and verify these sources to ensure credible, accountable and balanced events reporting. This careful navigation will help keep the public informed while also safeguarding the national interests. Call to Action: As consumers of news, it is imperative to critically evaluate the sources of our information and support independent journalism that prioritizes accuracy and integrity. At the end of the day, it is pivotal to have responsible and credible delivery of news that shapes the public narratives.

Authored By:
Aabha Chauhan
B.A. in Defence and Strategic Studies
Rashtriya Raksha University
Red lantern Analytica Intern

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