Get the military a media plan The worldâ€™s fourth most powerful military worries that negative media coverage is eroding its image. For decades after 1947, even through the humiliating rout by the Chinese in 1962, Indiaâ€™s press placed the military on a pedestal. Foreign correspondents who rode into Dhaka with the Indian military in 1971 described our jawans fondly, even admiringly. This is no longer so. Now everyone is fair game for a brash, iconoclastic new breed of journalists and news organisations that operate in real time on digital media platforms. This is evident from the on-going feeding frenzy around one of the mediaâ€™s own --- a newsmagazine editor who faces accusations of rape. The military community, both serving and retired, finds it hard to deal with this new environment. In forum after forum where I meet the military, officers bitterly criticise what they call an anti-national media and an ungrateful nation. They point to numerous poorly sourced news articles critical of the military to dismiss even legitimate criticism. Critics of the military reject this prickliness with the jibe that the services are stuck in a time warp and must understand that they too are subject to scrutiny. But that would be short sighted because self-esteem is a crucial driver that induces soldiers, sailors and airmen to function in professional situations where death is a real possibility. If militaries were compensated monetarily for the risks they encounter, employee costs would be unaffordable. The respect that a military is accorded, therefore, should be viewed as cost-free remuneration that drives soldiers to do what they do. One winter morning in the early 1980s, I was a young lieutenant motorcycling down from Ferozepur to Delhi for a weekend of leave. With my shiny new Yezdi (yes, there was once a mobike called that!) stalled by a tyre puncture, I was admiring the mustard crop in the fields around me when a passing farmer saw my uniform and stopped his tractor. He loaded my Yezdi on his trailer and took me to a tyre repair shop in Moga, the nearest town, waving aside my offer to pay him. The tyre-shop owner peremptorily told his other customers to wait, fetched me a steaming glass of milk, repaired my tyre and had me back on the road in 20 minutes. There was no question of payment --- it was only a puncture, he said. This public regard kept us functioning as soldiers, not the princely Rs 790/- that I was drawing each month. The truth is that the military knows very little about the world of journalism and has no plan in place to learn more. It has no filters to distinguish one news report from another --- credible from amateurish, one that needs rebuttal from one that should be ignored. Instead of a careful evaluation of reportage, what comes to the fore is an unstoppable urge --- rooted perhaps in military training --- to respond, and respond now. Even as officers respond to a news report with reflexive denials and inadequately crosschecked â€œfactsâ€, the digitisation of the communications space permits others inside the organisation to pass on contradictory narratives. A senior television journalist who specialises in this tit-for-tat says that 70 per cent of the calls that he receives contradicting army statements come from the rank and file, not from officers. Nor does the army know when to be silent. In the recent intrusions in Keran, J&K, top generals appeared repeatedly before the media, promising a swift end to the operations. With no end in sight the conspiracy theories began, terming the intrusion â€œanother Kargilâ€. Why did the army set deadlines when a simple statement could have sufficed --- that the army has the situation under control and would brief the media when operations were concluded? This readiness to comment on on-going operations is matched by an inexplicable need to cloak administrative matters in secrecy. Instead of letting journalists file â€œexclusivesâ€ and â€œexposesâ€ on issues like rape by military men, there must be a website where administrative statistics are freely available? The generals seem unwilling to admit that 1.6 million soldiers, sailors and airmen represent a slice of society that will reflect the trends and ailments of the broader society they are drawn from. With survey after survey underlining that the military remains Indiaâ€™s most respected organisation in the eyes of the public, the generals must have the confidence to step back and unhurriedly prepare a media plan. In 2003-04, the army set up a new department to interface with the media --- the Army Liaison Cell. The ALC must now be manned by specialists, officers who have worked as journalists, who can conduct daily briefings, put mistakes and even debacles in perspective, and release harmless information that continues to be treated as secret. Source : Broadsword ====================== ====================== ====================== ====================== @Ray Sir & @Decklander Sir .. Your Views Please ..