The era of asymmetric threats has altered contemporary warfare. The strategic use of terrorism has thickened the fog of war, by reducing prospects of definitive identification of the perpetrator. Moreover, the diffusion of the media — thanks to the rampant rise of social media — has democratised story-telling. This has led to the elevation of conflict narratives as a key component of socio-political rifts. Amid the information onslaught, the role of the Fourth Estate in its multiple forms, too, has come under increasing scrutiny. Today, journalists have to ground their reportage in undisputable facts against charges of ‘Fake News’, while overcoming challenges in the form of attacks, harassment and cyber bullying, even government restrictions.
The recent turmoil in the West Asia and South Asia has showcased the untoward potentialities of ‘fake news’ in conflict narratives. This stands exacerbated in the context of India, which, besides dealing with insurgency as well as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, frequently witnesses elections at various levels of the federal government each year. This has rendered the importance of narratives to be central to the outcomes of conflict as well as campaigns.
The need for reinventing conflict narratives in the 21st century is particularly relevant for two vibrant democracies — Israel and India, that have often been experiencing asymmetric conflicts. How can states reconfigure their credibility in the age of ‘fake news’? How can governments regulate social media platforms in times of conflict, while still upholding democratic ideals and the freedom of the press — and by extension, protection of journalists? And lastly, in the states’ quest for devising strategic communication, is a government-media partnership undemocratic after-all?
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