SRINAGAR: Director Information and Public Relations Department, Dr. Syed Sehrish Asgar on Wednesday urged the government officers to share relevant information about any incident promptly with the media persons so that they don’t have to rely on information which may not be accurate.
Dr Sehrish was speaking at a webinar on “Media for Disaster Risk Reduction” which was jointly organised by National Institute of Disaster Management and Institution of Engineers (India) J&K State Centre, Srinagar in collaboration with Information Deptt, Kashmir Editors Guild, Kashmir Press Club and J&K State Emergency Operation Centre, Srinagar.
Dr Sehrish said media is the most effective link between the Public and the Administration, and Information Department is the link between Government and Media. She said that coordination mechanism with media needs to be further strengthened, in order to ensure that media has timely access to disaster related data, otherwise it can lead to publishing of unverified and speculative reports. She implored the concerned officers that they should share relevant information about each incident promptly, otherwise reporters have to rely on information which may not be accurate.
She said that the Information Department has always been forthcoming to ensure that media is provided timely updates and mentioned about COVID-19 bulletin. She appreciated that the media has brought about a positive change in the mindset of the general public from post‐disaster relief, towards pre‐disaster and mitigation initiatives and provided access to informative and specialised training programmes to enhance coping capacities. She said that communication has to be ensured not only with the public broadcasters but also with the private media channels.
She said that a mechanism of self-regulation can be evolved by the media-houses to ensure a balance of reality and credibility particularly in issues of sensational, sensitive and strategic news items, in order to curb rumor mongering, which could otherwise have negative effects. She said that print, electronic and social media add value and credence when they carry the public awareness messages that too alongwith entertainment and public is more receptive towards the messages. She spoke about the tele-classes and covid awareness programme, Sukoon, started by the Information department. She urged the media to project stories of positivity and hope.
Speaking on the occasion, Er. Aamir Ali, Chairman IEI JKSC and Nodal Officer SEOC said that media plays a very important role in every stage of disaster i.e. Pre, During and Post-Disaster. He said that the media has created tremendous public awareness and disseminated early warnings, especially for floods, windstorms, avalanche and adverse weather warnings. Media has not only made the public aware of the hazards and risks that they are vulnerable to, but has also enhanced their capacities to deal with any disaster situation so that they act promptly on early warnings.
He appreciated that the media has brought about a positive change in the mindset of the general public from post‐disaster relief, towards pre‐disaster and mitigation initiatives and provided access to informative and specialised training programmes to enhance coping capacities. He said that there are numerous instances when early warning information provided by print and electronic media has helped save precious lives and there are a few examples where either the warnings were not carried by the media or were ignored by the public, which resulted in heavy losses.
He appreciated Radio Kashmir Srinagar for playing a vital role in connecting people, who had got separated from each other, during the floods of 2014, when there was no other means of communication. He said that the media has on many occasions helped increase the visibility of a disaster situation, which has helped trigger National and sometimes even International support in terms of aid and donations for response, as was the case during the Earthquake of 2005.
He appreciated that print and electronic media have the most pivotal role, but said that social media too has emerged as a new information sharing platform which has potential to create an impact on the society and suppress a panic situation and rumors. He urged that journalism ethics should be strictly followed, especially during disaster reporting, as sometimes, in the desire for TRPs and sensationalizing, basic ethics of journalism are overlooked and in the event of any disaster, the survivors and the grief stricken people deserve privacy and media is expected to give humanity precedence, over professional urgency.
He suggested that since media personnel are amongst the first responders in any disaster or emergency situation, therefore there is a dire need to train them in disaster response and basic life-saving skills, for which the training will start soon. He urged that coordination mechanisms of Disaster Management Authorities with the print, electronic and even social media should be strengthened, in order to ensure that media has timely access to disaster related data, otherwise it can lead to publishing of unverified and speculative reports. He hoped that the deliberations and experience sharing by the panelists, would open up a new chapter of ensuring effective coordination mechanism, and would also pave way to set-up a Disaster Risk Reduction Platform at State, Divisional and District Level, which would not only have experts and professions as Members, but should necessarily include representatives from the media fraternity.
Dr Amir Ali Khan, Faculty NIDM said that the media has always been proactive even in the most difficult and trying situations like disaster events or even extreme cold situations and has always helped in creating awareness about Disaster Risk Reduction. He said that Media has been propagating best practices and lessons learnt from across the Globe and helped in highlighting and identifying core needs of the community. He said that its equally essential for the media to highlight the positive stories like post disaster reconstruction work by the administration as well as by non-governmental organisations as well as the public, so that achievements are also given due credit.
Qazi Salman, Deputy Director (News) Doordarshan said that capacity to communicate has increased tremendously but effectiveness has decreased. He suggested that ineffectiveness of communication needs to be redressed and the impediment need to be addressed on an urgent basis. He stated credibility of news is essential to ensure legitimacy in communication. He highlighted the role of Doordarshan as a public broadcaster and how early warnings are being disseminated by them.
Satish Vimal from All India Radio Srinagar said that Radio has a very important role as its outreach is far greater than any other form of media and that they have always fulfilled their duties as the link between people and administration at time of disasters or for early warnings. He urged that coordination of agencies is essential in the pre-disaster stage so that they will be effective at the time of any disaster or emergency situation. He suggested that the Government should continue to word hand-in-hand with the Radio for proper dissemination of information to the masses and to ensure effective communication.
Er M. Aaquib Sultana Waheed Deva, Honorary Secretary IEI JKSC moderated the webinar. Masood Hussain, Secretary General, Kashmir Editors Guild said that the media helps in identifying the core needs of the community before, during and after any disaster, because its reporters are available at the grass root level for coverage of the events. He spoke about various disasters where the media played a positive role in ensuring that basic needs of the people are highlighted. He stressed on the need that community participation is essential and that media can help ensure last mile connectivity. He stressed on the need to ensure that media is strengthened and stressed on evolving media credibility. He said that positive criticism by the media helps the administration improve its services.
Shuja-ul-Haq, President Kashmir Press Club Srinagar stressed on strengthening the coordination mechanism between the media and Government, particularly the Disaster Management Authorities. He said that the key element is the right information at the right time. He suggested that it is important to partner with Media for ensuring effective dissemination of information. He appreciated the organisers for initiating a thought provoking process by organising this webinar which would be most effective in a post disaster situation if the coordination mechanism is established in advance.
Sardar Nasir Ali Khan, from FM Radio Channels said that since communication gets disrupted during disasters, emphasis should be given on ensuring ways and means for catering to the needs of people in the urban and rural areas, where there is least connectivity. He suggested that mobile van stations should be inducted, so that communication and information disseminations can be ensured even if disaster strikes. He suggested that there is a dire need of establishing Community Radio Stations.
Majid Hyderi, Freelance Journalist and Analyst, spoke about the benefits of utilizing social media as a medium of dissemination of immediate information to the public and gave examples of how it has been used across the Globe. He however suggested that there is need to ensure a regulation mechanism for social media to curb chaos and rumor mongering.
Miss Yogita Garbyal, Young Professional from NIDM, Bilquees Dar Consultant Disaster Management and Ishfaq Ahmed Dar from IEI JKSC facilitated the webinar. The participants included media fraternity, experts, professionals, Council and Corporate Members of IEI and general public. The webinar was launched on CISCO Webex Platform and was also live on YouTube and Facebook.
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