New Delhi, August 21 (G’nY News Service): In a country where nothing sells better than cricket, item girls and promises of politicians, talk of sustained interest of the media on disaster mitigation seems a long call. Yet in the midst of this people like Siddharth Varadarajan, who belong to the industry, but are capable of seeing the chinks in the armour. The ephemeralism of today’s news dilutes intentions of serious journalists who wish to propagate issues related to mindset changes. Disaster management alerts are part and parcel of such mindset changes that popular media should address time and again.
To highlight the need of sustained coverage of disasters and their aftermath, a seminar ‘Reporting Disasters: A Southasian Challenge’ was organized by Himal South Asia, in New Delhi on August 19. Accentuating the susceptibility of the South Asian region to natural disasters, chief lecturer, Siddharth Varadarajan said, “As per Himal’s calculation over a quarter of the deaths due to natural disasters in the world occur in Southasia. Over the years, we have witnessed thousands of lives lost to floods, droughts, landslides, cyclones, heat, cold, etc. Despite this, attention on disasters still continues to be fleeting, with the media departing the unfolding tragedy just as rapidly as it descended on it.”
Discussing the economic loss along with the mental, socio-economic, and political influences of a disaster, the senior journalist stressed on the urgency with which both the media and the government should tilt its approach of disaster management for more desirable post disaster recovery. He also outlined the “Five Curses of Disasters” namely, curse of geopolitics, curse of pathetic planning, curse of discrimination, curse of amnesia and curse of impurity that emphasizes on the need of a better analysis of the political, economic and ecological contexts of a disaster so as to equip ourselves to handle every stage efficiently.
Talking about the harrowing association of politics with disasters, Siddharth Varadarajan said, “For me, there can be no other tragic aspect of a disaster than victims of a disaster waking up, amidst their sufferings, to discover the politics and the geopolitics unfolding around them. It is indeed sad how aid agencies jostle for attention as they respond to humanitarian crises.”
The Seminar also unveiled how political association makes media coverage selective resulting in some disasters receiving more media attention than others. “Media coverage is directly proportional to the significance of a said region in the news agenda,” said Varadarajan.
Communication is the most crucial aspect of disaster management and prevention. The role of the media in managing a disaster remains unchallenged as it has the potential to escalate the cooperative responsibility and create an environment of solidarity to promote a better disaster management mechanism. Varadarajan indeed disseminated a noble concern but as to what extent the motivation would prosper remains a question considering the fact that we live in a country where news is more bought than balanced.