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Cheap media TRP games damage our military's fighting morale

By Group Captain Murli Menon (retd)
October 05, 2016 08:58 IST
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'Aspects of escalation control and broad targeting aspects have been discussed by all and sundry.'
'Let us cut the hype for a bit and give a break to our planners and decision makers,' says Group Captain Murli Menon (retd).

If one were to go purely by the media hype, political bickering and divided opinions on publicising the graphic details of the army action, one would be aghast at the small-mindedness of the political class and the immature, uninformed stand of a section of the media.

Let us get one thing straight -- our country has just undertaken a grand strategic shift in our perceived national military objectives and the situation in that sense is 'still live' as indeed stated by Indian Air Force chief and the Chiefs of the Staff Committee chairman, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

Everyone is still expecting a riposte and given the loaded uncertainties, we need to let the professionals in the military and other organs of the State go about fine-tuning their plans and strategies for any unfolding contingency.

It is unfair to expect the military leaders to articulate at this juncture on what exactly happened in the surgical strike or what the immediate future portends operationally.

The advent of 24/7 electronic media and the clamour for sound bytes have made us lose objectivity around matters military; operationally at times like this, tending to cross the line during television or print media debates.

While it is true that some suggestions by retired stalwarts could be useful for the planners and decision makers, it is important that we do not lose our sense of rationality or objectivity and proliferate 'arm chair strategists.'

In the days of yore, the media had specialist 'war correspondents' who not only put themselves in harm's way while reporting from war zones, but were also trained in the nuances of such reportage.

Even now, at CNN or the BBC, we see embedded reporters in NATO operations.

Our defence ministry used to periodically conduct war correspondence courses, which unfortunately has become passe. Now the danger is of everyone having an opinion on every military aspect.

Hence, the need for discretion in articulating details of military operations already executed and of those yet to unfold.

If there is a need to 'manage' the media (much as one understands the media abhors it!) for psy-ops or other strategic requirements, that has to be left to the battle staff who are orchestrating the operations.

The media is a vital instrument for boosting the morale of our troops as well as providing objectively transparent reportage for the citizenry at large. But it ought not to become 'ghostbusters' or those who give the plot away, tactically, operationally or strategically.

Coming back to what the military is capable of doing in the present scenario, whilst the diplomatic offensive is on in full swing, those who understand the ambit of tasking in a democratic establishment would be sensible enough to 'wait and watch,' leaving the analytical bit to the post operative days and weeks.

Of course, some doctrinal issues could be discussed in the media all right, but with utmost caution and discretion as argued earlier.

We still do not have the luxury of predicting how the next few military developments would play out in the ongoing standoff.

Aspects of escalation control and broad targeting aspects have been discussed by all and sundry already. Let us, therefore, cut the hype for a bit and give a break to our planners and decision makers.

Let them have the benefit of briefing the media in the manner and timing of their choice. After all, it is they who would face the bouquets or the brickbats once the situation plays out!

So let us learn to act our size and not indulge in cheap media TRP exercises that are detrimental to our military's fighting morale and worse still compromising national security.

IMAGE: Soldiers patrol the Line of Control in the Pallanwal sector. Photograph: PTI Photo

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Group Captain Murli Menon (retd)
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