Impact of Media in Shaping Perceptions and Policies



The Information Age has seen a transformation in the nature of war. The emerging trend is towards low intensity conflicts and proxy war waged between states and non-state actors. Information Warfare, Information Operations and Psychological Operations have come to dominate the battle space. Besides military dominance, warring sides aim to create positive perception to gain international support and public acceptance towards their strategic goals. The media, including print, radio, television and internet has become a preferred channel to this end. History is studded with a number of instances where media was effectively utilized to shape perceptions and influence the will of allies as well as adversaries. Right from the Boer War, World Wars One and Two, the Vietnam War and the various Gulf conflicts, the victors have successfully conducted intensive campaigns to create and sustain a favorable narrative. The United States of America, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq embedded journalists with its frontline forces. As a consequence, the global audience was exposed to a new intensity and immediacy of combat never before experienced. The massive information overload thus produced almost entirely favored the United States and its Coalition allies. Despite criticism for indiscriminate and subjective broadcasting of violence without context or commentary, the embedded journalists garnered the bulk of global attention and were faithful purveyors of the Coalition narrative.

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In the Indian context, the war of 1971 was an example where media, including international war correspondents, accompanied the forces advancing in the East. There was no attempt made to either hinder or influence their reporting. At present, the Indian Army is faced with a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir where both the adversary state and its non-state proxies contest the nation in the military, political as well as the information domain. The violent actions of terrorist groups are complemented by a massive media offensive. The aim is to influence perceptions of the domestic audience and the global community. Then Chief of Army Staff, General B C Joshi, had referred to the media as a Force Multiplier while giving out guidelines to the Army deployed in proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir in 1994.[1] Until Kargil, the thrust of Army – Media interaction was to highlight the Army’s role in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, focus on sports, jubilee celebrations and to avoid media glare during operations. However, the 1999 Kargil conflict was a watershed in wartime reporting. Until then, media was viewed as a meddlesome diversion at best and a threat to Operational Security at worst. During the conflict, the Indian Army realized the potential of the media to gain an Information Warfare advantage over the adversary. In view of this experience, and in line with the report of the Kargil Review Committee report, the Army changed its media policy. It is perhaps time to take a cue from the United States of America and explore the feasibility of embedding journalists with troops engaged in fighting the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. At first glance, the concept seems impractical and pointless; however, a strong case may exist in its favor.


Statement of the Problem

The impact of media in shaping perceptions and influencing policies needs no further evidence. However, the Information Warfare advantage that may be gained by the Indian Army in the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir from embedded journalists has not been studied in detail. With a visible slant in media against the prolonged military campaign in general and the Armed Forces Special powers Act in particular, there is a need to analyze the likely results of embedded journalists. Is the experience of Coalition forces in the Global War On Terrorism relevant to the Indian context? Is there a need to modify the concept of media interaction accordingly? Will the outcome justify the risks?


Embedding journalists with troops engaged in proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir will present an Information Warfare advantage to the Indian Army.

Justification of the Study

At present, the Indian Army is alive to the reality of conducting operations in the full glare of the media. However, there is little enthusiasm among the majority of the rank and file towards media interaction. The anti-establishment tone of the vernacular media has fostered a sense of passive hostility towards all media in general. The possibility of embedded journalists revealing classified information and indulging in sensationalizing sensitive issues has also influenced the leadership to restrict the scope of media interaction in proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.


The scope of the study being vast, the paper concentrates on the possible implications of embedding journalists with troops engaged in proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. The paper highlights the need to increase media interaction and brings out the advantages of ensuring broadcast of a favorable narrative across all forms of media. It also aims to support the hypothesis with research on similar initiatives elsewhere in time and space.

Operational Definitions

The special terms used in this dissertation are defined below :-

(a) Information Warfare.[2] The offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy an adversary’s information, information based processes, information systems, and computer based networks while protecting one’s own. Such actions are designed to achieve advantages over military or political adversaries.

(b) Information Operations.[3] The integrated employment of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making, while protecting our own.

(c) Psychological Operations.[4] Efforts to convey selected truthful information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately, the behavior of their governments, organizations, groups and individuals.

Methods of Data Collection

The sources of reference are :-

(a) Books from Defence Services Staff College library.

(b) Articles from newspapers, magazines and journals.

(c) Articles from the Internet.

(d) Interactions with serving and retired Army officers, journalists and bureaucrats.

Organization of the Dissertation

It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner :-

(a) Chapter I. Introduction and Methodology.

(b) Chapter II. Historical Background of Army – Media Relationship. This chapter covers the origin of modern combat journalism and the rise in the influence of media in conflicts.

(c) Chapter III. Information Operations and Media. This chapter highlights the utilization of media for perception shaping and conducting successful Information Operations. A special case is made of the Kargil conflict, 1993.

(d) Chapter IV. Embedded Journalists in the Global War On Terror. This chapter looks at the Coalition experience of embedded journalism to draw relevant lessons for the Indian context.

(e) Chapter V. Suggested Contours of Media Interaction. This chapter draws a theoretical model for embedded journalism in Jammu and Kashmir, to meet the requirements of the Indian Army.

(f) Chapter VI. Advantages from Embedded Journalists in Jammu and. This chapter relates the relevance of embedded media in fighting proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.

(g) Chapter VII. Conclusion. The conclusion will knit together the relevant aspects of all chapters to summarize the research and point the way ahead. The final statement of the hypothesis will be made in light of the evidence studied. While the paper will be ended, there will pointers to further research included, given the vast scope of the subject.

[1] Chakraborty, A K Information War : Challenges In The Twentyfirst Century. Noida; Trishul, 2003, p.15.

[2] Forest, James J.F.,ed. Influence Warfare : How Terrorists And Governments Fight To Shape Perceptions In A War Of Ideas. New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2010, p.10.

[3] ibidem

[4] ibidem



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