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Bridging the digital divide

The media in Manipur must consider its obligation to satisfy the general curiosity of those who are still ignorant of the intricacies and complexities of the indigenous people of the Northeast and the state. This can be done by bringing in the light of information to the digital sphere.

ByArambam Luther

Updated 24 Jun 2022, 6:44 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)
(Representational Image: Unsplash)

 

During the three-day orientation programme for the newly elected members of the legislative assembly of Manipur that was held in New Delhi on June 6, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla reminded our representatives that “the north-eastern state of Manipur is the doorway to the Southeast and is also of a crucial part of India's Act East policy.” His statement reflected the announcement made earlier by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Manipur’s key role in implementing the said policy during his address on the 50th Statehood Day of Manipur this year.

Accordingly, the push to connect India’s Northeast to Southeast Asia has gained quite a momentum. Efforts to make Manipur a tourist hotspot were also shown in the scale of how the Shirui Lily Festival was promoted and organised this time. Against this backdrop, many have shown concerns on the possible adverse effects of this policy towards the indigenous population, demography and the environment of Manipur. Besides these concerns, a greater threat of misinformation and misrepresentation looms large and this needs serious consideration as the border state draws more curiosity and attention from the rest of the country and the world.

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As there is always a hunger for information online, the rest of the state media need to bring the debates and disseminate information more on the virtual environment for the wider audiences. Staying aloof and remaining confined to a smaller reach of content consumers inside this marginalised border state will cost us dearly in the long run. The matter is not about making business and sales but it concerns the culture, identity of the people and their future. Our prominent historians, critics, thinkers, intellectuals, experts and fact checkers need to be provided better and decent digital platforms where misinformation can be efficiently tackled through debates and discussion to paint an accurate picture of the truth and facts.

Unless we are armed with facts, we are bound to constantly fall into the pitfalls of misrepresentation and even discrimination. In November 2021, a TV host of a reality show in Colors TV apologised for his alleged racist comments on a young Assamese contestant after the Assam chief minister condemned it on Twitter. This year, a Punjab YouTuber was arrested for using racist remarks against the people of Arunachal Pradesh. Although actions were taken, the strong opinions and attitudes created on a large scale by such social media personalities and influencers can have far-reaching effect. Herein lies the threat of misinformation or sheer ignorance;  in an unwanted scenario, a YouTuber from outside the state with 7-8 million subscribers can do severe damage with an ill researched video of Northeast or the state of Manipur.

Although our local politicians and police can do their part in such a situation, the media here must consider its obligation to satisfy the general curiosity of those who are still ignorant of the intricacies and complexities of the indigenous people of the Northeast and the state. This can be done by bringing in the light of information to the digital sphere.        

The people of the state and the region in large also need to bring the critical issues to virtual reality. Northeast and our issues being ignored by the mainstream media are not new. But we need to question when was the last time a hashtag related to Northeast or Manipur got trending on Twitter. Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which represents 6,00,000 journalists across the world, announced that “Twitter is an extension of journalists’ offices.”  This appears to be true as even the editors and journalists of our big ‘mainstream media’ houses in the country keep track or respond to the issues trending on Twitter and other social media platforms as well.

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Therefore, people in the state need to embrace some amount of hashtag activism. The question here is, if it takes merely around 2,000 tweets to make a hashtag trending and highlight an important issue to the rest of the social media users in the country and the world, why aren’t we tweeting then?

To make the voices from the margins grow louder, those protesting out in the streets for education, human rights, environment or even issues concerning our territorial boundary need to be armed with hashtags beside the usual placards and slogans. Our media also needs to come to the fore and get involved in the play of information in the data market and join the ongoing activity in the web of virtual reality. The stakes are high and the digital divide must be bridged at all costs.

   

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Tags:

digital mediavirtual relaitydigital dividenew media

Arambam Luther

Arambam Luther

Senior Sub-Editor, Imphal Free Press

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