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Role Of Ispr In Media Handling Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5406 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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1. Media is a social barometer indicating psychology, interests, morals, and ethos prevalent amongst the general masses in a society. There can’t be any denying to the pivotal status that media enjoys towards opinion forming under contemporary global environment. Free, fair and objective media can make people think and generate an atmosphere of openness. On the other hand, the distinction between facts and assumptions, rumours and realities can easily get blurred once media is bent onto twisting these. Media, considered as fourth pillar of state has added a new dimension to the warfare. Conflicts in future are likely to be decided in the dimension of information warfare well before they actually take place on ground. In the national security matrix, media is to act as our first line of defence both during peace and war, protecting national interests.

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2. Due to important events in the region and rest of the world in the recent past, Pakistan and its Armed Forces are in sharp focus of the national and international media. It is not only the external actors and visible military threat, but also certain groups within the country who are over stretching the notion of freedom of speech and negatively affecting the minds of the people. The Armed Forces of Pakistan, arguably the centre of gravity of country’s integration and sovereignty cannot afford to allow hostile media campaigns to go unchecked. This necessitates a need to adopt carefully planned and well executed policy measures to counter such activities. ISPR under such environment will have to adopt a more dynamic and forthcoming approach in order to effectively present a very balanced and moderate image of Armed forces having singular aim .i.e Pakistan’s well being. A coherent, mature and responsible military-media relationship will be the key in this context requiring an extraordinary relationship of military with Pakistani as well as international media towards attainment of national security objectives.


3. To carry out a reappraisal on role of ISPR towards handling of national media in the prevalent security environment with a view to recommend measures to integrate both for larger national security interests.


4. The study has been divided into following chapters:-

a. Chapter I. Evolution of media in Pakistan and its role.

b. Chapter II. ISPR and its Integration with National Media.

c. Chapter III. Analysis.

d. Chapter IV. Conclusions on Role of ISPR and Recommendations.



5. Evolution of Pakistani Media. At the time of independence print media [1] was the major source for spreading information. With the evolution of technology electronic media [2] exponentially took over the source of accessing information. Traditionally, media has remained under tight control of many governments and has been acting as ‘His Master’s Voice’. With the revolution in information technology and availability of many options especially in terms of electronic media, it has now become difficult for government/ regimes to hide information from masses. Relative freedom of media in Pakistan is a new phenomenon and all the stakeholders are trying to adjust to the same.

6. Media-Mil Relationship in Pakistan. Media has been playing its role during different military conflicts of Pakistan with varied proportions. Where the role of media in earlier years of Pakistan remained sluggish especially during 1947 war [3] , it picked up during wars of 1965 [4] and 1971 [5] . In the Kargil Operation, Pakistan Government alongwith media remained confused [6] and could not launch an adequate counter attack on indian media. On similar lines, media response in Operations Other Than War (OOTW) [7] has also seen a lot of transformation. Present day media, mostly dealing with OOTW can be termed as much more alert and vibrant which needs to be harnessed carefully in sphere of military media relations for ultimate success of Armed Forces. A brief account of media’s role in recent years especially related to OOTW is given below:-

a. Operation AI-Mizan. A well-organized and efficient media plan was crafted and executed. Media analysts and correspondents were taken to the actual areas of operations and briefings were organised by Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR Dte). Media thus played an important role in projecting the legitimacy for use of force.

b. Balochistan Situation – 2006. With advent of a new wave of progress in Balochistan, law and order situation was created by the local Tribal leaders in few districts. Media could have played a decisive role in shaping the perceptions of the local Baloch population. Presently, media is working on a theme for local population, ie ‘In Pakistan’s progress lays the progress of Balochistan. All those carrying out anti-national activities must be segregated’.

c. Lal Masjid Crisis. The stance of media on the Lal Masjid issue remained very contentious. Initially, media presented the occupants/ extremists as miscreants. However, with the passage of time and especially after military’s action, public perception changed and same people were presented on media as heroes. Issue was exploited by media and despite provision of some actual facts by the Government; public never trusted the Government controlled media.

d. Mumbai Attacks. Indian media created war hysteria and was mainly responsible for providing fillip to the existing tension. Pakistani media while countering Indian propaganda, showed restraint and did not sensitise the issue beyond proportion.

7. Emergence of Media as an Element of National Power and a Sociological Force. Media was commonly treated as an entertainment tool in Pakistan. Its major use was to project the views of the government. In order to lay fundamentals for media certain legislations and policies [8] were developed/ devised under different leadership throughout the history.

7. Organization of Pakistani Media. Annex A.

8. Roles and Objectives of Pakistan Media Policy. [9] Pakistan has not approved media policy for the utilization of media. The draft media policy as laid down by the Ministry of Information in 1972 had three major components:-

a. National issues need to be presented to the media and a national consensus forged.

b. The Government to present its case in the best possible manner without interfering with the freedom of press and expression.

c. The Government’s own specific policies, news, views and personalities of its leaders should also be projected [10] .

9. The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Act 1972. Annex B.

10. Government’s Efforts to Enhance Media Efficiency. Annex C.

11. Attitude of Pakistani Media towards Prevailing Security Environment. Private media in Pakistan gave extensive coverage to all significant events related to GWOT that took place in various parts of the country. Media initially remained against army operations in FATA and did not support the view point of military and criticized the role of ISPR. However, with the passage of time and unfolding of miscreants design, army’s role started becoming justified. With the onset of crisis in Swat, a major operation with the name Rah-e-Rast was planned. The media was taken on board by the government as well as ISPR and gave access to selected areas was given to cover the progress of operation. Media channels paid tribute to Shuhadas for their sacrifices for the country. Following conclusions are drawn from the media’s role during LIC Operations:-

a. While playing its role of providing maximum coverage, media indirectly assists the terrorists in achievement of their goals by:-

(1) Giving maximum coverage to the terrorists’ acts.

(2) Projecting the terrorists’ cause as the just one by humanising them rather than condemning them.

(3) Justifying their atrocities projecting them the victims of some form of oppression.

b. Media also assists the victims of terrorist acts through:-

(1) Showing their sufferings and projecting that the victim is innocent.

(2) Showing the brutality of the act in a manner so as not to glorify the terrorist but their inhuman behaviour.

Projecting the true religious connotation of the terrorist act of condemning it from all angles, may these be religious, human or social.

Showing long term sufferings of the victims and help develop an opinion so that the issue / root cause is resolved.

c. Media can assist the government in countering terrorism by:-

(1) Understanding government’s point of view on the causes of terrorism and exposing the nefarious agenda of the terrorists.

Understanding its responsibilities towards the national security and screen out the reports that are at cross purpose with national interests.

Mature reporting of an act of terror, so as not to transmit the awe and shock that the terrorists want, hence defeat them in their design.

Expose the terrorist network and bring awareness in the general public emphasising on the society’s role in fighting terrorism.

(5) Forewarn and educate about future agendas of the terrorists and prepare public so as to minimise damages.



12. Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR Dte). Public relations requirements of the Armed Forces are looked after by the ISPR Dte. The Dte is staffed with military and civilian officers who are generally trained in the field of journalism. The ISPR Headquarters functions under the supervision of a Director General of rank of Major General. It forms part of Joint Staff Headquarters. The ISPR branch offices at General Headquarters, Naval Headquarters and Air Headquarters functions with administrative support from the respective services, whereas, other sub-offices work under the supervision of ISPR Headquarters.

13. Outline Organisation – ISPR Dte. Annex D.

14. Policy Parameters for Media Management by ISPR.

Act as defence force’s mouth-piece.

Keep the public informed of the activities of defence services, their scope and importance, within parameters of security.

Forestall leakage of any damaging information to the news media

Administer press censorship and provide war correspondents in times of war.

Maintain close liaison with official/ private news media and government information agencies for exchange of information.

Arrange visits of media representatives to exercises, demonstrations, parades and theatres of operations.

Highlight nation-building activities of armed forces.

Publish pamphlets for distribution within the country and abroad for projection of the Armed Forces. In addition, it also acts as a distribution agent of Government publicity material among forces to keep them informed about national policy.

With the assistance of Pakistan Television, Department of Films and Publications and through its own resources, ISPR Dte makes documentary films of Armed Forces activities for screening on television and in cinemas within the country and abroad.

15. Role. To act as a bridge between Armed Forces and public and to make public understand that Armed Forces are their extension, also perform as mouth piece for Armed Forces.

16. Functions [11] 

a. Project positive image of Armed Forces to garner National Support in their favour.

b. Formulate media policy and evolve Psychological War plans in support of own military strategy.

c. Safeguard negative influences on the Armed Forces and assist in strengthening their resolve to meet different contingencies in peace and war.

d. Monitor mass media and discern contours of hostile Psychological campaigns for effective response.

e. Undertake Psychological War proactively to undermine the will of the adversary.

17. Strategy. Control projection through aggressive Public Relation, utilizing suitable themes while not compromising operational preparedness, building national and international image, winning public opinion/ international support. Thus not allowing any ingress and blunting pre-emptive of hostile media.




18. Impact of Media over Military Operations. Today media has assumed an undisputed role as a key factor in communication of state policy and shaping public’s opinion within country on one hand and building an adversary’s image as required on the other. Thus, a good military and media relation is central to modern war effort. The dynamics and realities of military – media relationship must be fully appreciated by military commanders if they are to succeed in future operations. Let us have a look at some of the impacts of the media on the conduct of military operations:-

a. Escalation. [12] The media can contribute to conflict escalation, either directly or indirectly. Experienced war reporters observe that sometimes the very presence of cameras will prompt the sides to start shooting. Video media in particular tend to focus on dramatic and violent events.

b. De-escalation. [13] Escalation can be limited by helping the parties focus on the future relationship that they would like to build between each other. Media can contribute to conflict de-escalation. Media is believed to have played a key role in turning U.S. public opinion against Vietnam War leading to withdrawal of US forces.

c. Security. [14] There remains a tension between journalists’ desire to report on conflicts/ military actions and military’s concerns about security. Journalists at times comment that secrecy and controls on reporters are often imposed for reasons of political convenience or to avoid blame for political/ military errors.

d. Selective Focus. Visually dramatic, acute events such as battles or bombings receive more coverage/attention than widespread situations like famine/ poverty. For example, Gulf War got extensive coverage while deaths of over 140,000 Bangladeshis due to spring flooding went virtually unreported.

f. Impact on Troops. Positive coverage of the events would be morale raising for the troops and also keep the people at home informed/ satisfied. Media could also be employed to sell selected themes and to build perceptions in troops. During World War II media was extensively used for propaganda to break the will of frontline troops.

19. Social Impacts on Soldiers. In the last two decades, media has considerably changed the psycho-social environments all over the world as well as in Pakistan. This situation poses diverse problems for the future military leaders who in addition to the complicated battle field environments will also face psycho-social problems. Although military is shielded through institutionalized rules/ regulations from the ill effects of these psycho- social environments prevailing in the society, yet it cannot remain completely immune to it. Some of the social changes that have been observed in officers and soldiers are as following:-

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Positive Changes

(1) Freer Society. There is an upsurge of democratic values in the society, though it may be debatable whether developments in this direction are still enough or otherwise. Individual liberties, freedom of speech, demanding and fiercely guarding one’s basic rights are some of the characteristics of a resurgent society. The officers as well as soldiers have a definite view point on important national issues and at times question the traditional norms of military discipline. [15] 

(2) Awareness Levels. The level of consciousness and awareness is constantly on the increase in all tiers of the society. In the wake of information explosion and the media blitz, the men are much aware and better informed, and more vocal. An aware, self disciplined, properly trained and motivated leader is the need of future.

Education Levels. The officers and the junior leaders of today are much more educated, formally and professionally, than their ancestors.

b. Negative Changes

Materialism. The world-wide phenomenon of materialism cannot be wished away. Like elsewhere, it has found its footings in our society as well, and is fast eroding our traditional value system. Economic necessities are increasingly superseding values, traditions, the good name of families etc. Materialism also breeds careerism, a malignancy that erodes candid professionalism.

Violence/Extremism. Violence is another contemporary phenomenon. It can have serious problems. Our future military leadership has to deal with the problem in an enlightened manner and through scientific psycho-analysis of the led [16] .

Centrifugalism. The scourges of sub nationalism, ethnic and most worrisome of all, sectarianism are likely to sap the sinews of our society. The cause may be inspired by foreign or other vested interests, but the results are deep scar, misunderstandings and fissures within. The army – a model of integration – cannot remain uninfected.

20. Military – Media Relations – Shortfalls / Problem Areas

a. Divergent Professional Approach. The media representatives are often unpopular with the brass, for they function independently, without rules, regulations and even if they have a code of conduct, it is generally self-created and self-imposed. On the contrary, the military is disciplined, hierarchical and live within a homogenous, closed culture governed by certain rules. The media wants freedom; military wants complete control. These conflicting professional requirements generally lead to a misunderstanding of each other’s working environment and often create mistrust.

b. Lack of Media Management Policy. In Armed Forces, the media management is the responsibility of ISPR Dte. Though within the available means it is playing a prudent role in projecting and guarding the overall image of the former, however, the fact remains that no formal/coordinated effort is being made at the national level to ensure media management for guarding and projecting our national view point.

c. Exaggerated Themes. One of the problems with media is to project fallacies like we have no external threats due to the nuclear weapons that we possess. At times, false projections are made public about Army’s capability to handle all the internal threats. Such fallacies tarnish the image of military in public.

d. Ineffective Counter Measures. Military echelons at times fail to counter or even challenge objectionable image, created by the media in time due to structural inadequacies.

e. Weak Doctrinal Foundation. Though the concept of employing media in support of military OOTW is being given attention, yet there is a clear doctrinal void as far as the employment of media as a weapon in support of conventional military operations is concerned. Courses in various schools of instructions restrict their curriculum to theoretical aspects of interaction with media but techniques of proactive employment of media in case of full-scale war are ignored.

g. Organisational Shortfalls. ISPR Dte serves as a conduit between military and media, both at national and international levels, but in existing shape this organization is considered inadequate for being a modern proactive media management force, thus making it reactive.

h. Lack of Expertise and Training. After articulating Information Warfare doctrine, Army needs to be trained in media management. Armed Forces personnel lack training in media handling affairs. This aspect is quite visible and the military persons are usually found unprepared to handle media and counter disinformation.

j. Cyber Warfare. Cyber warfare has emerged as a key component of Information Warfare. However, Army appears to be inadequately qualified and ill prepared to defend against formidable and potentially devastating threat of cyber and information war.

l. Absence of Requisite Technological Base. The effectiveness of media and its management inherently relies on modern, fast changing technology. Technological base and expertise at the national level in general and at armed forces in particular are comparatively much low.

m. War Correspondents. Our journalists lack the coverage facilities and training as no comprehensive system for training of the war correspondents exists at present. At the moment, anyone from the correspondent cadre is tasked to cover war activities.

n. Media as an Aggressive Weapon. The proposition of how media can be used in waging information warfare has become an exciting area of research. The Gulf Wars showed how information could be used both as a military target and as a weapon.

o. Limited Role of ISPR. The increased role of media covering all spheres of military activities at all levels demand a new approach in the existing set up of ISPR Directorate.

p. Training of Military Commanders. At present there are no media training facilities, due to which the armed forces personnel are normally found handicapped with regards to dealing with the media.

q. Lack of Sphere of Influence. Due to the organizational limitations the directorate has a very limited sphere of influence. The manpower dedicated for the media management needs to be reinforced for a better performance.

r. Lack of Scientific and Institutionalized Approach. The multi-directional responses to the media by Ministry of information, the ministry of foreign affairs and the ISPR on single matter has marred the effectiveness of the media at home and abroad. It is Imperative to analyze and evaluate information before giving that to the media men. At times a correct information to media may also give rise to criticism like ” the failure of Argentine bombs to explode was published without thoughts for the operational risks.-the British press at large found it difficult to set aside normal rules of peacetime competitive journalism in response to the demands of war”. [17] 

s. Response to Indian Propaganda. Psychological warfare was first defined [18] by military analyst J.F.C Fuller who coined the term psychological warfare in 1920. [19] . Presently the directorate of Psychological operations and the ISPR are working in their individual capacity to counter Indian propaganda. The counter propaganda measures can be more effective if ISPR has a section to analyze enemy propaganda themes and then make recommendations for adoption of own themes and appropriate media for its adoption.

u. Voice of Army. Being primarily a defence organization the ISPR carries the reputation of being the voice of Armed Forces. In the entire previous crises the ISPR information were never regarded as credible and would be taken as an official stance which needed to be verified by other credible sources. The press has traditionally avoided negative coverage of the Armed Forces, and the ISPR has served to hold press coverage of military matters under close restraint. Leaks, while not uncommon, are carefully managed: it is common knowledge that journalists, routinely underpaid, are on the unofficial payrolls of many competing interests, and the military (or elements within it) is presumed to be no exception. Rumors of intimidation, heavy-handed surveillance, and even legal action to quiet the unduly curious or non deferential reporter are common”. [20] 

v. Military – Media Relations. Exploitation of situation through the media is an art and if we critically analyze our national media policy or the objectives of even ISPR, this important element does not surface anywhere. Presently ISPR is working under Chief of Army Staff Secretariat and working almost in isolation. Military officers want to control, as much as possible, everything on the battlefield or area of operations. On other hand, reporters want unfettered access to all aspects of operations. [21] 

x. Mutual Trust with Media. Develop good relationship with the media. Teach them the Importance of good press and the damage that can be caused by poor press. Maintain the media trust, let them sort-out their black sheep their selves. It is better to draw the media your confidence than to shun them or feed them disinformation. [22] 

y. Present Organization. The present organization of the ISPR is not considered to be compatible with the new trends in the media management by the army. Following are some observations in this regard:-

(1) The organisation is basically working on public relations principles and have mostly army officers as managers of the media matters. It is normally hard for these officers to establish rapport with the media people.

(2) These public relations officers are posted to the directorate on the basis of their civil education back ground and not on the basis of media experience or qualification.

(3) The directorate is lacking in a well developed/advanced tech section, which is a major impediment in the implementation of the “reach first strategy” of the Army media policy. [23] There is a dire need to adopt the” reach first” strategy with a view to pre-empting uncomplimentary press and highlighting own point of view.

(4) Except for the selected corps headquarters there is no setup for dealing with the media affairs at the formations level.

(5) The Hilal Magazine published by the Directorate is considered not impressive and moreover most of the troops who remain on the borders cannot have access. There is a requirement of capitalizing on the strength of the electronic media for better effectiveness.



21. Important Conclusions

a. Considering the past, concept of future wars / conflicts cannot be perceived without participation of media.

b. Pakistan and Pakistan Armed Forces are always confronted with Cold War with hostile neighbours, although there are certain elements in our ranks which help the enemy to accomplish her agenda. In such circumstances, cultivation of Army Friendly Media is need of the hour.

c. Restructuring of ISPR with modern concepts is required. Provision of available advanced media related courses to the officers serving in ISPR so that they can face present and future challenges of media war.

d. Technological advancement in the field of media dictates to equip ISPR with latest equipment so that directorate can coup up with the modern/latest concepts of media.

e. Coordinated efforts are required at national level to recoup the deficiencies as per the demand of time. Independent Media in

Pakistan and ISPR to work in hand to hand and shoulder to shoulder to fight back with the media of our hostile neighbours.

f. Before taking any action in peace and war, which may attract media attention, involvement of ISPR is essential to avoid any negative media campaign.

g. Media coverage is a force multiplier. People get their perception of the military as a dedicated and professional organization from media reports so closer trust and confidence must be created.

h. Technology has had a tremendous impact on media. It must be assimilated. News media and military leaders should jointly engage in a study of the security issues posed by real-time reporting from the battlefield.

j. The media is as patriotic as anybody else in the civil life is. We need to build trust.


23. ISPR Directorate Level Measures

a. Restructuring of the ISPR. It must be undertaken with a view to

cater for futuristic requirements of information warfare and media management. Number of sub offices should be increased down to division or even brigade level. Sub offices at Formation Headquarters be organized as under:-

(1) ‘Public Affairs Detachment’ to provide direct public affairs support to Army.

(2) ‘Media Relations Detachment’ to provide media support to Army.

(3) These should be made available at division level. At brigade and battalion level embedded journalists be made available.

(4) Media training institutions may also be established by ISPR Dte.

b. Provision of Public Relation Officers at Formation Level. ISPR Dte should have representatives at the divisional level. This will make a qualitative improvement in relation to dealing with media matters at these levels.

c. Technical Section. There is a need of having a technical section in the Dte which should be adequately equipped and qualified to bring the requisite sophistication in the media handling.

d. Public Relation Officers Qualifications. Presently, most of the Public Relation Officers posted in the selected Corps Headquarters are not qualified in the regional languages of their Area of Operations. It is recommended that this consideration be kept in mind while posting an officer as Public Relation Officer (PRO).

e. Posting of Media Professionals. Along with the Public Rel


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