Sunday, September 14, 2014

Changing Scenario of Global Information Order

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

From 1979 to 1989, I was in the former Soviet Union doing my Masters in Journalism and then Ph. D. at the journalism schools of Belorussian State University (BSU), Minsk and Moscow State University (MSU). The Cold War between the USA and the ex-USSR was at its height. I remember at journalism school at the BSU, we incessantly debated topics like the Cold War, Neo-colonialism,  New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), Media Imperialism, Non-aligned News Pool etc. We used to discuss the issues about imbalance in global information order and viewed that the Western media should not be given an unfair advantage vis-a-vis the media systems of countries of the Third World.

But after the collapse of the USSR, the world became increasingly uni-polar, process of globalization and global migration set the pace after the millennium, and Internet, technology and social media etc have rendered the concepts like New World Information and Communication Order, Media Imperialism and Non-aligned News Pool etc far less relevant today.

New World Information and Communication Order was a UNESCO sponsored drive to counter media imperialism by envisioning an information and communication order which gives a more balanced and credible view of the countries of the Third World than has been generally presented by Western media coverage.

The purpose of UNESCO with its NWICO plan was viewed as a means of creating two-way information flow by launching organizations like Non-aligned News Pool. The US was always against the NWICO idea and took it as barriers to the free flow of information and to the interests of global media outlets. As a result, the US withdrew its membership from UNESCO in 1984 followed by the UK and Singapore.

During the Cold War period, the media was one of the strongest weapons of both the super powers - the US and the ex-USSR in disseminating ideas and information attempting to consolidate their influence across the world.. Both the global super powers understood the role of media. It was like the countries of the Third World were caught in the crossfire in the media and propaganda war between the US and the ex-USSR, hence giving birth to the idea of NWICO.

During the Cold War period, mass media like newspapers, news agencies, radio and TV channels were used to enhance the influence of the super powers across the world. AP, UPI, AFP, Reuters and TASS were five major news agencies which dominated the world of news dissemination. Satellite TV broadcasting was considered like a 'personal checking account' of few developed countries like the US, the ex-USSR, the UK etc. It looked like the Western media sometimes rode roughshod over the feelings and emotions of the people of the developing countries.

When I joined The Rising Nepal in 1992, it still was the only broad-sheet English daily newspaper of Nepal. Since developing countries like Nepal could not afford hiring correspondents abroad, the media outlets of Nepal had to fully rely on AFP and AP for the international news. Coverage of news from the developing countries always had the Western slant. AP, AFP and Reuters news agencies dominated over 80 per cent of international news flow in the world in those years.

But today tremendous strides have been made towards the two-way flow of information, thanks to the technological innovations. Al Jazeera is a testimony to the changing global media scenario.. Al Jazeera is the most watched and popular news channel in the entire Middle East and Arab World. And as if the Middle East media dominance is not enough, Al Jazeera America has been effectively and successfully launched in the US.

Today, Nepalese living in the US can watch the Kantipur TV with the cable network hooking, not to talk about watching major Nepalese TV channels in the Internet. Likewise, today, the prominent broadsheet daily newspapers of Nepal boast of their correspondents in New York, London and New Delhi etc thereby not wholly relying on the news disseminated by AP, AFP and Reuters. Similarly, major radio stations of Nepal can be heard abroad with the help of Internet. Digital journalism has helped the people across the world to read the newspapers from their respective countries instantly.

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