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Role of Social Media

Ajit Kumar Jha

Edited by Nalini Rajan
Orient BlackSwan, Noida, 2014, pp. 216, Rs. 675.00


What role should the news media play in a democracy? Do journalists function as watch-dogs in order to check the abuse of power by authorities? Or, is the press an agenda-setter for political decision makers? Is the media part of the state given its ‘fourth estate’ status, or is the media an intrinsic part of civil society? How successfully have the civil society based protest movements used the social media during the recent spate of agitations? Has corporatization of the mass media eroded the journalist’s public role? Edited by Nalini Rajan, Covering and Explaining Conflict in Civil Society, with nine chapters by individual contributors and an introduction by the editor, attempts to provide answers to the above questions. The book is divided into three sections, each with a different purpose. In the first, the authors report in a comparative framework on the recent global civil society-led protests. Individual chapters range over the Arab Spring, to the lawyers-led agitations in Pakistan, to the Anna movement in India. The second section analyses the role of the social media in India during the recent civil society uprisings. The third section raises an ethical dilemma that journalists face given increasing corporatization of the mainstream media. Private greed, the authors conclude, has today eroded the public role expected of journalists. The first two sections are an empirical and analytical project, the third an evaluative one. The book is more persuasive in its first two purposes, less while assessing the erosion of the journalist’s public duty, given claims of increasing corporatization of the media. In the first section ‘Covering Conflict in Civil Society’, Atul Aneja discusses why the cascading pro-democracy movement in the Middle East—the Arab Spring—stalled at the gates of Syria and failed to dismantle the Bashar Al Assad regime. Aneja shows how Syria has become a cockpit in the raging rivalry that is ripping apart the Middle East, the new cold war between the West backed-Saudi Arabia and Russia and China-backed Iran.  The elephant in the room is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, argues Aneja since ‘the Israeli threat forms the core of Iran’s argument for the formation of a resistance front with Syria, the Lebanese Hizbollah, the Palestinian Hamas and the Islamic Jihad as partners.’ Turkey, Aneja argues, which has successfully combined liberal democracy, capitalism and Islam and is the best antidote to Al Qaeda, can play a constructive role ...

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