Media in times of DISASTER

Communication is an important part of disaster prevention and management. Mass media have certain characteristics that make them advantageous for disaster communication: They provide easy access to large publics and some of them constitute a robust communication system which remains working even in cases of a partial breakdown of the infrastructure like battery-powered radio. Media also have latent functions in disasters, which consist of emotional support and companionship which helps isolated individuals to feel connected with the “outside world.” These functions are crucial as they reduce the negative effects of stressful life events. In pakistan media is so powerful that it’s often termed as fourth pillar of the state.

Pakistani media has been useful for disaster control and mitigation during current deluge. Though initially glitches did develop while reporting from Kyber Pakhtunkhwa because the flooding was sudden and its scale was mammoth but soon media braced it self to report a huge natural calmity which affected every province and during their coverage media did provide reliable information which helped to reduce the impact of flooding.

With leading anchor persons like Talat Hussain , Naseem Zehra and Javaid Chaudry  reporting live from the flood hit areas alongwith  stories of those stranded proping up in the leading dailes, highlighted the true enormity of the diasater, helped to increase the ranking of the disaster management issue on the policy agenda and succeeded in not only creating a political momentum by forcing the top political and military brass to be on ground with the affected and make sure that they are provided adequate relief.

This time around media  acted with maturity and restriant  by not indulging into any blame game and showing a sympathetic picture, which aided in mobilization of help from outside the affected communities  and  even successfull in  securing  international help

Local NGOs being run by credible personalities have been successful in tapping the audience exposed to the mianstream media by appearing on live marathons being aired by different media groups to galvanize the relief efforts , publications have been full of print ads  with regards to the scale of devastation and NGOs response retrospect relief , rehabilitaion and reconstruction and what help do they   seek from the philantropist alongwith guidance to those who wish to help by informing them about differnt relief funds which are setup and the the way to donate via SMS.

 

Globally social media and social networks are being used increasingly for fundraising, communication updates at times of disaster – from posting updates on Twitter to sharing information on YouTube. Red Cross was a trending topic in Twitter and was appearing in real time Google search results as a result of so many people posting status updates to Twitter about their relief fund and how they are supporting the disaster. On Facebook former US President Bill Clinton can be seen in a video sharing his thoughts in terms of how people can hep with the Haiti disaster.

Learning from the haiti experience the US embassy in Islamabad has been using , “Facebook,” “Flickr,” and “Youtube.” together with the traditional media to provide information about the relief work it has been carrying out and UNICEF too has been constantly uploading videos on its website about the relief operation its undertaking.

Groups like the Pakistan Youth Movement are active on Facebook and tweets are springing up under the topic pkfloods on twitter. For the sake of transparency  the Motor Sports Club of Pakistan and Off road Pakistan are  also updating the exact locations of their aid laden truck on the internet i.e. live tracking.

Former President Perzez Musharaf has  posted a video message on his FB page calling for people to help on the other hand Faisal Chohan a TEDFellow has established an incident reporting website http://pakrelief.crowdmap.com/ which allows people with cell phones to give live updates of issue on the ground. Which could be used by relief organizations to adequately divert resources where needed.

 

As the rescue operation nears its end and relief operation on going , mainstream media should be used to mobalize funds , create awareness  as it has the largest audience and to promote social media sites by Including social media icons in transmissions and publications,updating relevant blogs by media personnels present at the affected areas and linking it to website pages , creating links to each social media site on all website and inviting staff to include standard social media links in email signatures.

 

Published in Slogan media magazine September 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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