The role of the media

Technological advancements and the rise of new (social) media were found to represent an important variable of democratic civil-military relations and institutional change. Through strategic communication and media engagement, non-state actors can influence the public opinion and liaise with the society, but also with the government and the military. Media can be a powerful channel of opinion-building and can influence “people’s perceptions” (Mathews 1997: 51). Media engagement can indirectly impact on nonstate organisations’ relationship with state institutions, particularly with the government and parties in power, as the latter are anticipated to “follow the general mood of the masses” (Interview Participant #23, Senior Academia Representative) in order to increase the stock of political capital.

The way in which actors, institutions and relationships are framed in the media is very important. A supporting, complementing or harmonic tone is likely to result in greater support from the military, government and community. While Urdu media is perceived to have a more conservative and hawkish tone and rather non-critical of the state institutions or political developments (Interview Participant #29, Senior Academia Representative), in general, there seems to be a rising freedom of expression, including of more critical opinions. After the end of the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, many participants perceived that there was a military shift towards more liberal democratic values, such as freedom of expression, and that the military has exhibited an increased propensity towards being acquiescent of moderately critical media reports (Interview Participants #11, Senior Media Representative and Participant #12, Senior NGO Representative), as discussed in depth in Chapter 6 Military Change, Democratisa- tion and Non-Linear Transformation. After 2008, media reports and public information campaigns or protest actions became important instruments to signalise, condemn or comment on the actions of the military, inter alia, alleged human rights violations, enforced disappearances, security operations or the military peace strategy.

While it might be overstretched to interpret these practices as quasiaccountability mechanisms, they had a tangible impact on informing the public opinion and instil diagonal accountability, as outlined in detail in Chapter 7 The Impact of Non-State Actors on Security Sector Reforms and Democratic Oversight, possibly having implications for military responses and strategy. Thus, media engagement can be seen as a channel of indirect conversation with the military (Interview Participants #34, Senior NGO Representative). Raising awareness about how to increase the efficiency of security and counterterrorism operations, on one side, or about the failure of the military to prevent enforced disappearances, on the other side, might have helped the military to review its strategy and eventually initiate dialogues with civilians.

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