Experts call for free media to help promote peace in S. Asia
KARACHI, May 18 2006: Media experts believe that removing restrictions on a free flow of information and media-men between Pakistan and India and improving reporting skills would bring about a change in people’s mindset and give a boost to peace process. They were expressing their views at the day-long workshop on Media Coverage of India and the Indians organized by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists at the Karachi Press Club on May 17.
They spoke of the subjective mindset on either side of the divide and restrictive official policies. They also expressed concern over the prospects of objectivity following birth of imbedded reporting of conflicts, especially by Western media.
Nevertheless, it was emphasized that lasting peace between the two countries was possible if the media of the two countries was free, the restrictions like ban on private news channels and exchange of newspapers and magazines were lifted and journalists were enabled to cover the Â‘conflict’ without any hindrance. In this context, the initiative taken by SAFMA was appreciated.
It was noted that in South Asia where reporting about the conflict was ‘biased and subjective’, there was a need for the electronic media to be very careful in the choosing contents in the race for being the first to break the news. It was, therefore, emphasised that proper training to journalists should be arranged by their managements for ensuring objective reporting of the conflict. They should also be provided complete insurance cover whether they were reporters, photographers or cameramen.
They noted the use of provocative language in print and electronic media of the two countries when reporting about the conflict. In the morning session, Prof Moonis Ahmer of the International Relations Department, Karachi University, said journalists could play a vital role in a conflict situation by providing factual and objective information about the causes, nature and course of the conflict and the players involved, besides the process of conflict resolution.
Â“A number of initiatives have been taken in the field of print and electronic media around the world to train reporters in professionally covering the happenings in a conflict zone, and coming up with their eyewitness accounts of the escalation of conflict,Â” he said. Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Chairman of the Mass Communication Department, Urdu University, spoke on the state of Urdu Press, and said it was most unfortunate that reporters of the two prominent Urdu newspapers were covering India while sitting here.
Owais Tauhid, Director News of ARY One world, said that though it was true that ‘truth’ was the first casualty in conflict situation, journalists could play their role objectively. President of the Karachi Press Club Ghazi Salahuddin said a journalist must report facts and should not be biased in reporting the conflict, though he might have his own opinion about the developments.
Rehana Hakim, Editor of a monthly News line, said there was a need for respecting the opinion. She said that during a meeting with the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif a few days before Pakistan carried out a nuclear test, the editors who opposed the decision were criticised by their own colleagues. Wusatullah Khan, a BBC correspondent, said it was very difficult for a person who had grown up with a mindset of hatred against India and vice-versa to remain unbiased while reporting on the Pakistan-India conflict.
Zahid Hussain, a senior journalist of Geo TV, said that electronic media, too, faced a lot of pressure from government and other quarters during news coverage. PFUJ Secretary General Mazhar Abbas, journalists Nizamuddin Siddiqui and Maheen Rashidi conducted the proceedings. A large number of journalists and students of the Mass Communication attended the workshop.