Media’s role in peace promotion highlighted
KARACHI- Participants of a seminar highlighted the role of media in promoting a culture of peace.
The seminar on “Pakistani media and facilitation of a culture of peace” was jointly organized by Fredrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Foundation, Islamabad, and Asian Media Information and Communication Centre, Pakistan Chapter, at the UGC offices at Karachi.
The seminar recommended that newspapers be more careful while publishing certain reports and statements, as these could generate hatred and misunderstanding among various sections of society.
In the case of electronic media, it was stated that there was a need to strengthen the existing network to reach the maximum audience within and outside the country.
During the seminar, findings of small surveys carried out by academics and senior media men at Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta, Hyderabad, Karachi and Bahawalpur were also presented.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the daylong seminar, former Chief Editor of Dawn, Ahmed Ali Khan, said supporting peace was an obligation that should be upheld by every sensible person.
As an abstract concept, it has a tremendous appeal for every right-minded people, but trouble arises when we talk of the desirability of peace in a given conflict, he added.
The question to be faced then is whether we are simply urging capitulation in the context of a struggle for rights or are asking for peace with justice.
He said media in Pakistan and India were poles apart when it came to handling the conflict in Kashmir. The examples of media response to conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir showed that the media share a common view of how peace can be promoted in given situation and are divided on the basis if national affiliation or public perceptions prevailing in their respective country, he observed.
He mentioned that media like other institutions did not function in a vacuum and they had to relate to country, Community, the public mood, interest group and the given time-period.
Referring to the fact that freedom and autonomy to the media was not absolute and they had to perform within the parameters which are determined externally, he said the press did not have unlimited scope for making its own decision regarding matters of war and peace.
Taking up the Kashmir issue, he said in Pakistan a vast segment of opinion had come to view negotiations as an exercise in futility and favored intensifying armed resistance as the way to help Kashmiris win their freedom. He noted that the media, with a few exceptions, had shown no great inclination to combat this drift towards extremism.
Dr Nisar Ahmed Zuberi, Country Representative, AMIC, welcomed the participants and held that the seminar would go a long way in promoting peace and help reduce conflicts at national and international levels. He informed that such exercises would be furthered by AMIC on a larger scale in future.
While unfolding the details of his survey findings, Resident Editor, xc Islamabad, M Ziauddin, said he was surprised to hear from some of his respondents that they did not see television and had also not listened to radio for long.
He however, mentioned that some of the respondents had suggested giving more space to peace activities.
Dr Shahjehan Syed from Peshawar University said survey gave to understand the sentiments of people, who were extremely frustrated over the role of print and electronic media.
Referring to the survey, he said that majority of the people responded were convinced that Pakistani media failed to promote a culture of international and regional peace, while reporting on religion in the country was often biased in newspapers.
There was a common view that media should be freed of state control, while on the other hand media should conduct research on sensitive issues to give a real picture of the events and issues to avoid conflicting and biased reports on social and political segments of the society.
A teacher at the Mass Communication department, University of Karachi, Samina Qureshi informed that 65.5 per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement that Pakistani media gave prominence to the conflicts between nations. In the case of newspaper, the percentage was 87.93 while in the case of electronic media the percentage was found at 12.06.
She said 79 per cent of the respondents viewed that facilitation of a culture of peace required a well-integrated approach by the government, NGOs and other social organizations.
About 66 per cent of the people contacted by her team of surveyors believed that the role of the Pakistani media in promotion of peace was unsatisfactory and it be made more comprehensive, she added.
Chairman of the Mass Communication department, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Prof Ibad Rashdi, said 95 per cent of the people surveyed at Hyderabad, mentioned that the role of Pakistani media in the promotion of a culture of international and regional peace was unsatisfactory and needed to be extended.
A senior teacher of mass communication’ at the Punjab University, Dr Mugheesuddin Sheikh said that majority of both media professionals and intelligentsia of Lahore believed that media in Pakistan, including radio and television, gave prominence to the events like conflicts between nations.
Dr M Shamsuddin of Bhawalpur University said his survey suggested that media should place alternatives and solutions as well while reporting issues. Reports regarding sectarian clashes be torn down and only the positive aspects of the society be highlighted, he said while referring to his survey and mentioned that most of the persons denied or were reluctant in expressing themselves in reply to survey questionnaire as they felt that it was being worked out for certain agencies.
Unfolding the Quetta profile on research survey Chairperson of Balochistan University, Dr. Seemi Naghmana said a majority of the people had strong desire to live in peace and tranquility, but stressed for setting up news agenda for media. People also stressed that media from Pakistan and India should pay respect to views of each others.
Resident Representative of FES, Gunter Lehrke, underlined the need of placing right man full of commitment to the profession of journalism at right place in media. He said there was a need to establish links between different quarters in the media.
The recommendations of the seminar said a detailed programme be chalked out by electronic media for the promotion of peace at country, regional and international levels.
All newspapers should enforce a code of professional conduct, even if they have to do it at their own. This code of conduct should be known to the newspaper readers, who should be able to hold newspapers accountable for any violations.
Manzoor Qureshi, Programme Manager, Pakistan Television (PTV) Karachi, Dr Ijaz Shafi Gillani of the Gallup Survey of Pakistan, Ghazi Salahuddin, chairperson of the Mass Communication department, Prof Shahida Kazi were present at the occasion.