Media needs to be pluralistic, multi-voiced
By Shahid Husain
Karachi: Media needs to be pluralistic and multi-voiced, says Australian scientist Stefan Fairweather, who is engaged in a PhD in Biochemistry, specialising in membrane physiology of amino acid transporters. He delivered a lecture at the Dr. AK Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering on Saturday and was interviewed by The News.
Fairweather received excellent grades in his Marticulation examinations but decided Ã¬to see some of the worldÃ® before beginning further studies Ã¬quite a common thing to do in AustraliaÃ®.
He spent three-and a-half years travelling Europe and North America before returning to Australia and joining the public service in Canberra for a few years.
Ã¬I found the public service quite boring; therefore, I decided to study undergraduate science at the Australian National University (ANU), which I did from 2005-2009, majoring in organic chemistry.Ã®
He graduated with first class Honours in 2009 and is now engaged in a PhD in Biochemistry at the laboratory of Dr Stefan Broer at the ANU, specialising in the membrane physiology of amino acid transporters. He delivered a lecture at AK Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering on the same topic.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
The News: What was your perception about Pakistan before coming here and how far it has changed after your arrival?
Fairweather: Since I have several good Pakistani friends in Australia, including my friend Salik where I was invited to attend his Ã¬Shadi/ValimaÃ®, my perception, I believe, has been influenced mainly by that event. IÃve also travelled widely and know that oneÃs perception of a country should not be influenced by popular media sentiments. Having said that I think most educated people would understand that you should always make up your perception about a country that is based on experience. In fact I had no idea about Pakistan before arriving here, other than a general feeling that my visit would be new and exciting.
The News: DonÃt you agree that the media has taken people and the states hostage?
Fairweather: I donÃt really feel qualified to answer this question because my answer would depend on firstly, which media are you talking about and secondly, what do you mean by taking people and states hostage?
The News: DonÃt you agree that the western media should also focus on human stories, our heritage and our people as well?
Fairweather: Of course, the media should always attempt to present a wide range of stories and viewpoints about any nation and culture. However, you are correct that certain sections of the western media have been guilty of focusing only on a select, narrow set of issues in Pakistan. But you should not confuse the CNNÃs popular news-flash style of journalism prevalent in some areas of the western media with the entire western media. The very rasion dÃetat of a free media anywhere is to be pluralistic and multi-voiced. If you look beneath the surface of the main commercial (mostly, but not exclusively American) news outlets youÃll find an enormous variety of news coverage concerning Pakistan and other places outside the western world. The problem lies, I think, with the reach of media outlets. Often the most superficial and biased agencies are also the largest and have the most coverage outside western countries, for instance, the CNN.
The News: You have visited India. How do you compare Pakistan with India?
Fairweather: My experiences of the two nations are probably coloured more by the different circumstances in which I have visited them. Hence, the differences I noticed are likely to be superficial and not substantial. In India, I was travelling alone, staying in cheap hotels, eating in DhabaÃs on the roadside, etc Ã± living a rougher, simpler life. On the other hand, in Pakistan, I have been a guest of the university and my friendÃs family and have been treated with extreme warmth and hospitality.
Needless to say the prevalence of Islam in Pakistan is a noticeable difference, although in Kolkata, for instance, there is quite a large Muslim population. Likewise in India the prevalence of Hindu culture is noticeable. Both the countries have vibrant life and spirit of everyday living that I love.
The News: DonÃt you agree that scientists, especially psychiatrists, can have a big role in conflict resolution and that vital issues should not be left alone to politicians?
Fairweather: Yes, I agree that everyone involved in a conflict should have a voice in the resolution. I think most importantly,â€ the state should ensure strong institutions and principles that allow for successful conflict resolution for instance, rule of law, transparent judicial institutions and a legal framework that encompasses and protects all citizens equally.
The News: What possibilities you see of exchange programs of students, scientists, academicians, intellectuals, etc., between Pakistan and Australia and what is your rating of young Pakistani scholars and researchers?
Fairweather: As many as possible people who could afford should visit each otherÃs country. From my limited exposure over a couple of days, I have gathered that young Pakistani scholars and researchers are as good as anywhere else.
In the realm of science intelligent people are intelligent people and good researchers before they are anything else. I think the only thing that is lacking is that you find elsewhere an international flavour to science while Pakistan has a limited number of researchers abroad. I donÃt know the cause but I know one of the great things about science is that it is one of the truly international, and it provides a fantastic opportunity to expand your mind in other ways whilst doing what you truly enjoy doing.
Source: The News