Regional-language newspapers struggle in multi-ethnic Balochistan -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Regional-language newspapers struggle in multi-ethnic Balochistan

Regional-language newspapers struggle in multi-ethnic Balochistan

QUETTA: Regional-language newspapers are struggling to succeed in Balochistan despite it being a multie-thnic province.

Balochistan is home to native speakers of Balochi, Pashto, Brahvi and Sindhi and has been a centre of ethnic politics, but only two newspapers in Pashto and one each in Balochi, Sindhi and Brahvi are published from Quetta, the provincial capital.

Located in a congested cabin with only two outdated computers, Pashto daily Naweyzawand (New Life) is the largest ethnic newspaper published from Quetta. According to Zakaryia Khan, who publishes the newspaper with a team of four, Naweyzawand strives to preserve Pashtun identity, the need for which he says was felt in the 1980s after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The newspaper could not develop a considerable readership in Quetta, but Khan says the response by readers living abroad, particularly in Canada, was “encouraging”. The newspaper features contributors living abroad and write-ups full of nostalgia and resentment against the occupation of Pashtun lands. The management says the most difficult task for them has been to maintain a neutral policy despite the polarisation within the Pashtun society.

“We do not touch sensitive issues such as Talibanisation. But we regularly oppose foreign interference in Afghanistan and Pashtun tribal areas,” Khan said.

He said the government had blocked his newspaper’s website several times and stopped government advertisements for the newspaper.

Quetta’s only Balochi newspaper has an even lower circulation. “The students of religious schools and the leaders of political parties still communicate with each other in Pashto. It is these people who mainly fuel Pashtun newspapers,” Khan said.

He said the regional-language newspapers would not survive if they weren’t part of larger groups of publications. Naweyzawand is a sister publication of local English newspaper, The Independent. The other Pashto newspaper, Qudrat, is also published by a local Urdu newspaper group. Quetta’s only Balochi language newspaper, Nawa-e-Watan, claims it is “doing no business” but carrying out “a mission” amid difficulties.

Most of the content of the regional-language newspapers is translated from English and Urdu because none is available in the ethnic languages. The absence of comments on political affairs is severely felt on the opinion pages, which are filled with excerpts from literature.

Abdul Saboor Baloch, chairman of the Balochi Department at the University of Balochistan, says he is concerned about the deplorable state of the vernacular press in the province.

“Okay, there are a few newspapers published in the local languages. But they have not created a market yet. No one takes them seriously, market-wise or journalistically. They are merely fulfilling a formality,” he said. He accused the government of not patronising regional-language journalism.

“You can’t promote a language merely by launching a newspaper in that language,” he said. “These languages should be taught from class one.”

He said students who had a Masters degree in Balochi literature did not get jobs. “Even the posts of translators in many federal departments have been abolished. So how do you expect a language to be promoted?”

Professor Dr Seemi Naghama Tahir, chairwoman of the Mass Communication Department at the University of Balochistan, said an ethnic press was essential for the preservation and promotion of regional languages, culture and history.

“Balochistan could not exploit its multi-ethnic dynamics in favour of a thriving vernacular press due to widespread illiteracy and mass poverty,” she said.

Dr Seemi said Balochistan had a history of nationalistic struggle where the politicians-cum-journalists used newspapers as their source of propaganda.

“We have a long history of magazines being launched in regional languages in the past. But soon their editors converted them into Urdu because they realised that they could not reach their goals in an isolated language,” she said.

Saboor Baloch said Balochi and Pashto languages were not ready to meet the contemporary journalistic challenges. “It is the time we earnestly thought out it,” he said.

Sindhi newspapers coming from Karachi and Hyderabad have higher circulations. Educated Sindhi parents have taught their children to read and write their mother language,
Source: Daily Times
Date:3/13/2008