Role of community radio in swift rescue, relief highlighted
Karachi: Speakers of a roundtable dialogue on ’Role of community media in rescue, relief and rehabilitation in areas affected by floods’ on Friday stated that devastating situations due to natural calamities like earthquakes and floods could quickly be responded to with effective use of communication through community radio stations.
The dialogue was organized by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, BHN Association, and with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) at a local hotel.
Highlighting the pivotal role of community based broadcasting in developing countries, the speakers urged the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to allow establishing non-profit based community radio stations, especially in the rural areas of the country.
Presently, PEMRA only issues licenses to broadcasting services for commercial purposes, while launching any community radio station is prohibited according to PEMRA laws. It was agreed by the advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister MPA, Khawaja Izhar Hassan, and Provincial Advisor Sharmila Farooqui that the matter of issuing licenses to community radio would be raised in the coming session of the Sindh Assembly.
It was observed that community based broadcasting could bring constructive transformation in society, as blocking the information is too dangerous for the well being of the society. There is a dire need to develop political consensus for amending PEMRA laws so that emergency and community based broadcasting could be allowed to facilitate the people of Pakistan.
Sharmila Farooqi said the importance of community based radio could not be ignored. She said that the government would have to consider various aspects of giving permission to community radio. “We have to view the various aspects, including cultural and ethnic diversities, as the people of Pakistan generally lack high tolerance to bear some of these diversities.”
Referring to illegal radio transmissions in Swat and tribal areas, she said that by allowing community based radio stations we could fight such a menace. She emphasized that the issue should be discussed at the highest political level. She said proper guidelines in this regard are essential.
MPA Khawaja Izhar Hassan said the community radio could play an important role in guiding the survivors of natural disasters and help in their swift rescue and rehabilitation. He said the proposal of community-based broadcasting would be discussed in the coming session of the provincial assembly.
Former Federal Information Minister, Bahan Baili Javed Jabbar maintained that various universities have set up their campus radio stations, but there is dire need to establish community radio stations in the rural parts of the country. He asked PEMRA to amend its laws and issue licenses to community radio.
He said that it is irony that electronic media has been completely transformed into a commercial broadcasting service. He regretted that during recent floods in the country, radio could not play the dynamic role which it should have played.
Javed Jabbar observed that illegal radio stations were launched by militants to provoke the innocent masses in Swat and FATA.
Imam Prakoso, member of AMARC Asia Pacific Regional Board from Indonesia, said that in the year 2004, when the earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia his organization started working in the field of disaster management through the development of community-based information and communication system.
“Increasing incidence of natural disasters in Indonesia have force us to realize that this country is situated in disaster-prone region, so it need increased role of community radio”, he said.
He further stated that Indonesia has 800 community based radio station which are working for the underprivileged people. He said community based broad-casting could play a trauma healing role for the calamity-hit people.
Junichi Hibino, Director of community radio FMYY of Japan elaborated the role of community based radio in the aftermath of natural calamities. He said it raises the voices and concerns of the local people at the time of natural calamities from the grass root level. He pointed out that community based broadcasting is also helped in conflict resolution in rural areas.
Toru Sato, Senior Advisor Telecom for Basic Human Needs (BHN), Japan said his organization teaches the engineering of community base radio stations and help in the launching of such radio stations.
President of AMARC International and Company Director of Sheffieled Live 93.2FM, Steve Buckley, said that Pakistan is facing the most severe crisis of its history. He said it should test the new ideas of technology while coping with such circumstances. “Initial pilot project could be launched to judge the feasibility of community radio station”, he advised.
Secretary General Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) Owais Aslam Ali said his organization has been working for press freedom and the training of journalists in Pakistan for many decades. He said community radio is working in many regional countries with success and greatly serving people at the grass root level. He demanded of the government to allow community radios in Pakistan. A large number of people including representatives of political parties and journalist also spoke on the occasion.
Source: The News