www.sacw.net > Citizens Actions and Ideas for Peace in South Asia | January 2, 2004

Report on the media sector meeting held during the Pakistan India Peoples. Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) summit in Karachi on Dec 13, 2003

Report of the PIPFPD Media Sector, Karachi Press Club, Dec 13, 2003

The Karachi Union of Journalists organized a sectoral meeting for the media on the second day of the Sixth Convention of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy.

The main conference hall of the Press Club was packed by local media persons and some 20 Indians, visiting Karachi as part of the almost 250- strong Indian delegation to the PIPFPD Convention. The meeting was marked by warmth and cordiality, and several leading journalists came to the podium to express their views. Unfortunately we werent organized enough to take down the names and contacts of all those who attended in order to follow up on the goodwill and the very positive and useful proposals that emerged.

Newly elected KUJ president Mazhar Abbas welcomed the guests and pointed out that journalists in our part of the world work under similar pressures, economic and physical. He noted that the Pakistani journalists unions are members of the Asian Union of Journalists, which also includes the Indian Union of Journalists. The governments of India and Pakistan deny families the right to re-unite, and prohibit the exchange of newspapers and periodicals. He suggested that a media student exchange programme be organized for Indians and Pakistanis to learn about media in each others countries.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists President Atifazur Rehman expressed the hope that tensions between the two countries would soon end, although the fundamentalists and extremists on both sides dont want that. He said that the Indian guests would receive this kind of warm reception everywhere in Pakistan, and vice versa, because we share the same culture. Speaking for himself, he said he was eager to visit the land of Tagore and Ludhianvi, and he felt sure that many Indians had similar aspirations about Pakistan. We try to combat the dogmatist elements in our country, as you must be doing in yours, he observed.

From Delhi, Sumit Chakravorty, editor Mainstream, said he was overwhelmed by the reception his group had received in Pakistan. He reminded all of us that surreptitious attacks on the media in India continue to take place, the latest example being the five journalists from Tamil Nadu who had come under fire simply for reporting statements by the Chief Minister. It is the duty of the media to remove distortions and demolish the walls of misunderstanding, he added.

Senior journalist from Jammu, Ved Bhasin, chief executive of the daily Kashmir Times, addressed the gathering in chaste Urdu, speaking movingly and forcefully about the violation of the Kashmiri peoples right to self-determination, and the difficult situation that journalists have to work in. A heaven on earth has been transformed into a hell by two countries, and a bloody line divides the land and its people. Its difficult for people to know how to work.

He criticized the media of India and Pakistan for generally being the voice of the establishment and the political elite, thus contributing to increased tensions. The media is not presenting a true picture, and there is a disinformation campaign by both governments.
Things have changed, but what we have to go through, how we live and work on the edge of the sword, threatened by both the government and the militants, he said. The LoC ceasefire has not benefited the people because of landmines. The peasants still cant go to their lands in the border areas -- We must use our pens to push for just, peaceful solutions according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir, he added, reiterating the PIPFPD position that Kashmir must not be viewed as a territorial dispute, and that the governments must solve all the issues peacefully.

Mani Mala from Delhi said she had worked with the Times of India for 15 years before going freelance and working with an organization called Books for Change. We are also ordinary folk, she said, conveying messages from ordinary people, including children, in her mohalla, who had filled her room with gifts for Pakistanis when they heard she was going to visit this country flowers, birds, school books, pens -- I didnt bring any of them, but I do bring you their love, she said. We have a joint responsibility to let our children live, not let them be killed.

On her first visit to Karachi from Kolkata, was Rajshri Dasgupta, formerly with the Telegraph. She recalled how, when she had attended the second PIPFPD joint convention in Lahore, in 1995, several colleagues had cautioned and warned her about visiting Pakistan. Two years later, some 200 delegates from Pakistan attended the Calcutta convention, which ended in a joint march which was cheered by passers-by on the streets it was an overwhelming experience. And tthis time, when I was coming to Pakistan, the same colleagues who had been cautioning me, were also keen to come, she said, underlining the importance of interaction.

It is the media which is responsible for the demonisation, on both sides. Our biggest challenge is when there is conflict. Are we the mouthpiece of the government, or are we looking for stories the government wants to keep back? she asked. Sometimes we become patriots rather than reporters, and our citizenship takes over. Our job is to dig out the truth, not reproduce handouts.

She added that in an age of information overload, it is difficult, but important to sift out disinformation.

Before going on for tea, the gathering agreed on the following points:

-the need for Pakistani and Indian journalists to interact, for visa restrictions for journalists to be eased, and a lifting of bans on each others newspapers and other media. -although groups like SAFMA and SAMA do bring journalists and editors of the region together, it was felt that a bilateral meeting of working journalists and editors would be very productive and useful; perhaps held under the aegis of the PIPFPD -the need to avoid using charged terminology like militant and freedom fighter -the need to focus on the development sector and thereby strengthen the powerless and combat extremism.

The host delegation included: Mazhar Abbas (president KUJ, Karachi bureau chief AFPmazharabbas58@yahoo.co.in), Fazil Jamili (Secretary KUJ, reporter Awam; faziljamili@yahoo.com), A.H. Chapra (All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Conference), columnist Daily News), Press Club President Khurshid, Atifuzur Rehman (President PFUJ), Beena Sarwar (producer, Geo TV News). Other members of KUJ who were present in the meeting were Sarfraz Ahmed, Kuhrsheed Abbasi, M.B.Naqvi, Saeed Sarbazi, Haroon Ahmed, Qasim Rajpar, Ajiz Jamali, Akhter Somroo and many more.

The Indian delegation included: Sumit Chakravorty, Ved Bhasin, Rajshri Dasgupta, Mani Mala, Sultan Shahin, N.D. Jayaprakash, Romesh Charlie Chander, Nilanjan Dutta and others.