Peace may be the only battle worth waging but when it comes to talking peace between India and Pakistan it may seem that it is easier to wage a war than peace. It takes a statesman to build peace but unfortunately there are no statesmen in both countries. What hope can there be from the media which is concerned more with commerce?
These were the thoughts shared by media experts at the international seminar on the ‘Role of media for peace in South Asia’ that opened at the Chandigarh University’s Gharuan campus on Saturday. The seminar was held in collaboration with the Society for Promotion of Peace.
Coming in the wake of Pakistan unilaterally suspending the peace process between the two nations, it saw nearly two thirds of the delegates pulling out of the seminar. Chanchal Manohar Singh, chairman, Society for Promotion of Peace, said a large number of delegates dropped out fearing backlash following media reports quoting the Pakistani envoy’s announcement of suspension of the peace process. “It is here that the media could play a more responsible role rather than adding to the trust deficit between the two countries,” he said.
Delivering the keynote address at the seminar, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune, Harish Khare said, “It is not a propitious time to talk of peace. I speak only on from my position in India that making peace or war is a statesman’s job and we have no statesman. We in the media should help political leadership from sinking in the quagmire of antagonism and pull them back from war”. He added that, “If we can’t have peace, we certainly don’t want war”.
Sharing the ups and downs of being involved deeply in the peace process between the two countries, Hindustan Times political editor Vinod Sharma talked about the trust deficit and the information deficit between the two countries adding’ “It’s sad that this is so in the present age of information. As for the media on both sides, the easy way is to sensationalise because that draws people. The effort is to standardise the minds.” He gave the example of the film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ which was a ray of hope for warming Indo-Pak ties but regretted the fact that a copyright issue arose over a ‘qawaali’ sung in the film by Adnam Sami. He, too, regretted the absence of statesmen in both countries and added that media should not question the efforts of the respective prime ministers of the two countries in making an effort towards peace. “The voice of the peacenik has to be resurrected not just in South Asia but all over the world”.
Senior journalist from Islamabad Mohammad Ishfaq Chaudhary from Rawalpindi laid emphasis on the shared cultural heritage of the two countries and said, “As a Punjabi, I am all for peace for it concerns us most as at the time of Partition in 1947 some 25 lakh Punjabis were killed”. He decried the re-writing of history by right-wing historians on both sides as well as the divisive reporting especially on electronic media.
Hope lives on, say Pak scribes
Imran Yaqub, (Daily Express, Islamabad) We must not consider the suspension of the peace process as the end. We need to work for its revival.
Shakila Jaleel, (Daily Voice of Pakistan, Islamabad) The role of media on both sides can’t be undermined and the effort should be to calm down the situation rather than adding fuel to the fire.
Adeel Raza, (Dawn, Islamabad) Media can play a significant role in presenting a softer image of the two countries and now we have more choices that are not state- owned.
Asiya Mughal, (Development writer) The film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ and the ‘Zindagi’ channel has brought the people of the two countries closer. We need more such initiatives.