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A challenge ahead

A challenge ahead

Majority of social scientist dealing with conflicts managements believe that media, both print and electronic, can play a pivotal role in reducing conflicts and defusing tension. It obviously requires determining the role of journalists and media outlets involved in a particular conflict zone. In such circumstances, it is necessary to analyze the situation in respect to socio-economic and political fabric of the relevant conflict area. It is also important to determine the role of media organizations either as a fact-finder or the scope may be comprehensive and dignified one; paving the way towards peace building. The comprehensive role model further demands for the measures to identify conflicts at very initial stage. Media is also considered a powerful tool to manage or resolve conflicts. All conflicts usually based on misunderstandings between or among the interactive groups or social political classes. If the situation is noticed quickly and fact-based information are managed to educate the general public, a larger group or section of society and sometimes, the whole nation can be saved appropriately.

Radio remained a powerful mean of information in the hilly and less educated areas of Swat since long. It was difficult to tune medium waves of various radio stations of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), especially in day times due to outdated equipments and so forth. However, majority of locals are familiar with some national and international radio channels including BBC (Urdu & Pushto services), VOA, (Urdu & Pushto), Indian entertainment radio channels, CRI (Urdu & Pushto) and radio of Pakistan late night programs. Local Swatis remained deprived of a local-based radio channel since merger of Swat in 1969. It is further identified that there were some loopholes and lack of relevant legislation to accommodate Swat in the mainstream of the country. The promulgation of rules and regulations formulated by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) may be mentioned as point of reference. Such rules and regulations introduced in the area from October 2007. No efforts were made by the Government or by any private media organization to establish a local-based radio channel to educate the people. The situation remained the same even for more than four decades.
In 2004, a FM channel started by a local cleric (Maulana), in a village across the Swat river, a few kilometers away from the city of Mingora; a main business hub of Swat valley. He had some background and affiliations with extremist forces and had no professional background to run such media organization. The station initially gave sermons about daily practices and principles of Islam. Residents, especially women folk, instantly attracted and found themselves compelled to listen, as the mean was used for the first time in the history of Swat and there was no viable alternative. The demand of radio sets increased in the local market and after few months, propaganda was started on the same channel regarding vaccination and girls’ education. Appeal for donations to construct a huge building of a seminary also started. Interestingly, the number of such channels increased with the passage of time but the exact number and location of each and every channel remained unknown. However, a rough idea suggests that they were 7-10 in number, covering the entire Swat valley.

Owing to this background and to provide the inhabitants of Swat valley with a viable alternative, establishment of a powerful media, especially FM Radio channels are inevitable. The contents of these programs must focus on social needs, economic uplift, infrastructure, education and development. It should further focus on the promotion of local culture, poetry and literature, promotion of tourism in the area and above all to educate women folk sitting inside their homes and have no access to modern education facilities. It is no doubt the fact that education process is not limited only to the boundaries of an educational institute. The use of media outlets for educating women folk of our society is a neglected area and we saw its repercussion in the crises. It is now the time to establish a strong educational base to cope with the challenges ahead.

In order to counter the free flow of information through illegal means of communications, a professional behavioral change at the educational and media management level is highly desirable. Such coordinated efforts will pave the way to educate women and find out solutions of their untold problems.

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Comments

jadefrank's picture

alternative radio programming

Shadmaan,

I really enjoyed reading this article. You're right - conflict resolution and empowering rural (and urban) residents with media that promotes social needs, economic uplift, education... with a mix of cultural promotion - is a necessary tool for providing people with an alternative to extremism propaganda. Are there any organizations working on creating such programming? What will it take for this to happen?

I recently came across a member on PulseWire who works for Search for Common Ground. This organization has several programs in African conflict zones that develops and promotes media efforts (primarily through radio) that focus on training radio broadcasters on the role of media in identifying development priorities and communicating policies to their audiences and organizing media and policymakers forums to establish working relationships between the two groups - among other trainings. This could be a good resource for those working to establish a peace building radio platform in Pakistan.
http://www.sfcg.org/programmes/cgp/cgp_radiopeace.html

I suggest contacting Frances (you can make a comment on her journal or send a private message), as she may have some tips for replicating a similar program in Pakistan.

Frances Fortune
Africa Director, Search for Common Ground
http://www.worldpulse.com/user/3659

Please keep us updated on all things Pakistan, especially in the Swat Valley.

In friendship,
Jade

shadmaan saleem's picture

Alternative programming

Hi Jade,

Thanks for you comments. you raised very interesting questions about alternative programming. presently no one is allowed by the Government to take an initiative in this regard in the affected area. Millitary has launched their own radio to fill the gap. However, the style of broadcasting and presentation mood need to be improved in the light of local needs. Presently, they are producing programmes directly from Islamabad and and broadcast through settlite in the local areas. I also emphasised in the piece of writing that there are so many other ways of communication that need to be utilized. The capability of the local print media also needs to be enhanced in order to meet the challenges ahead.

I think the whole situation demands for some drastic changes to equip the locals with knowledge and accurate information. The education system, specially for girls, is at the verge of collapse. more than three hundared schools have been destroyed and girls of remote areas have no or limited access to education.

Ther is an intense need to initiate non formal education programes for adult women to come out of the stressed environment and to take part actively in the process of rehabilitation.

Thanks for giving me Frances contact, and I am going to look into the matter further.

Shadmaan.

Shadmaan,

I enjoyed reading and learning more about what is happening in your areas. I totally agree with you and what Jade is saying. I also think that educating women or bringing positive change in their lives can only be attained if the women own the media.

This should not be limited to radio but there is need to explore other media channels that women can use. For instance, theatre has proved to be an effective tool used to educate people whilst entertaining them. If the women can come together to listen a radio then it should not be a problem to bring them together to watch an interactive performance. The women can the conduct a post performance discussion and together they find solutions to addressing challenges they they face.

Good job for putting this online. Keep us updated.

Gertrude

shadmaan saleem's picture

Women issues

Thanks for your comment. You may be aware of the situation here in Swat. I personally worked hard in the pre crises situation of Swat and tried to identify the root causes of extremism which mainly relate to ignorance, poverty and multiple class education system. But in the post crises scenario, I want to work in the field of women education using local journalistic mediums. I have recently established an organization “Media Dimensions Swat" with the help of my close community and want to help women folk of my society in the field of education, awareness and training in order to equip them for socio economic development. There are various projects in my mind and I have started working to initialize my activities. Presently, I just want to prepare and disseminate some video documentaries on local women issues to make them aware of.

Shadmaan Saleem

Adnan Rashid's picture

Freedom with responsibility

I agree with your ideas. The main point is that every one, on every platform realizes this problem but still the government not taking practical steps, to support private radio organizations in the area. Although a government FM radio station has been installed but mostly they are communicating ideas in a top-down manner. I am sure you will agree that for rehabilitation, we need an indigenous platform to highlight the ground realities, with the ideas coming from the masses. If we do so then locals will avail the opportunity to express themselves rather to join the other extreme. I will request to all of you to support Pact Radio Swat that they can play their positive role in this regard and to present the real picture of the area as they did at the peak of the crisis.

jadefrank's picture

Pact Radio Swat

Adnan,

Welcome to PulseWire and thank you for sharing your voice on this important issue. It is so powerful for this global community to hear of the needs and solutions for rural Pakistan during this conflict and I hope that both you and Shadmaan will continue to share your insight with us. I am interested to hear more about Pact Radio Swat. Is there a website or can you share the programming platform with us and how one could go about supporting their work? How did Pact Radio Swat play a positive role in this area during the peak of the crisis? What lessons can we learn from their work to replicate conflict resolution media programming in other parts of Pakistan and even the world? Is there a model you can share?

Warm regards,
Jade

Online Community Manager
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