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Mr I A Rehman (Pakistan)

3 Information dissemination and popular culture

S V Raju | Khaled Ahmed | Raj Chengappa | Karamat Ali | I. A. Rehman | Arif Hasan | DISCUSSION
SESSION CONTENTS | HOME

Session 3 CONTENTSSPEAKER'S QUOTE

We survived censorship because, thank God, the governments have never been so efficient as to stop people from thinking…

We are interested only in disaster stories.

You cannot stop Nusrat Fateh Ali from communicating to both people at the same time, or Ghulam Ali, or sometime some [artists] from India…

The Indian television has lowered the level of hate-talk from what there used to be in the past

From the front page to the back cover in every newspaper is devoted to the government, the people who want to be in the government or the criminals.

No we are witnessing the rule of media managers. The days of the guidance of professional editors are over…

I insist on each society getting the correct perspective of the other…

Mr. I. A. Rehman addressed the question: "How are we going to use this communication explosion?"

As an example of the impact the media can wield over the society, Mr. Rehman quoted the example of the demolition of the Babri Mosuqe: millions of people were able to watch it on both sides of the borders, and it was this telecast that provoked an instant reactions from societies in both India and Pakistan. Quoting another example, he mentioned a discussion on national security that he and his group of colleagues had in Islamabad. "Some people decided to make a story out of something which was not said… and they published it." When the next day some media persons went around collecting opinions on this story, Mr. Rehman’s group was condemned overnight by no less than one hundred and fifty politicians. "And all this time our efforts to say pleases let us know what are you shouting about" went all in vain.

Leading from these two examples, Mr Rehman came back to his basic question. He pointed out that the abuse of media was an even greater threat to the civil society than censorship.

Mr Rehman recalled the findings of a survey of the print media in India and Pakistan, conducted in 1988, with which he was associated. "We came to the conclusion that unless it was a disaster story, in India or Pakistan, it wasn’t likely to be reported in the other country." Hence, something good happening in Pakistan would not be reported in India, and the other way round. A more recent example of this was seen in the rebuilding of a temple in the Swat Valley that had been destroyed in the aftermath of the Babri Mosque: it was never reported in the Indian press. "If a woman is burnt in Rajastan in pursuance of satti, that will be published here, but there are so many people fighting this evil and they will not be reported."

Mr. Rehman also marked with concern that the media in both the countries is dividing even the domestic societies. "What are the media’s concerns? What is fit for reporting…?" Mr. Rehman observed that almost the entire space in our newspapers were given to activities related to the politics and the crime, giving little or no coverage to the activities of those groups who are striving for a better civil society. This, of course, gives a very disturbing picture of the society.

In view of the situation, Mr. Rehman suggested that the key to the solution was in the understanding that the media today is being run by managers, and not the professional editors. "Is it possible in India and Pakistan to work out something in the field of media so that the civil society gets a fair share?" This is left up to the civil society, since the governments in both the countries have been trying to propagate the na´ve view that one country will prosper only up to the extent that the other suffers. "It should be possible for both India and Pakistan to establish and develop media exchange in such a manner that they have a South Asian perspective."

Mr. Rehman also pointed out that unless the forces unleashed by the communication explosion are put to harness by those working in favour of a civil society, there is no guarantee that these forces will help build a better atmosphere. He mentioned as an example the discovery of the atomic energy: many scientists at that time thought that all the problems of humanity would now get solved. But that is not what has happened.

By way of suggestion, Mr. Rehman also mentioned that there is a need for groups of people from both the countries to come together and buy time on satellite for projecting things that would "help us understand each other."

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