KARACHI: A two-day conference on “Extreme Journalism: Conflict and Peace in the Digital Age” was held on Saturday at the Journalism Center of Excellence at the Institute of Business Administration.
The opening speech was delivered by veteran journalist Hamid Mir.
Hamid Mir explained how his career started and why it is important to prepare young Pakistani journalists and teach them journalism.
If you’ve ever wondered how veteran journalist and TV host Mir got into journalism, it was very simple. He saw an ad for a deputy editor in a newspaper and applied. He passed a test and was hired.
“I joined the editorial staff after graduating. After a while, I realized I wanted to do my masters, but the question was, in what,” he shared in his opening speech.
“My father, who had passed away by then, had been a journalism professor at Punjab University and had pushed them to change the curriculum, but nothing had happened. So I based my decision on this : I wanted to do an easy master’s degree and I knew that if I did it in journalism I wouldn’t have to study a lot and I didn’t,” he added.
Later, Mir said that when he became editor, he would throw away the resumes of everyone who had done a master’s degree in journalism; Why? Because he knew what they had learned in school. It became such a problem that his boss started asking questions, as did the universities. “I told them they had to change their program and they did. They have also started signing up working journalists and that has really made a difference,” he said.
Dr S Akbar Zaidi of the IBA and CEJ-IBA Executive Director Amber Rahim Shamsi welcomed participants and speakers to the event.
According to Shamsi, without political satire, without freedom of expression, without quality journalism, the world is a little nastier. “Peace is not just the absence of conflict; these are conditions where justice, equity and harmony can flourish. Journalists don’t broker peace, that’s the job of politicians and frankly they don’t do a great job of settling disputes themselves – journalists help those seeking justice and shine a light on inequality,” a- she declared.
“Meanwhile, social media has energized the politics of conflict and populism. We live in a world where heroes are easy to make and villains even easier to revile. It takes a few tik-tokkers and YouTubers. Like and subscribe to my channel, follow me.
“Besides, why promote harmony when polarization gives access to power, fame, clicks and ratings? I hope this is one of the many questions we can find an answer to. over the next two days and one of those questions is fundamental – why do we still need journalism when we can’t even assume that people learn about the world through good journalism,” she added.
Dr Zaidi said he was delighted to be part of the conference which brings together Pakistan’s best and bravest journalists talking about peace and the challenges they face at a time of increasing conflicts, ranging from those related to control and regulation, outright intimidation and threats.
Speaking of conflict as a social scientist, Dr. Zaidi said that in social science there is conflict in everything including the family – hierarchy creates conflict and conflict can also take many forms.
Welcoming attendees to the two-day conference, Dr Zaidi said: “I hope there is a lot of conflict in your discussion and some resolution too.”
The first day kicked off with a powerful session titled: Do We Need Journalism? Moderated by journalist Shahzeb Jillani, the powerful panel which included Badar Alam, editor of Lok Sujag, Zeeshan Haider of the BBC and Benazir Shah of Geo.
The panel discussed the grim reality of the state of journalism in Pakistan and its importance to the country today and in the future.
Haider said it was not a matter of credibility but of trust. “A user now bases their news preferences on whether they like or dislike the person sharing the news (which is essentially their opinion). Checking news or facts is secondary to them,” he said.
For Geo’s Benazir Shah, while journalism is important and necessary, the quality of what you read in newspapers has gone down.
“The problem with consuming news on social media is that there will always be doubt – is it accurate and genuine? I get a lot of messages from my friends who will send me a link and ask me if it’s is wrong. There is also a misunderstanding between a journalist and a reporter. A journalist provides information and a journalist will provide it in context. There are many layers in media organizations that are eliminated in social media,” he said. she added.
According to Alam, journalism does not exist in a vacuum. “Conflict is essential to what we do. The conflict that Pakistan is currently facing is not resolved in a democratic way and therefore journalism cannot survive in an undemocratic atmosphere. There is no real democracy in this country, so journalism is currently distorted and mutilated. If people don’t trust the media, you can’t blame them. Even in that setting, we did good journalism and we still do,” he said, adding that while the future of journalism might not be bright, it was there.
The second session, Foes and Friends: Media Laws and Regulations promised to be an explosive session with former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik, journalist Hamid Mir and lawyer Zainab Janjua. The session was moderated by leading TV presenter and journalist Maria Memon.
The problem with the media in Pakistan is that when there was a media boom…the media didn’t really play a role in it, said former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry.
“When General Musharraf came to power, he gave media freedom, but since there was nothing concrete, he did not introduce any regulations. It led to a lot of monopolization – it became more of a Seth media and journalists didn’t have much say in it,” he added.
Today, he explained, the media is owned by people who have other businesses and they entered the media to protect their interests.
“In 2018 I predicted that the media boom would be over and in the next five years it would be just social media. There is no proper mechanism for media – there is no regulation,” he added.
According to him, Chaudhry said Pakistani media needs three things to survive: regulation, proper mechanism and keep up with technological changes.
Session moderator Maria Memon asked her panel, “So who is spreading fake news? the media or the politicians? »
Mir responded quickly and said that while he agreed with one of Chaudhry’s statements, he disagreed with the other.
“General Musharraf did not give freedom to the media. If you look at the history of the Pakistani press – read Press in Chains by Zamir Niazi and another book on the history of the Pakistani press which documents everything from the partition, the Federal Union of Journalists of Pakistan, the regime of Ayub Khan, the cover of Kargil, etc. “, did he declare.
“During Musharraf’s time, the transmission of ARY and GEO was not happening in Pakistan, but in London and Dubai. I was head of country at the time and used to get licenses for my team every 15 days…it was tough. We have lots of media laws, but they are not enforced – and that is the problem,” he added.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and Federal Oil Minister Musadik Malik had a very different take on the subject. For Dr. Malik, media and politicians are the same. “I don’t think there is a difference. You can call them organization, politicians, journalists – basically they are all the same thing. They are the elite of the country and they are shocked. Their responses are shocking or, as they say, frozen in shock, and they don’t know how to react,” he said.
“We have to realize that times have changed. The media consumed has changed, the policy has changed. Everything is bankrupt but the question is: who shook them? The people,” he added.
Speaking of fake news, Dr. Malik said that the information revolution i.e. social media has given a voice to the common man. “It empowered the people to reject elite standardized truth. Now the elite don’t know how to react to this. They are frozen in time,” he added.
The problem, according to Dr. Malik, is regulation because “it is what is used to stifle voice and freedom of expression. But what we need is a standard of self-regulation set by media professionals”
The third session of the day, Hasna Mana Hai, the panel had everyone laughing with their witty one-liners and stories.
Comedian Shehzad Ghias Shaikh asked content creator Tamkenat Mansoor, writer, poet and communications expert Shahzad Sharjeel, musician Ali Aftab Saeed and Urdu columnist Yasir Pirzada to talk about political satire, social commentary, role comedy in social change and how hard is it to write satire in pakistan and what to do when ridiculous is normal, normal is ridiculous.
The last session of the day was: The Culture Connection – Track II with journalist Buraq Shabbir moderating the session.
The panel, which included journalist and filmmaker Beena Sarwar, producer Misbah Shafique and Joyland director Saim Sadiq, discussed cross-cultural content, the need for collaboration and the importance of cultural exchange.
This conference is part of the Peace Journalism program, organized by the CEJ in collaboration with the American consulate in Karachi, which started in May 2021 and will end this month. The program included online workshops on peace and conflict reporting, mobile journalism, data journalism, social media and photojournalism. The program also offered mentorship with senior journalists.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022