Indo-Pak journalists want free flow of cross-border information


KARACHI: Senior editors and anchors from India and Pakistan on Tuesday agreed on the need to create more empathy for each other's country, and the dire need for more "cross-border information". The journalists are in the city for a meeting titled 'Talking Peace' convened by Aman ki Asha, a joint initiative of the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India Group.

The discussion took place in a frank and open atmosphere. The participants made several specific suggestions to improve coverage of issues which may lead to heightened understanding between both the countries. Some of these suggestions stemmed from the need to reinforce best journalistic practices, like being careful about reports based on single sources and questioning stories stemming from government agencies.

They noted that the visa restrictions have in fact forced them to draw upon correspondents and reporters from each other's countries, which has led points of view from across the border to be broadcast or published in cross-border channels and publications.

Some of the suggestions that came up have been repeatedly made at various platforms over the past years, such as the demand for easing visa restrictions, lifting the existing restrictions on the media in both the countries, allowing journalists easier access to each other's countries, and ending the restrictions on cell phone roaming between Pakistan and India.

They also suggested broadening the coverage of Indo-Pak issues beyond geopolitics, ensuring a more rigorous reportage of economic, infrastructural and cultural issues. Training workshops for reporters on specific issues like Kashmir, water, and terrorism would help raise the level of reporting in general, and on Indo-Pak issues in particular, they observed.

They suggested the development of a mutually agreed upon code of ethics on issues of mutual concern or guidelines between Indian and Pakistani media practitioners, and the development of a website that would allow editors and media practitioners across the border to engage with each other, which would also help to generate better understanding and help defuse tensions.

They suggested compiling a database of media commentators to provide journalists across the border a larger pool of analysts to draw from and allow for more circumspection at times of crisis. A related suggestion was to monitor television talk shows to analyse how often hawkish voices are invited on air compared to more nuanced, complex views.

Another suggestion was to promote more exchange and interaction among junior and mid-level reporters, editors and producers from the media in each country.

They also suggested engaging those who maintained a hawkish stance on Indo-Pak relations, in each country, in the hope that the level of acrimony would be reduced especially at times of crisis.

There was a suggestion to evolve it into a regular forum between Indian and Pakistani journalists.

Beena Sarwar, Editor Special Projects, Jang Group introduced the meeting, which was moderated by Kanak Mani Dixit, Editor of Himal Southasian, Kathmandu. The discussion kicked off with a presentation on the findings stemming from nine years of interactions between Pakistani and Indian editors organised by Panos South Asia, presented by S. Panneerselvan, Executive Director Panos South Asia.

Other participants of the meeting included Arindam Sengupta (Editor in Chief, Times of India), Diwakar Asthana (Bureau Chief, Times of India), Swaminathan S. Aiyar (Consulting Editor, Economic Times), Siddharth Vardarajan (Deputy Editor, The Hindu), Barkha Dutt (Group Editor, NDTV), Rajdeep Sardesai (Editor in Chief CNN-IBN), Shravan Garg (Editor in Chief, Dainik Bhaskar), and Bharat Bhushan (Editor, Mail Today) from India.

Editors and anchors from Pakistan included Rehana Hakim (Editor, Newsline), Arifa Noor (Editor, Herald), Ejaz Haider (Editor Newsweek Pakistan) Shaheen Salahuddin (Director News, Indus TV), Mehmood Shaam (Group Editor, Jang), Arif Nizami (former editor The Nation), Hamid Mir (Executive Editor, Geo News), Imran Aslam (President Geo TV), Azhar Abbas (Managing Director Geo News), Kamran Khan (Group Editor Investigations, Jang Group, Geo TV), Talat Aslam (Editor, The News Karachi), and Mohammad Malick (Editor, The News, Islamabad).

The Talking Peace meeting will conclude with an interaction with the media and civil society on April 7.




Wednesday, April 07, 2010




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