Monday, October 16, 2017

In Pakistan, students teach professor about peace, media
(Sukkur, Pakistan)--Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss peace with those who know best—two classes of university students, about 50 total, most of whom come from conflict-ravaged areas of Pakistan.

These students are part of a program sponsored by Sukkur IBA University (SIBAU) called “Talent Search” wherein 300 disadvantaged students are brought to SIBAU every year and educated for free. Since many of these students come from substandard secondary schools, SIBAU even provides them with a “zero semester” to get them up to speed in English, math, and basic computer skills. It is an admirable program indeed.

During my visit with these students, I asked them directly, “what is peace?” Among their responses:

Live without violence

Freedom of Speech
Friendly relations between people
Love, not hatred
Freedom of Action
Self independence
When people can live independently, without interference
When law and order are maintained

Conference: Peace Through Education and Journalism.
I used these definitions to kick off my keynote speech last Thursday at SIBAU’s conference titled, “Peace Through Education and Journalism.” The conference participants, a mix of journalists, educators, and students, mostly agreed with the principles of peace articulated by the Talent Search students. I added my own definition of positive peace—where each individuall has an opportunity to self-actualize without discrimination or inequality of opportunity—as a way of framing our discussion about peace journalism.

We followed our analysis of peace with a presentation on the basics of peace journalism. This began with a discussion about Pakistani media: Do they inflame conflict? Once again, I began with input from SIBAU’s Talent Search students:

Media encourage conflict because they support only one party
Media report false information to get ratings
Pakistani media divide people (with the help of politicians)
Media highlight Pakistan as a terrorist country
Media make a bad situation worse by showing bad images again and again
On Social Media, no, media do not inflame conflicts

Conference: Peace Through Education and Journalism.
The conference audience again generally agreed with the students, adding the important ingredients of economic and competitive pressure as a way of explaining why media here sensationalize and sometimes inflame conflict.

We finished by discussing whether peace journalism is possible in Pakistan. One journalist pointed out that many PJ style stories are already being reported here, so perhaps the question is not “if” but rather “to what extent.” As with other places I’ve lectured, I recommended an incremental approach, a few steps at a time, combined with an effort to teach PJ at universities.

My visit to SIBAU was educational and fulfilling. I look forward to returning to Pakistan to continue this vibrant discussion.

No comments:

Post a Comment