LAHORE: Journalism is the most dangerous career in Pakistan, as journalists face challenges and restrictions not only from the government but also agencies and militant groups.
These views were expressed by speakers at a session ‘Reportage on Pakistan’ on the second day of the Lahore Literature Festival (LLF) 2014 on Saturday.
Noted journalist Zahid Hussain, Shahan Mufti and award winning journalist Matthieu Aikins addressed the seminar, which was moderated by Munizae Jahangir.
Zahid Hussain said that out of journalist killed in Pakistan during the last decade, most belonged to or were killed in the northern areas. He said that journalists in Pakistan had the same problems like those in other countries.
He said that journalists in Iraq and Syria also faced similar problems while reporting.
He said that the restrictions and censorship on journalists mainly began in General Zia’s era, but “one cannot compare it with Gen Musharraf’s era, as Musharraf gave freedom to the media and a number of private TV channels were allowed to be on air.
He added that during Zia’s era, there were a number of restrictions on newspapers, and sometimes newspapers had blank pages, as the news that were not in the government’s favour were removed. Several journalists were imprisoned in his era, he said.
Zahid added that journalism in Pakistan was the most interesting thing, as the freedom of speech now did not exist before.
Matthieu Aikins said that journalists could not stand on one side during a conflict between two groups, and he experienced the same while reporting in Afghanistan, and faced threats from both sides.
“In Pakistan, news stories are generally controlled by states,” he added. Aikins further said that a journalist has to take risk in his life for his profession.
Shahan said that sometimes journalists break the laws of a specific country in order to bring forward the truth. While giving examples, he said that journalists who break out the NSA leaks also broke the laws and brought the truth in front of the world. He said that journalists were practicing the same in almost every country. Shahan said that he also faced a lot of problems while reporting about Punjab and Lahore to a foreign newspaper, as people feared to talk to a foreign newspaper.
“Specially, while working as freelance journalists, organisational support is not given to journalists, and they have to put their lives in danger.”
Musk Deer: In another session, titled ‘Musk Deer: The Contemporary in Tradition’, Indian artist and scenographer Rajeev Sethi said that South Asia had the best artists across the world; the handicrafts and artwork being used by the previous generations had its own significance.
He said that handmade things by our elders were finer and more beautiful than today’s machine-made items. “My grandmother told me about 90 colours she worked with while making handicrafts, but I have been unable to observe more than 20 colours in my life,” he said.
He stressed the need for bring art back into our lives, in our surroundings, including at railway stations, bus stops, public parks, hospitals and other public places.
While addressing the session titled ‘Crises of Education: Tagore’s Meaning Today’, noted scientist and analyst Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, Indian writer Professor Amit Chaudhuri and noted journalist Khaled Ahmad stressed the need for putting the education sector in Pakistan and India into Tagore’s ideology, which was anti-nationalism.
Khaled Ahmad explained Rabindranath Tagore’s ideology and said that he was in favour of practical education, and hated nationalism, especially in education. Khaled said that Tagore believed that education was the first victim of nationalism. He said that India and Pakistan both had hatred materials against each other in their curriculum.
Pervaiz Hoodbhay said that Tagore’s ideas of education were positively dangerous, and that those could not be implemented in today’s conservative society.
He said that religious nationalism had cost millions of lives in war between Iran and Iraq, as both the countries used hydrogen bombs and child soldiers during war.
Pervaiz said that an example of religious nationalism was, as every know, that the Taliban recently kidnapped 23 FC personnel, killed them and played football with their heads, but one of the government’s representatives said that these Taliban would fight with us if we were fighting with India.
Pervaiz identified that Pakistan studies’ syllabus book had a poison that promoted hate material.
In 1995, the curriculum committee suggested that a 12-year-old student of class 5 or 6 must have the knowledge to differentiate between Hindus and Muslims, and that they were even asked to visit police stations and army camps to know how the army defeated the Indians.
Pervaiz said that the problem started when General Zia wrote a letter to the authorities concerned to include Islamic education in the curricula and said that Pakistan was not a Muslim but an Islamic state. He said that traditional and modern education had differences, as traditional education was that which was written in books, like the Holy Quran, Geeta and Bible, and no one could deny to that education, as it was written on stones, but modern education was based on inventions and research, so one could deny and disagree with the inventions and research.
Amit Chaudhuri said, “We live in a country where social sciences has also same prestige, as other sciences have in education.”
He said that Tagore hated printed material for education and preferred hand-written material. He added that since 1991’s economic revolution, India had been changed, and now it promoted nationalism.
Also on Saturday, renowned narrator Zia Mohyeddin enthralled jam-packed audience with the recitation of Mushtaq Yusufi’s book as well as his book, A carrot is a carrot.
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