PESHAWAR – Journalists from Pakistan and Afghanistan resolved at the conclusion of a three-day conference to refrain from glorifying violence and militant acts, and instead to promote efforts for peace, economic development and prosperity in both countries.
About 50 reporters from Pakistan and Afghanistan attended the December 10-12 conference, Building Bonds for Peace, which the Centre for Free Media (CFM) organized, Central Asia Online reported.
"We need to work hand in hand to strengthen bonds of peace and fulfil our obligations as journalists by speaking and telling the truth despite all odds," Jalal Abaad- based senior Afghan journalist Babrak Miankhel said.
He expressed regret that the situation in both countries had affected once-cordial relations between their journalist communities even though they share mutual interests.
Liaison committee formed
The reporters formed a committee, with two members from each country, to serve as a liaison between both countries’ various media organizations and to pave the way for peace and harmony, a joint declaration issued on December 12 said.
"This conference calls upon both the neighboring countries to ease their travelling restrictions on both the journalists and members of the civil societies in order to enhance people-to-people contacts and promote peace-building efforts," the declaration said.
"It is time that we realise our responsibilities and become more proactive in order to discover avenues for peace by taking all the stakeholders into confidence and also to continue this process of mutual consultation," Shaukat Khattak, the chief executive of CFM, told the conferees.
"It is imperative that we the journalists of both countries identify political, economic and strategic issues of both countries and inform the general masses about them," Saif ul Islam Saifi, president of the Peshawar Press Club, said. It takes a proper diagnosis to cure the disease (strife and terrorism), he said.
Ethics, outreach vital
Islamabad-based senior journalist Imtiaz Gul urged the attendees to follow journalistic ethics, noting that the media has the ability to drive the conflict further or to help build a lasting peace.
"Irresponsible journalism could badly harm the existing relationship between the two countries and could lead to further deepening of the mistrust between the people of both countries," he said. "Misreporting or over-emphasising a certain issue could not only affect the friendly relationship between the two countries but could also put the lives of the journalists in danger."
"Journalists need to exhibit maturity and seriousness while reporting on various issues, and they should try their utmost to avoid taking sides, as this could lead to creating mistrust between the two countries," Dr. Fakhr ul Islam, chairman of the department of Pakistan studies at the University of Peshawar, said. "Objective journalism could help remove misconceptions from the minds of both Afghans and Pakistanis."
Jamila Zareef, a female Afghan journalist, was delighted at the love and affection "showered" on her and her colleagues by their Pakistani counterparts.
Before she came to Pakistan, she, like many Afghans, had a negative image of Pakistan, but all such thoughts vanished when she saw the hospitality of the Pakistani journalists and members of the civil society, she said.
"It is imperative that both the countries shall have very cordial and friendly relations, as Pakistan and Afghanistan are like two real brothers," she said.
"When relations between the two brothers are not cordial, then, certainly it will have negative effects on the whole family."
Frequent visits from both countries could strengthen mutual bonds, said Farishta Nigah, another female journalist from Afghanistan.
"This forum will provide us an opportunity to increase our contacts, which will enable us in the future to know about our mutual problems and finding a solution to them," Nigah said, emphasising that more such gatherings should be arranged both in Kabul and Peshawar.
"It is very unfortunate that we are eager to know about Europe and other far-off countries, but we have little information or knowledge about the two neighbouring countries who share the same religion, same culture, same traditions and to an extent the same language," said Salim Safi, a senior journalist and anchor at Pakistan’s Geo TV.
Journalists enjoy a lot of trust in the two societies and need to speak the truth and write objectively about both countries’ policies, Parveen Malal, cultural attaché at the Afghan consulate in Peshawar, said.
"Journalism is a sacred profession, and journalists are required to play a positive and constructive role in peace building initiatives between the two countries," he said.
"There is a need to promote peace and constantly talk, write and work for peace despite facing tough challenges and having obstacles in our way," Peshawar-based senior journalist Iqbal Khattak said.