A challenge ahead
Majority of social scientist dealing with conflicts managements believe that media, both print and electronic, can play a pivotal role in reducing conflicts and defusing tension. It obviously requires determining the role of journalists and media outlets involved in a particular conflict zone. In such circumstances, it is necessary to analyze the situation in respect to socio-economic and political fabric of the relevant conflict area. It is also important to determine the role of media organizations either as a fact-finder or the scope may be comprehensive and dignified one; paving the way towards peace building. The comprehensive role model further demands for the measures to identify conflicts at very initial stage. Media is also considered a powerful tool to manage or resolve conflicts. All conflicts usually based on misunderstandings between or among the interactive groups or social political classes. If the situation is noticed quickly and fact-based information are managed to educate the general public, a larger group or section of society and sometimes, the whole nation can be saved appropriately.
Radio remained a powerful mean of information in the hilly and less educated areas of Swat since long. It was difficult to tune medium waves of various radio stations of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), especially in day times due to outdated equipments and so forth. However, majority of locals are familiar with some national and international radio channels including BBC (Urdu & Pushto services), VOA, (Urdu & Pushto), Indian entertainment radio channels, CRI (Urdu & Pushto) and radio of Pakistan late night programs. Local Swatis remained deprived of a local-based radio channel since merger of Swat in 1969. It is further identified that there were some loopholes and lack of relevant legislation to accommodate Swat in the mainstream of the country. The promulgation of rules and regulations formulated by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) may be mentioned as point of reference. Such rules and regulations introduced in the area from October 2007. No efforts were made by the Government or by any private media organization to establish a local-based radio channel to educate the people. The situation remained the same even for more than four decades.
In 2004, a FM channel started by a local cleric (Maulana), in a village across the Swat river, a few kilometers away from the city of Mingora; a main business hub of Swat valley. He had some background and affiliations with extremist forces and had no professional background to run such media organization. The station initially gave sermons about daily practices and principles of Islam. Residents, especially women folk, instantly attracted and found themselves compelled to listen, as the mean was used for the first time in the history of Swat and there was no viable alternative. The demand of radio sets increased in the local market and after few months, propaganda was started on the same channel regarding vaccination and girls’ education. Appeal for donations to construct a huge building of a seminary also started. Interestingly, the number of such channels increased with the passage of time but the exact number and location of each and every channel remained unknown. However, a rough idea suggests that they were 7-10 in number, covering the entire Swat valley.
Owing to this background and to provide the inhabitants of Swat valley with a viable alternative, establishment of a powerful media, especially FM Radio channels are inevitable. The contents of these programs must focus on social needs, economic uplift, infrastructure, education and development. It should further focus on the promotion of local culture, poetry and literature, promotion of tourism in the area and above all to educate women folk sitting inside their homes and have no access to modern education facilities. It is no doubt the fact that education process is not limited only to the boundaries of an educational institute. The use of media outlets for educating women folk of our society is a neglected area and we saw its repercussion in the crises. It is now the time to establish a strong educational base to cope with the challenges ahead.
In order to counter the free flow of information through illegal means of communications, a professional behavioral change at the educational and media management level is highly desirable. Such coordinated efforts will pave the way to educate women and find out solutions of their untold problems.