Despite centuries of interaction, misunderstandings and misperceptions still flourish among the governments and people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, opined media persons from both countries on Wednesday.
The media should play a positive and constructive role in the fast-changing geopolitical scenario in the region to bring the two neighbouring countries closer.
These views were expressed by Pakistani and Afghan journalists at an interactive session held at National Press Club. A delegation of Afghan journalists is currently visiting Pakistan with the support of Pakistan Institute of Peace Study (PIPS).
The participants underlined that the media on both sides of the border often spread rumours and misunderstanding due to lack of access to information.
“It (media) offers blind support to the state policy instead of describing the true picture on the ground with journalistic integrity,” said a participant.
Afghan journalist Sami Yousufzai said that a section of the Urdu media in Pakistan is spearheading the dissemination of disinformation on the Afghanistan issue. He said that the reason could be that even major Pakistani media houses have not deputed correspondents in Afghanistan, despite being very close in every aspect.
Resultantly, they have to rely on secondary information, which often unsubstantiated or outrightly false.
He urged media organisations to depute correspondents in Afghanistan to get the firsthand information. Sami was also critical of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul’s visa policy, where most requests by journalists are rejected.
He admitted that the Afghan public’s perception of Pakistan is very negative, illustrating with the example of how every finger points at Pakistan whenever bombings occur.
Pakistani writer and scholar Ashfaq Salim Mirza, who was moderating the session, said that there should be exchanges of media delegations, civil society, think tanks, policymakers, artists and traders to overcome such misperceptions on both sides.
He said that both countries have been severely destabilised due to the two major interventions by international powers in Afghanistan, and that the general public on both sides were the primary victims of these military campaigns.
Afghan journalist Habibullah Rafi said that a revolution is possible only through the media, especially social media, while citing examples from the Arab spring.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2012.