The Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) conducted a training workshop for the youth of Pakistan and Afghanistan on the ‘Role of Media in Shaping Narratives’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan relations on Tuesday, September 26. The workshop was designed as part of CRSS’ Afghan Studies Center (ASC) initiative to bring together the youth of both countries on one platform and conduct joint exercises between them to increase their interaction, awareness and reduce the unnecessarily growing misperceptions on both sides of the border.
Senior Broadcast Journalist and Analyst Rehman Azhar, who holds vast experience and knowledge in the field of broadcast journalism having worked at Aaj News, Dunya, Express, Express 24/7 and Geo, and currently hosts a prime time TV current affairs program “Center Stage with Rehman Azhar” at Express TV, was the chief guest and trainer at the workshop. He shared his insights and experience as a senior media person with the participants and the role played by the media and its significance in shaping narratives in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The workshop focused on acquainting the youth with the different dynamics involved in the two countries’ media while also educating them with the potential of media utilization in positive ways. The workshop was attended by 18 young Pakistani and Afghan participants from various universities in Islamabad, including Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), and Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), along with other young and vibrant activists.
During the workshop, the participants were put through several group exercises using examples from both countries as a way to pinpoint how the media is shaping narratives of the masses. A point of discussion was also whether it is the media fabricating those narratives or the media itself is molded by the larger ideological and national narratives. In the brainstorming exercise, participants from both sides maintained the view that only fifty percent of what is portrayed in the media can be considered as true reflection of the reality. Many participants stated that the media certainly has a commercial aspect which drives it to portray spicy news more frequently in its quest for high ratings. A few youngsters were also of the view that the media may also be used as a tool by certain stakeholders to create resentment between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mr. Rehman Azhar told the participants that the private electronic media in Pakistan, and also in Afghanistan is fairly recent, which partially attributes to immature and irresponsible media coverage at times. He gave the examples of BBC, CNN and other western media houses which have been there for far longer and have not only matured but also have panel of region specialists. Reminding the participants of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s historic brotherly relations, he said that when Afghanistan’s state National Television was being set up, experts from Pakistan’s State PTV went to assist them. In the end, he stressed on the need for the media to act as a positive bridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan by broadcasting promising stories, and urged the youth to build a positive counter narrative to improve perceptions in both masses.
Mr. Aized Ali, Project Director Beyond Boundaries at CRSS, who was the moderator, further apprised the participants on CRSS’ Pak-Afghan Beyond Boundaries Track1.5/II initiative which led to the emergence of Afghan Studies Center (ASC). He told the participants that Beyond Boundaries had been a conscious effort to bridge the gulf of mistrust between the two neighbors. He also encouraged the participants to network among themselves to help improve local perceptions on both sides.
The workshop was the second in ASC’s series of scheduled workshops for Afghan and Pakistani youth. Through such activities, the center aspires for peace by engaging the youth from both sides in informed discourses, and capacity building through skills development workshops. Alongside such workshops, the center also runs a monthly dialogue series with participation of young men and women from Pakistan and Afghanistan to increase the much needed people to people contact that has been decreasing in recent years.
About Afghan Studies Center: The Afghan Studies Center is an initiative by the Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad – an independent and non-profit think tank and advocacy center. One of the primary objectives of the Afghan Studies Center is to serve as a bridge between the youth of Pakistan and Afghanistan to interact with each other and join hands to become leaders of change and messengers of peace and cooperation beyond boundaries. To achieve this objective, the Afghan Studies Center invites young Afghans to share their story using our platform with the youth of Pakistan as well as the world.