Role of Radio in Peace Building Process in South Asia
Sheikh Mohammad Shafiul Islam
To overcome the debate over the territory of the South Asian Region, the SAARC countries have been taken for the study on ‘Role of Radio in Peace Building Process in the South Asia’. With an area of 3,989,969 km2 and a home of 1,549,348,689 people, this is one of the biggest regions in the world. Though the SAARC is a composition of eight countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), is ethnically diverse, with more than 2000 ethnic entities with populations ranging from hundreds of millions to small tribal groups having a huge diversity in terms of life-style, language, religion and culture. Even in India alone, there are 22 official languages. The major religious groups in this region are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhists, Christians, Sikh, Jain, and believers in tribal faiths.
One of the major problems the region is facing now-a-days is misunderstanding among different so-called extreme religious groups which has been spoiling peace and harmony. Recent media reports show, the region is undergoing such conflicts and bloodshed caused mainly by some identified islamic fundamentalists, autocratic power holders, political parties and other influential quarters. The killing of the daughter of the east Benjir Bhutto, regular bloodsheding in the Afghganistan and Pakistan, bombing throughout Bangladesh on a single day by an identified islamist group, terrorist attack on Totel Taj in Bombay etc are the burning evidence of the violence caused by the islamic millitancy and other illigitimate power holders.
Why this bloodsheding?
The experts think differently on this point. Some of the experts think, misunderstanding among the people of various cultures and religious beliefs are mainly responsible for such terrorism while some of them fingerpoint at intolerance of a particular group toward cultural and religious beliefs of others. So, misunderstanding or intolerance, whatsever the reality is the produce of ignorance of knowing each other. In this situation, bringing each of the groups closer will pave the way to know and understand each other which will be an useful tool to break knowledge-gap among them. To come closer of the diffrent groups of people will ensure mutual understanding by breaking myths rearding different cultures and diversity. Thus, tolerance will be strenthened and peaceful living will be promoted. And, in this process the mass media especially the radio can play catalyst role.
It is widely accepted that radio is a powerful electronic mass media having a magic power to reach even the remotest area with necessary information, education, entertainment and persuasion. Radio is a very powerful tool of communication having ability to reach the remote areas even where there is no electricity. Radio is also very useful in the South Asian region to those who are deprived of the light of education. As radio messages are delivered with dialogue, music, words and sentences, they can be easily communicable and understandable to the people who can’t read or write. To reach the grassroots level, the Community Radio (CR) can play effective role. To foster peace process in this region, awareness should be created from the grassroots level so that the community participation is ensured and campaign for restoring peace and peaceful living among different groups should be formed. Thus, the campaign for peace will get a base and versality. It has become a common practice that the so-called movement for peace is city-centric and less participated by grassroots level community people. From the experience of the Community Radio (CR) operation, it can be said that it is completely a non-profit community media run by community ownership and control aiming to cover issues related with community education, health and society, women rights, rural and community based development, environment, weather and cultural aspects. Apart from such broadcasting, the CR can play an important role in broadcasting programmes of varied interests on different ethnic and religious groups focusing their cultural and religious traits.
In conflict resolution radio has much to do. Radio can mediate between rival groups or races through dissemination of information on the standpoints of each group. Radio can encourage dialogue between the rival groups and help finding a peaceful way-out of misunderstanding among them. Radio broadcasting may focus on the establishing of human rights i.e. child rights, women rights, labourer rights and minority rights on the basis of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW, CRC and other international and national conventions and charters. Effective radio programmes may be produced on gender disparity, social inequality, child and women trafficking, education and training, health and nutrition, population and reproductive health, water sanitation, dissemination of information and knowledge, campaign for creating awareness on STD/HIV/AIDS, safer sex, safe blood, drug abuse, gender, women and youth empowerment, human rights, youth rights, human trafficking, good governance, fair election issues etc.
Thus, different groups will be linked through effective radio (community radio, national radio/state run radio and commercial radio) programmes which will help them breaking their prejudice and intolerance and foster mutual understanding to the path of peace and prosperity.