The sixth South Asian Editors Forum got underway in Hyderabad on Friday. Delivering the inaugural address, S Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Information, Broadcasting and Culture, said that the media could do a lot more to help resolve issues in the region than politicians can. He announced that India has initiated steps to create a visa-free travel norm for media persons in the South Asian region.
He said, "To begin with, editors, senior editorial staff and media owners could be extended the courtesy. This could be extended to all journalists eventually. The media can act as ambassadors."
Most delegates at the inaugural session agreed that there was a gap in communicating to the people of individual nations (specifically India and Pakistan), the feelings and realities of another. This is where the key role of the local language media was critical, it was felt.
After recollecting Napoleon Bonaparte's words of "I am more afraid of four hostile newspapers than a hundred cannons," Reddy said, "The regional media can establish an emotional connect with the people. More than the English language media, in this region."
Vijay Darda, MP, Rajya Sabha, and Founder Chairman, SAEF and Chairman and MD of Lokmat, said, "The governments of countries do try to bring in better cooperation and coordination, but these have their limitations. Such limitations can be overcome by the language media."
The turnout from journalists from Pakistan, Nepal and other countries was impressive. Javed Jabbar, Founding Co-convenor, SAEF and former minister of information, petroleum and natural resources, Government of Pakistan, said, "Even the learned are unable to understand the realities of civilisations and evolution in other societies. Reports by even qualified scholars are not truly reflective of reality."
However, the reaction to the minister's visa-free travel initiative was mixed. While the idea was welcomed by a majority of the editors in principle, some did indicate that security issues would need to be taken into consideration.
The minister clarified after his talk to media persons present that the External Affairs Ministry had processed the free-visa travel norms. It is now in the stage of being put forth to South Asian governments.