Communication technologies have provided an instant and easy access to global issues and ‘terrorism‘ is in the list of ‘most frequently exposed’ topics. The Institute of Communication Studies, keeping in view the sensitivity and complexity of the link that media has with the portrayal of terror, arranged a seminar on November 8, 2012. The seminar was presided over by the Director of the Institute of Communication Studies, Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz. In his preliminary note, the Director opined that terrorism took a lot of space in the global media after the 9/11 attacks. According to him, private television channels in Pakistan give more coverage to certain events that are a consequence of terrorism while there are some which are never brought into limelight. He suggested that policy makers at media institutions should identify and eliminate this difference in coverage. Farrukh Sohail Goindi and Sajjad Mir also shared their views with the students. The Chief Guest for the seminar was Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami.
While expressing his opinion about the ‘war on terror’, Farrukh Sohail Goindi said that there was no inquiry about the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was accepted as a terrorist organization. He told the students that during a visit to the United States even a person driving a Taxi asked me about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. ‘Everyone was concerned whether or not Osama Bin Laden has access to Pakistan’s nuclear assets and I used to chip in a lighter vein that he doesn’t, but the US can get an access to them’, said Goindi. Discussing the issue of media portrayal, he said that Osama Bin Laden was a freedom fighter when he was fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan for the ‘US interests’. Farrukh Sohail Goindi was of the opinion that Western media was following the agendas of US imperialism and Pakistani electronic media is also helping them to impose their opinions. He concluded with an interesting analogy, “for me the media can terrorize more than any General of NATO or a leader of Al-Qaeda and I call those ruthless terrorizers ‘General BBC‘, ‘General CNN’”.
Sajjad Mir before sharing his views stated that he couldn’t disagree with Farrukh Sohail Goindi. According to Sajjad Mir, the battle of left versus right has been eliminated, the world in gradually diving into the cyclone of ‘corporate culture’. He considered media a part of the capitalist system. Sajjad Mir discussed the manipulative strategies employed by the media in order to frame specific people as terrorists. He highlighted the prevailing terrorism in Mexico, which has never been given so much attention. Recalling an interview with the BBC, Sajjad Mir told the students that he was asked 20 years ago about the definition of a ‘fundamentalist’ and he defined it as a ‘political, economic and social resistance movement against imperialism’. In his concluding note, Sajjad Mir said that for achieving fairness and balance in the coverage of terrorism it is essential to get rid of media imperialism.
The Chief guest of the seminar, Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami advised the students to fight intellectually and compete with the world by gaining knowledge. He urged them to conduct research studies on the coverage of terrorism by the media.