Tidbits from Global Forum on The Power of Peace:
Using the Tools of Information and Communication –
Hosted by UNESCO, in association with the Government of Indonesia,
in Bali (January 21st-23rd, 2007)
Media is just like a mirror, it only reflects what it sees….” says one of my country men, a distinguished media man, at the Global Forum on Power of Peace held in Bali from the 21st to 23rd of January 2007, hosted by UNESCO and Government of Indonesia.
“Media can only present facts,” said another gentleman, “do not expect much from the media.”
“Media does not create or start a conflict,” yet another media man said in support of the mirror-theory, “it only reports such conflicts.”
Is that really so?
Can media be likened to a mirror?
In my opinion, the answer is “No”.
No, Media is not a mirror. A mirror is “relatively” dead object. It has no mind of its own. Its function is limited to reflect whatever images it captures. Media is not a dead object. Media is nothing without media men and women. There can be no media without those men and women reporting; without those men and women editing the reports; without those men and women approving as to what to publish and what not. And, those men and women are living!
No, media is not a dead object. It is a living entity – a living entity with an active mind, rather minds. So, media can never be likened to a mirror. It is not a mirror. Although, what the gentleman said, did reflect the poor condition of our media presently. Our media has stooped down to a very low level. It has forgotten its identity. It is no longer aware of its role in the society, its responsibility towards the society.
Media may not create or start a conflict, but in most cases it has certainly forgotten its role in resolving such conflicts. That social responsibility seems to be forgotten completely, at least by some. Or, perhaps they do not even know if they have the power to resolve conflicts, not just to report them.
The Global Forum in Bali therefore, was timely.
It is high time that the media realizes its power, its strength to bring about the necessary changes in the world to ensure Peace, Love and Harmony.
The constitution of UNESCO clearly stipulates that: “…… since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
Mr. Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO, in his welcome address reminded us that, “If the defenses of peace are to be constructed in the minds of men and women, we do well to recognize that our minds are increasingly influenced by the mass media. In an age of information and communication technologies (ICTs) we have new opportunity to find practical ways of using these tools of expression for sharing our diverse lives with an eye to building peace.”
This statement coming from Mr. Khan is really a powerful one – enough to awaken the media giants, “Hey, you guys are really powerful, strong. Wake up to that reality!” Unfortunately, most of the major media owners of my country were not present at the conference.
There is this media owner who confided me once, “I cannot just publish anything… even truth, though I may agree with it….. I have to think of my employees, thousands of them. If I publish something that is not approved by the ‘masses’, and they do something to my facilities – what will happen to those thousands working for me?”
What he meant by “masses” was then a handful of radicals, less than 5% of Indonesia’s population, less than 10% of the citizens eligible to vote. Thanks to the left hemisphere of his brain, and his left amygdale that host such fears – today, the number of these radicals has increased by at least 100%. In less than 10 years, they have doubled!
A small group of radicals having crystal clear “all-to-see” connection with the terrorists can hold any media as a hostage and dictate their terms as to what to publish and what not. Those who give in easily are the media owners having other business interests as well. Their first priority then is their “business” – media or otherwise. They are not bound to media by any idealism; they are bound to it by their materialistic instincts alone. They do not consider their social responsibility, they only consider their profit.
Having this kind of mentality, the media “business” owners have also corrupted and contaminated the minds of our media men and women. I sincerely hope and pray that not all are so victimized.
But, let us not keep complaining.
Let us together think of solutions, of means and ways to save this sinking ship of our media. In addition to what I have already said earlier, there are some other points that come to my mind as a direct result to what I heard in the conference in Bali:
1. The media men and women must be made aware of their Strength, their Power, their Ability and Capability to Change, to Transform and to Rectify whatever, wherever and whenever necessary.
2. Men and women connected with the media must have very high morale. Only people with idealism should get into this business. Those who are only looking for profits may do well to stay out of business.
3. The reporters should not only collect facts, they must also possess the ability to assimilate those facts and see the Truth behind. They should refrain from reporting what interest people, but should seriously consider of what is in the interest of people. In other words, just any Tom, Dick and Harry cannot be a reporter. He or she must have certain qualifications to be eligible for the job.
4. The Government Agency issuing licenses for media must pay attention to the background of those applying for such licenses. Only men and women of high integrity and morale should be considered.
5. Above all, to educate the masses that it is Love, Peace and Harmony that results in True Happiness. Any information that does not promote Love, Peace and Harmony is not worth reading, leave aside digesting. Such information should be rejected. Medias that give priority to sensational news of conflicts and war stories – should be peacefully shunned, should be non-violently boycotted. They should be left alone without readers and viewers, so they are compelled to correct their ways.
Media, as I have said earlier, is indeed very powerful. It must make use of its power positively, so it can contribute to world peace. The media owners must realize that the businesses they are trying to save by neglecting their social responsibility can never be saved if they give in to the demands made by the radical elements of the society. Those elements are destructive. By complying with their demands, the media owners are actually cooperating with destructive forces. In the end, they shall get destroyed by those very forces that they are complying with.
Now is the time for me to ask myself: Leaving aside all the above demands made to the media owners, government and people – what is my social and moral responsibility? What is your social and moral responsibility? What can be our joint social and moral responsibilities?
Do we wait until our media owners are aware of their responsibilities? Do we sit comfortably until our media men and women realize their power and strength? Or, we wait for our government to recommend some bills on media and our representatives to pass them? Can we also afford to wait until our masses get educated?
The answer is definite “No”.
No, we cannot wait. We cannot afford to lose a single moment. So, what do we do? Create an alternative, an alternative media. As rightly pointed out by Mr. Torben Brandt, DR-Radio Producer and Head of Danish Arab Media Forum, an Ex-Ambassador, we now have the ability to create such media. In these times of Broadcasting and Broadband, Web-Casting is an alternate that we must make use of.
More and more people are spending more time on internet surfing than watching television, reading newspaper or listening to radio program. Fortunately, this new media can not be governed by the rating agencies such as A.C.Nielsen, which in my country Indonesia, enjoys the status of demigod.
Indeed, as mentioned by Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao, Founder/Chairman, Center for Media Studies (India), these rating agencies have done much damage to media broadcasting and programming quality. They go by numbers, using their own so called “standard” parameters and matrixes to decide which programs must run for how many weeks.
In spite of such strong remarks made not only by Dr. Rao, but by several other panelists and speakers, it was very shameful to hear one of our senior media men to praise one of his programs based on such rating. My countryman, as if did not hear those remarks made earlier and almost unanimously agreed upon by all those attending the conference.
But, we must come back to what is to be done….. What is our social and moral responsibility?
Even on the 22nd of January, before the conference issued its recommendations, some of our friends got together and tried to explore the possibilities of creating and making use of an alternative media. The result was: The Bali Declaration for an Alternative Media, initially called Movement for Alternative Media:
“Inspired and encouraged by the preceding of Global Forum of Peace Conference held in Bali from 21st to 23rd of January 2007 under the auspices of UNESCO and the Government of Indonesia, we hereby declare the formation of Movement for Alternative Media that will address to what is in the interest of people than what interests people.”
The declaration made by yours truly, and supported by several others including a doctor, several interfaith, national integration and environment activist, was also supported by Mrs. Miranty Abidin, a prominent citizen and President of PT Fortune PR, Mr Torben Brandt and Dr. Bhaskara Rao whose names have been mentioned before, also by Ms. Gloria Castro, President, Board of Media of Peace (Columbia).
The Declaration was on the last day of the conference read out by environment activist and marine biologist Putu Liza Mustika and received a wholehearted applause from the entire forum.
But that was just a beginning…… a small step.
In the next few days to follow, a web address was registered for the purpose: www.oneearthmedia.net – which is still under construction.
No matter how small a step, we have taken it. We have asserted our will and determination to bring about some positive changes, to promote peace, love and harmony. And, this step is not singularly taken. This step is taken along with you, you, and you too……
Let us then walk together, march together…..
This togetherness, this unity, this mutual understanding shall ensure the success of our undertaking – this is our firm faith and conviction. Peace shall Prevail!
* Interfaith Spiritualist/Humanist, author of more than 90 books, founder of Anand Ashram (affiliated with United Nations), Anand Krishna has inspired half a dozen of popular movements/organizations in Indonesia, all working to promote peace and mutual understanding. He attended the Global Forum on Peace in Bali as one of the panelists and had the opportunity to address the house on all three days of the conference.