KARACHI: Speakers at a conference held to highlight history, achievements and deficiencies of the Sindhi media agreed on Monday that the Sindhi TV, radio channels, newspapers and periodicals were ‘Sufi and secular’ in their essence and they reported bravely on issues, which the dominant media in Urdu normally ignored, yet they lacked in many areas which required to be improved.
The international conference titled “Sindhi media: importance, opportunities and challenges” was organised by the mass communication department of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, in collaboration with the US Consulate General, Karachi, aimed at highlighting various aspects of the Sindhi media.
Experts, journalists, media professionals and professors spoke at length in the marathon conference divided in five sessions on different disciplines.
US Consul General Michael Dodman shared his thoughts on the US contribution for the conference and recognised the Sindhi media as a diverse, vibrant, independent and free media, deriving its power from the people in a democratic society.
The conference started with the singing of a song by Zulfiqar Ali Qureshi, a teacher of the Sindh University and a musicologist. The rendition so was energetic, engaging and expressive that it provided no translation barriers and mesmerised the audience.
The first session was presided over by Prof Seemi Nughmana, who asked whether the Sindhi media was ready to face challenges of globalisation.
Prof Mazhar-ul-Haq, former vice chancellor of the Sindh University, said language began with poetry and the fact of Sindhi being expressive and full of literature was one of the reasons its media was so impacting.
He said as long as injustice and deprivation was there, the Sindhi media would continue to have a bright future.
The next session was focused on the role of the Sindhi media in society and its effects with Dr Riaz Sheikh of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute Science and Technology, Prof Fateh Mohammad Burfat of the University of Karachi and playwright Noor-ul Huda Shah. They all agreed that the Sindhi media acted as a mirror of society and influenced heavily on its highly-devoted audience.
They said the Sindhi media had a Sufi soul, which fought bravely against extremist thoughts and played an active role for the cause of the downtrodden people heavily formed of illiterate.
The session on the Sindhi print media and its issues began with a brief history of Sindhi journalism by Aslam Khwaja, senior researcher. The topic was further explored by Mohammad Khan Solangi.
Jabbar Khattak, who owns Daily Awami Awaz, said word processing was introduced in Sindhi papers much before than Urdu press.
Sohail Sangi, a senior journalist who presided over the session, spoke briefly in his typical style based on poetry and idioms. He said many Urdu channels were still closed in different districts of Sindh for the reasons of the ‘so-called national media’ which always ignored the issues of Sindh and aspirations of its people. He said the Sindhis had boycotted the national print media three decades ago for the same reasons.
“The situation has not changed on the part of the people at the helm. They did the same in the former East Pakistan. However, the situation is now getting change with the fact that a vibrant Sindhi media does not allow everything remains under the carpet as it happened in the past,” he added.
In the session on the Sindhi electronic media, Zulfiqar Ali Qureshi talked about Sindhi music’s effects on the music of other languages in the country.
Experts discussed various aspects of the electronic media. One speaker said it was so influential that it brought some power feudal lords on their knees.
Prof Suresh Makhejani said Sindhi TV channels and radios were bold in their nature and because of them even villagers of Sindh knew who Nelson Mandela was.
Fayyaz Naich, an anchorperson, said Sindhi TV channels covered common man’s problems. British Broadcasting Corporation’s Ahmed Raza said Sindhi TV channels had been very active when it came to human rights issues.
Dr Ayoub Sheikh, editor of Daily Awami Awaz, demanded that Sindh should not be called as interior Sindh and Karachi. He blamed the Sindhi electronic media for increasing feudal repression in various rural districts. He said Shikarpur district was divided among three influential lords to rule the roost.
The session ended with concerns that the people of Karachi were not much interested in Sindhi channels as much as the people in other districts.
Dr Shahida Qazi, who presided the session, said students were not aware of Sindhi newspapers as well. But on a positive note, Sindhi channels sometimes catered to unique events too.
Nandita Bhavnani, a researcher from India, spoke about the situation of Sindhi media across the border. Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas and writer and teacher Amar Sindhu also spoke.
The conference ended with distribution shields among volunteers and a final address by head of department Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan.