The U.S. Institute of Peace is committed to cost effective strategies that leverage the capacity of local organizations and empower others to mitigate conflicts. Recognizing the power of media as an instrument with enormous potential to affect public attitudes and perceptions, the Institute has worked globally to promote best media practices that strengthen tolerance and mutual understanding.
Mainstream media in Pakistan has become exceedingly sensational and the country is routinely ranked as one of the least free and most dangerous for journalists. Additionally, women and ethnic and religious minorities are often portrayed in a negative and disparaging fashion, if their circumstances are addressed by the media at all. While media can be a key instrument to develop ideas of tolerance, peace and diversity across society, the current trend in Pakistan has created an environment where media exacerbates common discriminatory notions and practices.
Reflecting the Institute's commitment to empowering others with knowledge, skills and resources that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict, USIP's Grant Program provides support to Pakistani nonprofit organizations working to provide media professionals with the ability to craft content in ways that promote tolerance and diversity. With the support of USIP, Insan Foundation Trust trained more than 100 student and faculty members of mass communication departments at five universities in the Punjab to identify and analyze media biases toward women and minorities, develop strategies that can be used to address these biases, and outline and develop alternative content.
Their efforts culminated in "Balancing Control! Alternative Media for Social Change," a booklet highlighting the television commercials, documentaries, dramas, songs and written articles created using ethnic, gender and religious equality as a core theme.; The booklets were then distributed to local businesses with the anticipation of use in future media campaigns.
Students' attitudes and worldviews changed significantly during the training sessions, as many began with fixed negative views about women and minorities, as well as the U.S. and India. By the end, they came away with more nuanced views about diversity, how peace and tolerance are beneficial, and how to use conflict resolution effectively in their local community. Insan's activities received widespread media coverage, resulting in numerous articles in national Pakistani newspapers.
While the immediate effect of the training is evident in student's attitudes and media projects, Insan is giving power to communication professionals to alter the toxic media landscape by strengthening inclusive, positive values that will have a long-term impact on media consumers from all segments of Pakistani society.