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Report on Challenges of Violent Conflict to Peace Transition

Organised by Asian Media Forum (AMF)

18 December 2009

It was a meaningful exercise that reflected the spirit of concern and partnership for peace and democracy in Nepal. Towards the end of the Year, the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES), well known German political foundation and Asia Media Foundation (AMF) that campaigns for and promotes ethical journalism delved deep how peace and functioning democracy were vital for an ethnical and professional media to flourish. And the conclusion was : conflict transformation and consolidation of Peace was an essential condition fort hat.
Representatives of the Media, academics and social movements participated in the lively half-day long discussion in which FES country director Devraj Dahal set the tone for the day's agenda. In his presentation-Conflict transformation and Peace Process in Nepal, Dahal said Nepal's peace process-an instrument for conflict transformation-reflects a commitment to international order that the state sovereignty's accountability to human rights standard is the key to justice and peace.

But the conflict transformation in a weak state, he said, is affected by the causes of human rights violation as victims of violence demand justice before peace , and that pursuit of transitional justice based on quest for revenge can obstruct a search for post- conflict reconciliation . And the effect of pursuit of peace without addressing the root and proxy causes of conflict will be the same.

That aptly dissected the causes of Nepal's peace process passing through uncertainty. In the local context' he said "-the state sovereignty is bifurcated between conflicting parties and citizens have more interest to the parties in conflict than the political system and the state. Erosion if the state capacity to organize the societal forces allowed the latter's anti-systemic orientation", fostering a culture of clientalism. This, he said, has created a condition for the international peace building community to effectively engage in conflict prevention strategies.

He emphasized that there was need to produce indigenous knowledge and use it for effective transformation of the conflict , depending less on outsiders. In his brief intervention, Bimal Phuyal, Country Director of Action Aid Nepal said application of indigenous knowledge with western expertise would be much more effective way of conflict transformation and peace building as well.

Asserting that challenges have grown manifold, Prof Dahal said the conflict energy generated by state-centric Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) 's peoples war for social transformation has spilled across diverse society opening and igniting many fault-line conflicts -ethnic , territorial , caste-based and geo-political.

Delving on the decade long conflict situation, Dahal the involvement of the international community in the conflict transformation and peace building has no doubt gained Nepalis support, the situation has also driven a large number of youths abroad seeking jobs there. As a result, their sense of ownership to their own country is on the decline and they are more concerned about the situation in the Middle East, Malaysia and various western countries as they offer them the bread and livelihood. Diluted sense of ownership affects the quality of nationalism as well.

Turning on media , Dahal said the challenges and opportunities are too vast for the Nepali media now as political actors commitment to take the peace and the constitution making process to its logical end are still being met with doubts. "Nepal's political system now is maladjusted to both internal tension and external environment. This is partly caused by conflicting ideologies and partly by conflicting vision of a political system, such as democratic republic versus People's Republic and conflicting means such as "democratic alliance" of Nepali Congress versus "republic- patriotic alliance" of CPN-Maoists."

Responding to a query from Puran Bista, Treasurer of the Asia Media Forum about the growing polarization of politics-between the Maoists and the non-Maoist parties-he said it is getting 'theory-infused' dialectic in the current context of Nepali politics. Leaders of the left political classes claim themselves people-oriented, progressive and superior putting the rivals in a less pro-people and less-progressive category, making the peace building exercise more complicated. Yet, the pursuit of constructive dialogue is far bigger and desirable, he said. Quoting Habermas' Dahal said the civilized life would be impossible without public use of reason for reconciliation.

He said managing multiple transitions within a law-governed political order, it is essential to link the drivers, actors and stake-holders of the conflict system into a rational frame-work and muster necessary resources for joint development projects for nation-building ". And his prescription to the media was: one sided attack on the actor of the peace process-even for just reasons-- may at times discourage them and that calls for a cautious approach.

Media practitioners expressed their concern more on the state of the media , and their 'blatant affiliation to one or the other sides' when polarization-almost on political, etnic and regional basis. Gunaraj Luitel and Kiran Bhandari-both of Nagarik daily expressed said media was showing a tendency of behaving 'we are above accountability manner' by writing or broadcasting news -even defamatory-without any proof or evidences. "At times, their whole defense of what they produce is based on the fact that it has not yet been contradicted".
There were also concerns raised about the growing interferences and threat on the media from various organized groups and individuals. Rajaram Gautam of Kantipur daily suggested that it will always be useful for the media to understand the nature of threats and interference. The senior journalists with their long experience would do well in sharing such experiences.

Yubaraj Ghimire, President of the Asia Media Forum said the threat to the media is not over even though the phase of conflict is over. But professional and ethical media suffers the most from organized groups-political or otherwise-as well as from the corporate set up of the media house themselves . "Lack of accountability, presence of yellow journalism , absence of effective Press council and libel laws were largely responsible for this kind of trend flourishing in the media" He also spoke about the need to define 'who are journalists". Ghimire said media in no way should be dictated or influenced by the current tendencies of hatred and intolerance.

In her welcome speech, AMF Vice chair person Aarti Chataut expressed concern over women being targeted as object of media gossips with no way to get the justice. AMF would encourage journalists to get training and not compromise on the ethical side of journalism.

Thanking Dahal and other participants as well as FES support to AMF in its campaign for promoting ethical journalism, AMF General Secretary Shiva Gaunle said a dangerous drift has arisen in the media. The journalist bodies also should be clear what exactly the journalists are supposed to be doing and what they are not 'supposed to be doing".

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