Young journalists from a number of politically unstable areas met in Tokyo late last week to discuss the media’s role in building peace.

During a panel discussion Friday evening titled “What the media can do now,” four journalists, from India, Pakistan, Palestinian areas and Israel explained the situations in their home lands.

The gathering, held in the leadup to the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., was organized by the Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization Peace Boat.

The journalists, all in their 20s, all said authorities’ attempts to control media activities have increased since last year’s terrorist attacks.

Reporter Saptarshi Bhattachary, 27, of The Hindu newspaper in India, spoke of his government’s attempts to pass a bill that included banning journalists from making contact with suspected terrorists. The provision was modified after “literally all journalists” opposed it, he said.

Zainab Shah, a freelance journalist from Pakistan, said the domestic media in her country have faced increasing government censorship since the terror attacks.

Journalists in Pakistan have been under a “dictatorship” since the 1980s, she said. “We are still (under) martial law because the president of Pakistan is in uniform.”

While aiming for fair and objective reporting, journalists from the Palestinian areas and Israel said it is difficult to gain the understanding of the other side.

Uri Blau of the weekly Col H’aair in Israel said he does not belong to the “military correspondents’ club,” meaning he can report more independently and is able to maintain a skeptical attitude toward authorities, although this comes at the expense of receiving favorable treatment from the military.

But it is hard for the media to denounce the military’s actions against Palestinians, as many Israelis continue to lose family and friends to terrorist attacks, he said.

Walid Nasser of Radio Ajyal in the Palestinian areas said few Palestinian broadcasting stations have survived the Israeli attacks. Noting the suicide attacks Japanese soldiers waged during the final phase of World War II, he said there are situations in which people feel they have no other options.

Anchor Shuntaro Torigoe of TV Asahi’s “The Scoop” news program, said it is interesting to conduct exchanges between journalists from areas in confrontation. The media can play a significant role in cutting the “chain of hatred,” he said.

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