Academia and the Media as Watchdogs over Government Policy

Pamela Aall

Director of the Education Program at the United States Institute of Peace

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

I am thinking about a conference that we ran last May, I guess, in Sri Lanka with a Sri Lankan partner. The conference was a regional conference, we invited academics and journalists from all over South Asia, or southern Asia, because we included Afghanistan. A topic of the conference was the role of education and the media in the ethnic and religious conflicts in the region. As I said we use the sort presenting paper idea because everybody knows what that is and we had asked people to write papers about the role of education in the conflict and then other journalists who write papers about the role of the media in the conflict.

And what was very clear in this, I mean you are talking about Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, is that in a country like India in which the government is trying to, they call it the "saffordization" of the textbooks and they are including, they are encouraging the inclusion of pro-Hindu language in the textbooks which even if it isn't anti-Muslim is just by being pro-Hindu in a mix country like that is pretty provocative. What we found is that both the academic community and the press were on the government's case on this. So there you have a situation where you can have both education and the media working on both sides of the conflict and you know that the academic community was acting as a watchdog on the government here. But there are also academics that are used to these textbooks that promote this one-sided view.

Q: Wow, that is a great example of a self-correcting mechanism.