The media need long noses

2004-04-30 16:37
Interview with the Dalai Lama

WAN: What has been the role of the international media in creating awareness of the current situation in Tibet?

The Dalai Lama: They have played a very important role. First of all, the Tibetan issue is a moral issue. Secondly, Tibet used to be a country in complete isolation. There was very little knowledge about Tibet in the outside world. I think that people knew that Tibet is situated on a high altitude. I also think that people saw Tibet as not a very modern country. Thirdly, the Chinese information about Tibet was not objective, since it was politically motivated. So the free information that exists about Tibet today is very, very helpful.

WAN: Do you think there's been enough free information about Tibet?

The Dalai Lama: I think that every year there is more information. People everywhere have heard about Tibet. Today there is an increased interest for peace, the environment, culture and spirituality. Due to these factors the interest for Tibet is increasing. Our culture and spirituality are relevant in today's world.

WAN: How do you see the role of the media in promoting peace and reconciliation today?

The Dalai Lama: It plays a very important role. The world is becoming smaller. When something happens in one part of the world, it will have a repercussion in the world as a whole. This especially concerns fields such as economy, environment and health as well as phenomena such as SARS or HIV/Aids. Something happens in a remote place, but the danger reaches everywhere. It is today's reality. Therefore people everywhere need to be aware of what is going on everywhere. The world is becoming much smaller and our knowledge and awareness of each other is very essential.

The concept of human rights is also becoming universal. And the right to preserve one's culture, which particularly concerns indigenous people. Then there is also the right of self-determination, which is becoming a universal value. Under these circumstances I think, again, that the media have an important role to play.

Then, if we look at the democratic system. Despite some drawbacks, democracy is the best system. That people get awareness and hear the truth, is extremely important. In order to promote freedom and democracy, the press is very important.

However, there is something I always say when I am talking to media people. Media tend to show a lot of interest in the negative, in disasters or tragedies. This kind of news gets a lot of attention, whereas there is less interest in the value of human compassion. If a disaster happens in, for example, New Delhi, New York, Paris or Moscow, it is immediately seen as something important. However, organisations or relatives take care of thousands and thousands of young children every day. Institutions or individuals take care of old and sick people. Rural compassion is very, very active. We take these things for granted, so they are not important to the media.

People who regularly read the newspaper or watch television get the impression that humanity is bad. I think that many people live under the impression that the world is getting worse. I do not agree with that. My feeling is that during the last century, the world has become a much better place. Humanity is becoming more mature, more experienced. But many people get the opposite impression, because of news reporting.

WAN: Did the world not become a better place partly thanks to the work of the media, because the media "scared" the readers and spectators?

The Dalai Lama: It is true - we must show that there are lot of unhappy things happening. I think it is right to tell people about all the negative things. But I also think that media people should have "long noses", like elephants. They should look in front of things, on the side, but also behind. They should see everywhere and provide truthful, honest news. No political motivations should influence. This means that a critical presentation is very necessary. It is highly important to write in a balanced way, and the positive aspect must also show. There is basic humanity, gentleness and human compassion in the world. When there is a problem, a crisis, the media must show that there is an alternative, there is a method, there is potential. Give people confidence that they can change, that they can do better.

WAN: Should there be any limits to press freedom?

The Dalai Lama: I think there should be complete freedom to report truthfully. On another level, media people are an important part of society. The ultimate goals of the media should not be political or financial, but human. However, if freedom means not having any limits or any principles, then the question is what use is there to have such a freedom?

Altogether, we should aim for a better world, a happier world with people trying to be friendly, compassionate, and peaceful. Here I think media have a responsibility. But this does not only concern media, it concerns every field and every profession: scientists, politicians and businessmen.

The Dalai Lama gave this exclusive interview to the World Association of Newspapers for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.


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