In Chitral, a mountainous valley of Pakistan spreading over 14,850 square kilometres and inhabited by 500,000 people, there is still no printed newspaper. Though there are one or two FM radio stations, they only cover a small town area.
Chitral Today (chitraltoday.net) was launched with the sole mission of providing the people of Chitral with a healthy, decent, professional, impartial, unbiased, dynamic, fearless and vibrant platform to create awareness of their basic rights, culture, history, traditions, values, and to keep them abreast of all local, national and international issues/events. Chitral Today provides its readers a platform to debate, discuss issues, share comments, views and suggestions without any hindrances. The purpose of this is to ensure free flow of information and exchange of ideas by removing all kinds of barriers. This initiative will ultimately also help the Khow people of Chitral in preserving their centuries-old cultures, values, traditions and languages and promoting them at the national and international levels.
Those behind Chitral Today are professional and working journalists and have no economic, political or any other objectives other than that mentioned above. During the last over four years since launching of the website, we have debated some of the burning issues of Chitral that remained out of discussion like a taboo in the past. It is the honour of Chitral Today that it has been appreciated for objective and fearless reporting by all sections of society. Though there are much to be done under our limited resources, we are committed to achieving excellence in professional, objective and unbiased reporting as a true spokesman for the voiceless and downtrodden sections of society.
Most of our contributors are educated youth who as citizen journalists want to bring a change in the life of the people of the backward valley of Chitral. Chitrali intellectuals, teachers, women and other highly-educated people from almost all walks of life have also been contributing to the website through their writings and views about different issues. Since its inception in April 2007, Chitral Today has undergone major structural changes, including one when it was launched in the current format as chitraltoday.net on March 21, 2012. However, its basic motive of impartial and objective reporting remains unchanged.
Chitral is inhabited by around half a million people who speak a separate language called Khowar. Unlike other districts in the province, education in Chitral is fast spreading. Today, in most of the sub-valleys of Chitral literacy rate among people, including women, aged below 40 is almost 100 per cent. The fast spread of education has, however, not seen arrival of the means of mass communication like newspapers at the local level. As a result, today people of Chitral still rely on state-owned radio and TV channels being aired from Pakistani cities and even abroad for entertainment and information. Because of these media of mass communication, the Chitralis are fast becoming alienated to their own culture, traditions and languages. The main language spoken by the people of Chitral is Khowar and there are about 12 other small languages in different pockets of the valley. The people of Chitral are a separate cultural group and their language, Khowar, is one of the Indo-Dardic languages of Asia. It has been observed that people of Chitral because of their intense love and affinity with Chitral always try to remain in touch with their area and search for news about it. As the national media cannot cover each and every event in Chitral, online newspapers have tried to fill the vacuum. However, they have not been so active due to different reasons including lack of telecommunication facilities inside Chitral.
Chitral Today has tried and succeeded to a large extent in covering events, issues, human rights abuses and socio-economic and political conflicts in Chitral in a professional and inclusive manner. Chitral Today was also the first news website which engaged its readers through a healthy but fearless and unbiased debate on many issues like ethnic polarization, sectarianism, suicides among women and lack of basic facilities to the people of Chitral. In the recent past, many stories exclusively carried by Chitral Today were also picked by the national media.
Editor: Zar Alam Khan (ICFJ Fellow)
Nominee for Knight International Journalism Award 2013
Village Dizg, Yarkhun valley, Chitral, Pakistan