ISLAMABAD: The current state of public media maintains the status quo, with public broadcasters running on people’s money, but not representing their voices. It only reflects the interest of those in government on the day. All media in Pakistan, public or private, should strive to be unbiased, ethical and professional.
This was demanded in the declaration of a public consultation held here with representation from Pakistan’s civil society, political parties and media. In the call for transformation of Pakistan state broadcasters, the participants said the media, as critical source of reliable information, should be free, fair and dedicated to serving the public interest by being editorially independent.
“Without commitment to public service values in the media such as ethics and professionalism, there will be biased and incomplete coverage of news, current affairs and other information-based programming,” said the declaration, which all stakeholders unanimously agreed upon.
“The state media in its current form was unacceptable. It was not representing and safeguarding public interests,” said Adnan Rehmat, the Executive Director of Intermedia. He added that all state broadcasters including Pakistan Television, Radio Pakistan, Shalimar TV and the Associated Press of Pakistan lacked public representation.
“A true public service broadcast is one that acts as a watchdog for public interest and represents all segments of the society including all ethnic groups, women, minorities and others and remains accountable to the public,” added Rehmat.
Aidan White, former secretary general of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), said the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) provides guidelines for all state media in the world to get editorial independence and achieve professionalism.
“The BBC provides the basic four things that are required to make the media free and unbiased – Editorial independence, transparency, financial independence, and secularism,” said White.
He said the people from within such organisations will have to take the initiative to achieve freedom. They will have to convince and force the government to end its role in driving the state media. He said the mandate for such demands was given in the law.
Shakirullah, a Radio Pakistan producer, urged the forum to up its efforts to achieve such freedom as “it was high time to be achieved in radio at least. We have worked hard for the last four years towards this end. If it does not happen now, it might never happen.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.