The print and electronic media in Pakistan is in a dire need to conduct candid self-critical reviews of their own performance, said former senator Javed Jabbar at a conference to review the recommendations of the Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The event was held jointly by the Citizen’s Initiative on Media Issues (CIMI) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in collaboration with University of Karachi’s Mass Communication department on Monday.
Jabbar added that the media organisations have a larger role in the rectification process, obliging them to take care of their responsibility even in the absence of laws. “Where media organisations have played a significant role in instilling awareness in citizens, they can also play a role in overcoming their internal shortcomings through self-regulation while holding dialogues with the public.”
He pointed out that although bodies, such as the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, All Pakistan Newspapers Society and Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, have formulated lengthy codes of conduct, their implementation have been minimal to say the least.
While introducing the report to the participants, Jabbar said that it was prepared by the two-member commission headed by Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid and Jabbar himself on the directives of the apex court. After interviewing around 166 employees from 81 media organisations, it was submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in two parts.
The first part of the report, dealing with steps to ensure impartial and independent media for the May 11 elections, was submitted to the court on March 21, 2013 with the announcement of elections schedule so that its implementation could be considered, explained Jabbar. He added that the recommendations in the first part were relevant to the upcoming local government elections as well.
The second part, which dealt with the comprehensive analysis on the roles and responsibilities of all relevant stakeholders – including parliament, advertisers, civil society, and media organisations – was submitted in June.
“Following the submission of report, the Supreme Court of Pakistan invited all the stakeholders as well as the general public to review the content of the Media Commission report and submit their suggestions,” Jabbar told The Express Tribune while explaining the objective behind organising the event. “The court’s gesture is indicative of the fact that rectification of media is a collective responsibility and its onus should not entirely be left upon the government.”
On the role of the general public in rectification of media, Jabbar stressed that it was the citizens’ right and moral responsibility to challenge the power of media if they commit a mistake.
Taj Haider, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s provincial secretary general, did not shy away from stating that media houses have become political houses as they propagate a specific point of view. “Media outlets today target the governments and others on behalf of their owners who decide what should go on air and what shouldn’t.”
According to Philipp Kauppert, the FES Pakistan resident director, the media in Pakistan over a decade had become more diverse and independent, but they were not being monitored properly by the public and other bodies.
He added that the FES was facilitating a platform for discussion in rural and urban areas of the country so that the Pakistanis could present their concerns and recommendations on the Media Commission report, which now is a public document, can be accessed on the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2013.