A former federal minister has suggested that an ombudsman should be appointed for the media to regulate the coverage of objectionable content.
Former federal minister for information and member of the commission, Javed Jabbar was the lead speaker at a roundtable conference at which NGOs and the academia reviewed recommendations of the media commission appointed by the Supreme Court (SC).
The seminar at the Peshawar Press Club on Wednesday. He briefed participants about the scope, purpose and work done by the commission.
The commission was tasked by the SC to prepare a report based on nine terms of reference (ToR), one of which was to enquire into allegations of corruption in the media and to make recommendations to ensure impartial and independent media coverage of the May 11 general elections.
Jabbar the commission was formed on January 15 following a flurry of writ petitions regarding the media, including one from journalists Absar Alam and Hamid Mir. “The court formed a two-member commission comprising Justice (Retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid as the chairman and I as a member to prepare a report based on nine ToR entrusted by the court,” Jabbar said.
Commenting on media laws, he said there are 64 different legislations, but many of them were outdated. “The National Assembly and Senate need to establish a committee to review existing laws.”
The commission submitted the first part of its report to the SC on March 21. The remaining part addressing the other eight ToRs was submitted later in June after detailed meetings and interviews with around 166 people, including journalists and government officials, among others associated with 85 media organisations.
“The report submitted by the media commission is a first of its kind and shows a way forward for the Pakistani media with suggestions from other stakeholders,” Jabbar said.
He pointed out issues highlighted in the report pertaining to the inherent bias in the media and said the subjectivity and selectivity of content by journalists leads to suppressing reality.
The former minister has also taken up the issue of licensing private television channels and said the commission suggested that no new license should be issued till the transition from analogue cable technology to digital is completed.
The event was jointly arranged by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan, Citizen Initiative on Media Issues (CIMI) and the Journalism and Mass Communication department of the University of Peshawar (UoP).
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2013.