KARACHI: A free press may be biased or unbiased but a press which is not free can never be unbiased, said Dr Riaz Shaikh, the dean of faculty of social sciences at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist).
He was addressing the launch of Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan’s thesis-turned-book at the Karachi Press Club on Friday. Shaikh said that the book, titled ‘Azaadi-e-Sahafat ki jiddo jehad, akhbari tanzeemon ka kirdar’ (Struggle for the Freedom of Press and the Role of Newspaper Organisations), focuses on the struggles for press freedom in different eras.
“Khan’s book is an addition to Urdu literature and Urdu journalism in Pakistan,” he said.
According to Shaikh the book is a comparative study of the four different unions of journalists in Pakistan. He said that a close study of the book helps one understand the differences in the motives of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (APNEC).
“Actually, the book is the ideological debate on the civil and military rule that defines the roles of these unions in each era,” he said. “It shows how the APNS and CPNE have only worked for the freedom of press in civilian governments. In contrast, APNEC and PFUJ have been working for the sake of press freedom since their inception regardless of a military regime or a civilian government.”
Speaking about his book, Khan said that it is a reflection of late journalist Zamir Niazi’s work on the travails of press in Pakistan. “Niazi did the real work, I have just carried forward his research work,” he said.
The former president of PFUJ, Mazhar Abbas, shed light on the current role of the PFUJ. According to him, the union’s motives are not pure and have been affected by vested interests. He said that earlier the struggle of PFUJ was focused on journalists. “Now, PFUJ fights for media houses, not journalists,” he claimed. He said that the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and the APNS could never be on the same page because of a clash of interest.
“Khan’s book has painted a perfect picture of the role of the journalists’ bodies for those who have not actually seen the era of real struggle,” said Abbas, hinting towards the era of military dictators Gen Ayub Khan and Gen Ziaul Haq. “However, the book does not provide a current picture of the unions’ role and research should be done in this regard, too.”
According to Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) professor Dr Seemi Naghmana, Khan had summarised all the struggles for the freedom of press in precise fashion. “He has remained neutral while discussing their roles,” she said. Shaikh said that while the pen is mightier than the sword, the book narrates a different story. “Feudalists hijack the pen by hiring journalists, nourishing them and then controlling their entire discourse,” he said. “And this book gives a picture-perfect reflection of those who have fought against such feudalists.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2014.