Call for greater freedom of expression -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Call for greater freedom of expression

KARACHI – Speakers at a seminar on June 1, demanding that freedom of press should not be suppressed in the name of self-manipulated national interests, called for greater freedom of expression.

“National interests and freedom of expression should be in conformity with each other and no one should be allowed to usurp the basic right of people to have access to information,” they added.

Speaking at a seminar on Freedom of Press and Demands of National Interest organised by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), they expressed their serious reservations over ban of advertisements to some newspapers for raising their voice against government policies.

MMA Senator Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, deputy secretary-general of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani, Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister for Information Salahuddin Hyder, president of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) Arif Nizami, former information minister Javed Jabbar, former Justice Shafique Usmani, former president of CPNE Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami and others spoke on the occasion.

Arif Nizami, presiding over the first session of the seminar, said that national interests were changed at the whims of rulers. We have yet to come with an accurate definition “what national interests are”.

“Right of freedom of expression is safe in the hands of newspapers and if these would be given to rulers, all the freedom attained by the press after a long struggle would be seized,” he observed.

He dispelled the notion that the present government has gifted the “right to express freely”, instead, he added, it was an outcome of a long struggle from the very inception of the country against exploitative and undemocratic forces.

Syed Salahuddin Hyder said the press should realise its duty and responsibility and should have more depth in its reporting on different issues.

He opined that newspapers have yet to introduce a culture to invest in working journalists as was happening in the developed nations.

Senator Raza Rabbani severely criticised the government for its undemocratic and anti-press policies and said that restrictions are being imposed on the newspapers for difference of opinion with the government.

He opined that, instead of the people and democratic forces, civil and military establishments have defined the definition of national interests in Pakistan.

“People are declared security risk on the pretext of national interests when they differ with the government policies that are thought to be against the interest of the country and nation,” he added.

MMA Senator Professor Ghafoor Ahmed said that greater responsibility lies on the shoulder of the press, being the 4th pillar of the state especially in the prevailing conditions when other pillars of state – parliament, administration and judiciary – have failed to play their role.

“Journalist community served the nation much before the creation of Pakistan as some newspapers fought the case of Muslims of the sub-continent against the colonial power and Hindu majority,” he observed.

Javed Jabbar said that national interests and freedom of press in Pakistan are in harmonious balance with each other and there should not be seen any difference between the two.

Praising efforts of the press, he said despite the fact that social indicators have weekend over the years in the country, the press has maintained a smooth pace towards attaining the freedom.

He regretted that some elements present the case of national interests in a latent way, which is not accurate and fair and suggested the self-regulation system for the newspapers.

Former Justice Shafique Usmani said that state and government are intentionally mixed up with each other, which creates great confusion.

“State is a permanent institution with its own interests, whereas, governments come and go, thus, could not be matched with the state as far as the national interests are concerned.”

Tracing back the events of fall of East Pakistan, he said that then government placed strong restrictions on the press to hide atrocities committed against the people of Eastern wing, which resulted in total ignorance of the people of Western wing about these brutalities.

Sajad Mir, editor of Nawa-i-Waqt, said that freedom of expression is linked with the sense of responsibility. If media were devoid of responsibility, the role the press has to play for the society could not serve the purpose.

Dr. Jabbar Khattak, secretary-general, CPNE and Professor Tausif Ahmed Khan, Department of Mass Communication, Urdu University also addressed the seminar.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:6/2/2004