Conference on corruption ends: Media urged to play its role as watchdog -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Conference on corruption ends: Media urged to play its role as watchdog

KARACHI: Several presentations were made and papers read by experts from Pakistan and abroad focusing on the ‘Culture of corruption’ at the International Conference on Corruption on its second and final day at a local hotel on Sunday.

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa’s paper was titled ‘Watching the watchdog’, which highlighted the media’s problems and responsibilities in society.

“There are several things that point towards problems with our media in being a true watchdog of society. How come, for instance, all television programmes are pretty much focused on the same topics and why are the newspapers printing the same type of stories? Where has the exclusivity gone?” said Dr Siddiqa.

“The state of media in Pakistan is like a pyramid with problems at every level. The entire structure has pressures imposed on it from the proprietors, the middle men, the top operational tier and the bottom operational tier. You have the top anchors doing the same kind of shows on the same subjects.

“Journalists are parachuted in from up and there is hardly any down to upward movement. It is in this kind of a scenario that you see the youngsters in the media manipulated and the stories being planted. And there is no accountability.

“The state has to become a regulator in order to remedy the situation or have a regulatory agency that can do the job. In other words, the watchdog has to have a watchdog,” she said.

“When media is manipulative the people get manipulated. We don’t really have a media policy, something which parliament needs to debate on. As for Pemra, its law allows monopolisation. It issue licences on the basis of capital and rather than giving preference to different thoughts and ideas.”

She said: “We have an independent media and we can combat corruption through it but more than being independent the media in Pakistan is corrupt, inefficient and unprofessional… because it has come up in a very short time.”

Among other dignitaries who shed light on different aspects of corruption, Dr Taimur Rahman, assistant professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences read a paper on ‘Understanding the corruption perception index’, which demonstrated the fact that there was a proxy of corruption.

“When Pakistan goes from number 15 to two in Transparency International surveys for levels of corruption, it does not necessarily mean that we have gone up or down in corruption as it may be due to disillusionment with the government,” he pointed out.

The scholar said that corruption should be controlled at lower levels first through punishments. Giving his country’s example, Mr Rashid Ahmine, senior assistant director of public prosecutions, Mauritius, focused on ‘fighting corruption: the Mauritius experience’.

“It is debatable that Mauritius is a safe haven but there is a strong political will to make the country look like a strong financial centre through legislation and laws to keep corruption at bay as much as possible,” he said.

“When someone wants to invest in Mauritius they would first want to know the level of corruption there. Our laws have provisions to deal with various forms of corruption…There is a strategy to combat corruption and also prevent it.

“Prosecution and enforcement are, no doubt, important but the most important is prevention through education. One must have a mechanism for combating corruption,” he said.

“A country is judged on its ranking in corruption, so bureaucracy and red tape should be eliminated and people shouldn’t need to bribe officials to get licenses. The system has to be changed to prevent corruption,” he explained.

Dr Narendra Raj Paudel, a lecturer at Tribhuvan University of Nepal spoke about the ‘Anatomy of corruption in Nepal’. “Horse trading is in Nepal, too. Our politicians are corrupt, too, and this is due to the ineffective anti-corruption agencies. And that’s how corruption rate rises in the country day by day,” he said.