Discussing elections: New media content controlled by owners, not journalists: Speakers -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Discussing elections: New media content controlled by owners, not journalists: Speakers

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: The 2013 elections might present an opportunity for Pakistani journalists to build trust and credibility with the general public through responsible reporting. But working journalists believe control over published content is not in their hands.

At a seminar in Islamabad on Saturday, reporters and anchorpersons debated how journalists should conduct themselves when it comes to reporting on elections and politics.

The seminar, titled “Democracy and Ethical Reporting of Elections 2013”, was organised by the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).

Anwarul Hassan, an anchor on state-run Pakistan Television, said journalists should not discriminate in giving air time to political parties.

“Election reporting should be representative,” Hassan said. “Perhaps news channels can do a series of programmes covering all the different political parties so that the people can compare and analyse their policies and agendas.”

Olaf Kellerhoff, resident representative of the FNF Foundation for Freedom in Pakistan, cited a verse by Persian poet Saadi to say that like every great treasure, Pakistani media’s freedom is threatened by a metaphorical snake — irresponsible reporting that works to reduce the credibility of the press.

Kellerhoff said Pakistani journalists can improve the situation of democracy in the country through responsible reporting.

“Freedom of the media only comes with responsibility,” he said. “And without a properly functioning media, you cannot have a properly functioning democracy.”

He said election reporting might be more difficult this time compared to 2008 because of competition among news organisations, but it provides opportunities to be responsible and credible at the same time.

Anchorperson Saleem Safi said Pakistan’s media is free, but not independent. He said the media are shackled by “advertising, military, militants and even the judiciary.”

Journalist Rauf Klasra made an impassioned speech defending advocacy journalism — a form of reporting that transparently supports a specific social or political point of view. Klasra burst the bubble of “objective reporting” preached by the speakers before him.

He said sources used to try to bribe Pakistani reporters to prevent scandals from reaching the public through the press, but now they have adopted a new tactic.

“Now they (the influential people) are the owners and editors,” Klasra said.

But he said journalism is a “soldier-like” profession and journalists should keep marching on passionately to empower the citizenry.

National Press Club General Secretary Shehryar Khan said, “The real code of conduct should be for the owners of media organisations. All the debris should not be allowed to fall on the reporters.”

Source: The Express Tribune

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