Javed Jabbar asks govt to address media crisis
PESHAWAR: Former federal information minister and member Media Commission Javed Jabbar said here Wednesday that the main responsibility fell upon the Prime Minister and his cabinet to overcome the prevailing media crisis and get the commission’s recommendations implemented.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of the book comprising the Media Commission report and recommendations at the University of Peshawar, he said the Inter-Services Intelligence and all other institutions were accountable to the Prime Minister.
“The entire authority rests with the Prime Minister. He and his ministers, especially the information and defense ministers are responsible to take steps to rectify the situation,” he argued. Attended by a good number of faculty members, students, media and civil society representatives, the ceremony was also addressed by dean faculty of information and management sciences, University of Peshawar, former chairman department of journalism Prof Dr Shah Jehan Syed, current chairman Dr Altafullah, President of Khyber Union of Journalists Nisar Mehmood, Abid Rizwi and others.
Javed Jabbar said the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi on April 19 triggered the media crisis in the country. “Everyone adopted an imbalanced and extremist approach which further aggravated the situation,” he opined. He said the government remained negligent in the entire episode, adding that it cannot be termed responsible. “The attacks on vans and working journalists too are extremist steps,” he stressed.
Javed Jabbar said the private members of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) also adopted an imbalanced approach by convening illegal meetings and taking unjustifiable decisions.
He also held the judiciary responsible for the prevailing mess. He said that if the government or PEMRA takes action against a television channel for some irregularities, they manage to get a stay order from the court.
He said that currently 281 media-related cases were pending before the judiciary, while it has given stay orders in 81 cases. Some of the stay orders are maintained for four long years, he added. He said the judiciary should take care of public interest instead of getting influenced by the media houses.
The former senator was of the opinion that there was no dearth of code of ethics in the country. “We have surplus code of ethics that can even be exported. What we need is proper implementation,” he remarked.
He said that apart from working journalists the media owners also needed to be trained and educated. “I would rather suggest that a separate discipline should be introduced in the university for media owners. The cross-media ownership was also a big issue. Everyone having money can set up a media house and this has created many problems,” he said.
He said the current situation necessitated the need for the armed forces to have media awareness and training. Only the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) is not enough to cater to the current day needs. “I would rather suggest that there should be a separate media corps in the army that could arrange media trainings and studies,” he stressed.
Javed Jabbar expressed serious concern over the rising number of television channels, mostly illegal and unlicensed ones in the country. He said the total number of licensed television channels in the country was not more than 105-110.
He alleged that PEMRA had allowed every cable operators to run five CD channels, which resulted in mushrooming of illegal television channels. “Currently the total number of cable operators in the country is 2,500 and if you multiply them by five the number of unlicensed channels would be estimated at 12,500. This could be the largest number of channels in any country in the world,” he said. Javed Jabbar also criticised the infotainment culture in the news content. He said that this trend of infotainment has polluted news content and damaged the sanctity of news.
He also gave a detailed presentation on the recommendation made by the Media Commission. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Altafullah said that problems rested at three points – the government, media houses and the audience. He said that the government has been unable to implement regulations and recommendations.
He said media houses have failed to develop proper code of ethics due to the clash of interest of media owners and working journalists. He added that serious problems rested with the audience, who don’t have the culture of making complaints. “We are ideal recipients of information. We don’t play our role to have check on the media,” he said.
Nisar Mehmood expressed concern over the inability of the government to implement the Media Commission recommendation. “Had these recommendations been implemented before the general election, there would have been no allegations of rigging,” he opined. He said that PEMRA has become ineffective and the cable operators were adamant to defy the directives of the courts and the government.