Keeping tabs on media: With great power comes great responsibility
By: Zehra Husain
KARACHI: If people believe that media is watching over the society, then they need to question who is watching the media. Dispelling notions about media looking after the best interest of the people, renowned scholar Ayesha Siddiqa called for a regulating body to keep a check on the “corrupt” practices in the industry.
“The [dominant] perception is that we can fight corruption through media,” she said, speaking on the second day of the International Conference on Corruption: Causes, Consequences and Control, on Sunday. “But we need to ask if the media is able enough to strengthen democracy and accountability.”
Calling the Pakistani media inefficient, corrupt and unprofessional, Siddiqa said that there is no existing body that overlooks the watchdog. “After 2002, the number of private channels and newspapers increased massively. That is why we need an independent regulatory body to watch over the entire industry.”
One such body, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), according to Siddiqa comes under the ministry of information. “It should be an independent structure that has input from the industry and end users – but one that functions without any external [political] pressures.” She described Pakistan as a postcolonial society as its laws still resemble those before partition. Using Pemra as an example, she said that the body’s laws leave room to be monopolised by the industry.
A national policy should be put in place that has the same standards for judging all media houses – without any undue favours extended to the private or public sector.
Only three licences can be issued under Pemra, but she pointed out that different media groups are already running news channels, entertainment channels and newspapers in different languages – and they also have other business ventures.
“You can’t just punish these bodies by asking for money, the negotiating culprits need to be caught.”