Media reforms -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media reforms

The recent showdown, call it with any name, between the media and the government on the sensitive nuclear issue has left behind some important lessons to learn. The first lesson is that the government’s media policy is not only absurd but indeed harmful to the very ideals that it itself claims to champion.

Perhaps before complaining against some in the media Musharraf should have asked himself who are his allies in the field and why? In fact he has to conduct a serious exercise in introspection to understand that those who support his policies without the faintest queries are the ones who have done the same in every regime.

By accepting them as his allies he is nevertheless serving their vested interests. On the other hand those who criticize him are not essentially his foes. Some in fact very serious well wishers.By making a man who lacks creativity and imagination absolutely the in charge of the information ministry the damage has been multiplied many folds. The minister either crackles too loud against his opponents or at once loses his voice.

Then the government also has to do learn how to handle its own media outlets like PTV. PTV could have been a proactive and procreative organisation if it had some guts. I mean its news and current affairs section. It indulges so much in intellectual dishonesty just to please the government that when time comes of telling the truth no one is found ready to believe its version. Also PTV is unnecessarily huge and lazy bureaucracy that needs purging from top to bottom.

Especially since some in the higher hierarchy refuse to go home the chance of fresh talent joining the field is sealed. To a safe estimate there is need to lay off almost seventy percent of the PTV news and current affairs section either through golden handshake or surplus pool. The lacuna can be filled by sixty percent fresh blood chosen through FPSC and rest of the ten percent hired from the western media to train our staff.

There are indeed some quite capable people in the organisation also. Take the MD himself for instance. And then there is this producer Zafar Iqbal Bangash who won PTV awards for current affairs production. But without a fair deal of fresh recruits and new faces through an independent source even they may not be able to work wonders.

When it comes to private media the government needs to realize that any reductionist approach can never pay important dividends it so desperately requires. Granted it has remained more or less fair with the private enterprises but it blinks at times while dealing with individual journalists. Amir Mir is one example. Khawar Mehdi Rizvi is another.

No matter how serious the crime if we can release the French journalists why cannot we show the same magnanimity towards the Pakistanis? If instead of punishing orattacking these folks they are made to realize their mistakes or as in the former case grievances are alleviated through man-to-man talk I am convinced that we can produce better media environment.

We need to realize that despite some minor skirmishes among the journalists they belong to same profession of trying to ferret out the truth.Our external publicity wing also needs to improve itself. The current fiasco reminded me of the Kargil days when despite having indulged in awfully big adventure our effective media managers like Mushahid and the then Brigadier Rashid Qureshi used to wrestle out breathing space for our government.

Now that we are building strategic vision with India Pakistan and India can also work together to save each other from media mudslinging.Then there is this political issue as well. There are a few media groups with clear political soft corners. They can be won over if the government once again shows political magnanimity in consensus building. Take the People’s Party for instance. Some in our establishment blame its founding leadership for the fall of the East Pakistan. Regardless of the truth in the argument if it can hold talks with India, which actually sponsored Mukti Bahini, and try developing a strategic partnership with it why cannot it show the same empathy towards this party? The healing touch policy would help media fight side by side with government.
Source: The Nation
Date:2/12/2004