Media urged to highlight rights abuses -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media urged to highlight rights abuses

KARACHI: Appreciating the role of the print media in creating awareness about human rights in the country, speakers at an Arts Council seminar on Friday criticized successive governments in Pakistan for keeping the electronic media under strict control.

The seminar, titled “Human rights and the role of the media”, was organized by the press and publications committee of the Arts Council.

Noted intellectual Dr. Manzoor Ahmad said that the concept of human rights had undergone a great deal of change over the years. “The concept of human rights came to the fore after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It has assumed importance in the present-day world and powerful countries put economic embargo on those states which openly violate the rights,” he said.

He said that while the electronic media had almost always toed the government line, the print media had been relatively free. “All over the world, the press have influenced public opinion in favour of human rights so much that they could be credited with creating a new mind-set vis-a-vis the global human-rights scenario. In Pakistan, however, the press has not so effectively played its role in creating this mind-set.”

Dr Ahmad underlined the need for introducing human rights as a full-fledged academic subject “so that this complex phenomenon could be better understood.”

He said that newspapers were no longer supposed to report facts accurately and correctly. “They must also assume the job of educating the people about issues, particularly human rights,” he explained.

The former chief justice of Pakistan, Sajjad Ali Shah, stressed the need for creating such conditions which would enable the press to discharge its duties without having to worry about the newsprint and government advertisement.

Mr Shah called upon the army to hold the elections and go back to the barracks because “the army’s job is to defend the borders and not to rule the country.” He said that even at present the government had a lot of control over the press.

He recalled how in the past the government brought a great deal of pressure to bear upon the press by using the Press and Publication Ordinance 1963 which had rightly been termed the blackest of the black laws.

The former chairman of the mass communication department in the University of Karachi, Zakaria Sajid, paid tributes to the correspondents of newspapers who filed stories about violations of human rights in far-flung areas.

“If valiant reporters had not filed news stories, the Meerwala and Mianwali incidents would never have come to light. The chief justice of Pakistan took suo motu on the basis of those news reports,” he explained.

Dr Mahnaz Fatima, Nargis Rahman, chairperson of the Women Peace Forum and AI Pakistan director Shamsuddin also spoke.
Source: The Dawn
Date:8/10/2002