Media’s role in promoting basic rights discussed
KARACHI: The role of the media in the promotion of fundamental rights in Pakistan was examined by a group of concerned citizens and media persons at a discussion arranged by the Centre for Civic Education Pakistan here on Saturday.
Setting the pace for the discussion, the centre’s executive director, Zafarullah Khan, said that even though Pakistan was a signatory to the International Bill of Human Rights, the people of this country were not even aware of their basic rights.
“The media itself probably knows very little about human rights while looking for quick fixes and talking about things that have not even happened as yet such as some bill that has not even been passed as yet. What they do not do is tell the citizens about their rights,” he said.
About the citizens, he said that they had the solutions in their hand but didn’t even realise it. “The citizens are holding three keys.
The first key is their right to information, the second is consumer rights and the third is their right to vote. But these keys,
unfortunately, are being allowed to rust when the media doesn’t understand its role of informing the people about these rights. Due to the fact that most of the population cannot read, this duty falls more on the electronic media than the print media,” he explained.
Scholar and educationist Dr Jaffar Ahmed took a historical look at the topic of discussion.
“When Pakistan came into existence, the state was all powerful and there was no space for discussion of people’s rights. There
were certain ‘black laws’, which saw the banning of certain publications and progressive journalist groups.
Then martial law brought with itself further violations of human rights and since the media of the time mostly came under the
government, it couldn’t point fingers openly. The late veteran journalist Zamir Niazi’s four books have recorded those times well.”
“But the sacrifices and struggles of those times dominated during the 1980s.
Then the 1990s brought in the era of private TV channels which influenced the weakening of state institutions. Of course the media became very powerful but was
that power used for the people’s benefit, or is the corporate sector being the benefactor?” asked Dr Ahmed.
He also spoke of media ethics, the concept of ‘breaking news’ and how after committing a mistake live on TV, a channel will never acknowledge the error and apologies for it.
Badar Alam, the editor of monthly Herald, said that in school we read about Mohammad bin Qasim and other Muslim heroes but we were never given the history of people’s constitutional rights. “So we can talk about culture and religion but not our constitutional rights. People who attend state schools with this kind of a curriculum then judge everything based on how it goes with our culture or is it according to our religion. Some of them also join the media.
For them women have their own stereotypical role of taking the backseat in everything while the men run the show. If something is not according to their standard, it looks wrong. But what they don’t realise is that Pakistan did not come into existence through a struggle against Hindus though they might be taught this in schools or by reading literature similar to Naseem Hijazi’s novels.”
Dr Fauzia Khan of Sindh Madressatul Islam’s Women Media Centre observed that in our society those who spoke of civil rights were looked on as rebels today.
Dr Tauseef Ahmed, chairman of the department of mass communications at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, regretted that the editor’s role had been weakened as the owners were allowed to interfere in the content of publications. “Today we see all kinds of items in a newspaper that is not really news but were often rumours,” he said.
Others who spoke on the occasion included educationist Dr Bernadette Dean, blogger Noman Qadri and Zobia Zaman of CNBC.