No compromise on freedom of Press: Arif -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

No compromise on freedom of Press: Arif

KARACHI – The President, All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), former President CPNE and Editor The Nation, Arif Nizami, said that democracy and freedom of Press are in the national interest and no compromise would be made on it at any cost.

“National interest and freedom of Press can be safeguarded only in a democratic system. It is not safe in the hands of rulers,” he maintained. He was delivering his presidential address at the end of inaugural session in a seminar on “Freedom of Press and National Interests” organised by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) at a local hotel on June 1. The seminar was held in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stftung, an NGO.

On the occasion, former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Chairman Citizens Media Commission, Javed Jabbar, Sindh High Court former Judge Justice (Retd) Shaiq Usmani, Karachi University, Mass Communication Department, Professor Tauseef Ahmed Khan presented their views.

The first session was presided over by Arif Nizami. The second session was presided by CPNE former President Mujeebur Rehman Shami. Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan Naib Ameer and MMA Senator Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, PPP Deputy Secretary General Mian Raza Rabbani, Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser for Information Salahuddin Haider and Resident Editor Nawa-i-Waqt Sajjad Mir also spoke on the occasion.

At the end of each session, the question-answer session was held. Members of CPNE, teachers and students of Karachi University Mass Communication Department, journalists and reporters participated in the seminar. Summing up the proceedings of the first session, Arif Nizami stated that all learned speakers were unanimous on one point that national, state, government and media all four were different things.

Nizami congratulated the CPNE for organising seminar at an appropriate time. He said that it is time for the newspapers to hold their own accountability as to where they stand. He said that the government related national interests changed with the change of governments, and some times national interests changed during the same regime.

Quoting example, Nizami said that Kashmir was termed as a core issue during the incumbent government earlier and it was decided as a national policy that no negotiations would be held without resolving the issue of Kashmir. “But later on, the national priority changed and it was opined that all the longstanding issues would be resolved in accordance with the Lahore Declaration, announced by the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.” He said that Kashmir had remained a national priority, but the incumbent governments now has changed its attitude and priorities.

Referring to Afghan policy and the national interests, Nizami said patronisation of Taliban government was declared in accordance with the national interest, but after 9/11 incident, the government took a “U” turn on the Afghan policy. The Mujahideen were declared as terrorists and a war against terrorism started, he said.

He said that the policy relating to Afghanistan and Taliban has remained controversial and all was done in the name of national interest. Nizami said whenever any newspaper had shown the mirror to the rulers of the time about the controversy in their declared national policies, the advice came from the government not to expose their somersaults and controversies about national interests. He said that freedom of Press was not given to the newspapers on a platter, but it was the result of relentless struggle launched by the APNS, CPNE and PFUJ and this struggle would continue.

Commenting over the disclosure made by Professor Tauseef Ahmed about the attempts made by Chaudhry Mohammad Ali of excluding some parts of the broadcast speech of first Governor-General of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which the professor referred to “as the beginning of censorship”, Arif Nizami said that the dictionary of Press advices started since the creation of Pakistan and was continuing till date.

He said that topsy-turvy of the national and government interests has landed the freedom of Press in a state of limbo. He said that democracy and freedom of Press are in national interests and no compromise would be made on it at any cost. Responding an objection raised about the tyranny let loose by the army in the former East Pakistan, Nizami said that Press was not free at that time.

He said that dictators have harmed the country, nation, democracy and freedom of Press. He said that Pakistan came into being through a democratic struggle and freedom of Press is the result of the sacrifices rendered by the journalists.

He said that Nawa-i-Waqt and The Nation bore the brunt for raising the voice for the freedom of Press and their advertisements have stopped, while the journalists were put behind bars and suffered. He said a few years ago, the smaller provinces’ rights were not given proper place, but now NFC Award and the water disputes highlighting the province’s point of view are given prominent place in the print.

He said the Ministry of Information and the government’s attitude is against the freedom of Press. He said till such time, the advertisements are centralised with PID and these are distributed according to the wishes of Ministry of Information till that time, freedom of Press would not be completed. Nizami paid tributes to the government of Sindh, which despite federal government’s directives did not stop ads of the Nawa-i-Waqt and The Nation.

As regard to own accountability of the newspapers, he said that self-regulation should be done and for this, Press Council Law is there. “The Press Council should be formulated.” He said that the present government believed in self-regulation and also believed in the freedom of information and also made laws but these were not implemented.
The government talks of freedom of information just to predict the supremacy of democracy for the West. He said that the government should come out of the dictatorial syndrome and practice real democracy. He said that the political leaders Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain are kept outside the country which was against the national interest.

How publishing ad about Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Pervez Elahi is justified, but the ad about Shahbaz’s return is termed against national interest, Nizami said.
Source: The Nation
Date:6/2/2004