PTV not being fair to Opp: RSF -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

PTV not being fair to Opp: RSF

PESHAWAR: Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has found that Pakistan Television (PTV)’s coverage of the parliamentary elections is focused on parties that support President Pervez Musharraf and the federal government.

In a report released on Wednesday, the global media watchdog states that the president and his allies were the subject of 84.9 percent of the political items (reports, interviews, analyses) on the four daily news programmes that it monitored from January 28 to February 2.

The organisation measured the airtime accorded to the various political parties in the news programmes broadcast at 10am, 12am, 6pm and 9pm (the ones with the most viewers). It divided the political actors into eight categories: President Musharraf and the government; the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM); the PML-Nawaz (PML-N); the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP); the nationalist parties, above all the Awami National Party (ANP); the All-Parties Democratic Movement (APDM); and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

Marked bias: During the six days of monitoring, the RSF noted that the PML-Q and its allies were given around 46 minutes of airtime, while the two main opposition parties got a combined total of 40 minutes (28 minutes for the PML-N and 12 minutes for the PPP). “Their percentage shares show a clear bias: 17.4 percent for the PML-Q, 10.5 percent for the PML-N and 4.6 percent for the PPP,” the report said.

The pro-autonomy parties and the MMA were almost completely ignored, the RSF said. It said the MMA only received 30 seconds from January 28 to February 2, while the pro-autonomy parties of Balochistan and the Pashtun regions got no mention at all.

In addition to the “airtime bias,” RSF claimed the journalists’ comments that accompanied the reports about the PML-Q were always positive, adding that the tone used for reports on the opposition was more neutral.

PTV explains: On the apparent bias, a member of the PTV staff said, “We cover the political parties when they have activities and the PML-Q organises more events than the others. We have a programme on the elections in the afternoon in which everyone has a chance to speak. Then, in the news programmes, we concentrate on the leading politicians.”

Another staff member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the station had not been instructed to cover all the candidates with complete fairness.

The Election Commission has no precise rules about the allocation of airtime during the campaign, RSF said. It said its measurements proved that the station does not respect the commonly accepted rule during election campaigns that airtime be fairly allocated between all parties concerned.

Earlier, RSF had identified PTV’s “lack of neutrality” as one of the five major problems to be resolved before the elections.
Source: Daily Times
Date:2/7/2008