Room for people’s voice in media stressed
ISLAMABAD, Feb 5: Speakers here on Tuesday asked the media to ensure that the people had a chance to have their voices heard.
They were speaking at the concluding session of a two-day workshop on ‘Civic journalism for effective citizenship’ arranged by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE).
The speakers said the media should provide a platform for the individuals to voice their concerns over the issues being faced by the country..
Aidan Liddle, head of Press and Public Affairs Section of the British High Commission, said on the occasion that democracy meant participation of the people and added without it there would be no democracy as the means to make people’s lives better.
Faryal Gauhar said corporate media expansion had restricted the space for the voice of people in the media. She said most stories were male-centred and only one tenth of the newspaper space was given to women-related news and that too where the women were objects and passive actors.
She argued that the print and electronic media was not addressing layers of issues that were afflicting our society and reminded the journalists that they had an important role of forming and influencing opinions.
“Media is a craft, which holds the tools for activating society around,” she added.
Executive Director CCE Zafarullah Khan said every voice had a right to be heard and should have the means to be heard. He said immediate problems of the masses were not being mentioned on the front pages of newspapers and headlines of electronic broadcasts.
Stressing the need for civic journalism, he said when there was rain, there was also flooding, destruction of homes and water borne diseases because of poor civic amenities in every city and these issues should be highlighted in the media. Media should not be a lap-dog of the rulers but should act as a watchdog of the people’s interest, he added. He announced that the Centre for Civic Education would start a civic journalism award from next year, which would be awarded on best civic reports in print and electronic media.
Matiullah Jan, a journalist, said some journalists wrote on elite classes only, serving their target population. He said civic journalism boiled down to district government, which means that the local media (radio, newspaper, and press clubs) have the most important role to play. Mr Jan said reporting on civic issues would foster a relationship of trust between the citizens and media.
Discussing “communication sparked change”, Faryal Ali Gauhar and Amjad Bhatti said journalists were community’s catalyst. Mediapersons have the responsibility to maintain objectivity and do not take sides in a conflict, they said.
Mr Bhatti stressed the importance of questioning the generic understanding of mass communication. He said today’s dominant themes for determining newsworthiness were fear, conflict, insecurity, and sex. He said the media’s dominant characteristic was its being urban-centric as power and knowledge were concentrated in urban areas.
In the group work sessions, the participating journalists examined shortcomings in people-centric news stories, listed there local civic issues and vowed to report on those.