South Asia Free Media Association seminar: ‘Government, Supreme Court can’t tell us how to live’
LAHORE: Neither the courts nor the government have the right to decide a moral code for all Pakistanis to follow, said speakers at a seminar – ‘Intellectual vigilantism in the name of piety’ organised by the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) here on Saturday.
“Many people are trying to turn this non-issue into an issue so that they can increase their influence,” said rights activist Hina Jillani, referring to a recent petition moved by the Jamaat-i-Islami against “obscenity” on television that has been taken up by the Supreme Court.
Jillani said that the Supreme Court had no right to define such a subjective term. The government’s or the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter would not resolve anything because not everyone would accept or follow it, she said.
She said Pakistan’s biggest problem right now was not obscenity, but crimes against women and minorities. “The spread of incitement and hate through news channels is also a very obscene and immoral thing, but no one seems to act against those who do so,” Jillani said.
She said that the courts or the government could not impose a subjective religious ideology on the people. “The government’s job is to facilitate the people and improve the overall situation of the country, not tell us how to live,” she said.
Columnist Kamran Shafi said the media was helping incite hatred against minority groups.
“We have the example of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s interview with Amir Liaquat Hussain in which he made offensive statements against minorities,” he said.
Shafi said that it was mainly the duty of parents and society to teach tolerance and decency, not of the Supreme Court.
South Asia Journal Editor Imtiaz Alam said that there were problems with the content of television programmes.
“However, the obscenity and immorality issue is being used as an instrument to intimidate and pave the way for religious intolerance and fascism,” he said.
The seminar at the Safma auditorium was also addressed by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Director IA Rehman, Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Riaz Durrani, Punjab University Institute of Communication Studies Director Dr Ahsan Akhtar Naz, South Asia Partnership Pakistan Founding Director Mohammad Tahseen and television producer Muhammad Azeem.