Government committed to freedom of media: Jabbar | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Government committed to freedom of media: Jabbar

ISLAMABAD- Adviser to Chief Executive on Information Javed Jabbar said the Government is committed to ensure freedom of expression and pluralism of opinion on the electronic media.

Javed Jabbar said this while addressing a Round-Table discussion on “The challenges of freedom” held under the aegis of Citizens Media Commission to mark Electronic Media Freedom Day.

The Chief Executive, he said, became the first head to refer to the `Probability’ of facilitating private Channels in the country. “It is a symbolic landmark towards independence of electronic media it contradicts the myth about the Armed Forces they are not creative, that they do not think independently.” Jabbar said, the Armed Forces, in fact, reflect norms of the times. “The army-led Government supports a free flow of information and a frank exchange of views they binge independence in media so this is a threshold situation,” he said.

Javed Jabbar referred to Government decision of January 20 that legitimised the Cable TV system in the country. He said, the Government, while issuing licences for new channels would ensure that the licensee is a Pakistan citizen. ‘The Government would ensure that the ownership remains 51 per cent in Pakistani hands and the management also remains with Pakistani citizens who are subject to laws of the land.”

The proposed law, on which a final decision will be taken by the cabinet, would also have adequate provisions that nobody indulges in an action that abuses the state or a community, he said.

The Adviser on National Affairs said while taking a decision the Government respects and trusts the people of Pakistan and has full faith in their judgement.

The government is studying the experience of private channels in other countries, he said. “The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility, if in the US there are no specific laws, there are other cheeks and balances,” he said.

He also referred to the security imperatives of Pakistan in this regard. “Pakistan has great security needs we are a unique nation state, our identity is shaped by our geography, among other things and the concept of Pakistan has become stronger since 1947. “. And since 1971, despite martial law and dictatorial regimes, the concept of ‘Pakistaniat’ has gained strength, there is no question of ‘Pakistaniat’ eroding the people of Pakistan are here to stay,” he said.

Javed Jabbar, referring to the draft to be presented to the Cabinet on private channels, said, it would incorporate proposals from the Ministry” of Finance and the Ministry of Culture. ‘We are constantly updating it, incorporating new views.”

Jabbar said, Pakistan Television and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) both have fulfilled some remarkable services. ‘They have been an enormous binding act,” he said. Since its inception, he said, the Pakistan Television has, reflected a great deal of pluralism and currently it programmes in which experts and journalists express their independent views on issues like CTBT, are shown without censor.

The Advisor on Information, however, agreed that objective political pluralism in Pakistan Television Khabarnama yet to be there. “Both Pakistan Television and PBC are security-related institutions as well as they promote Pakistaniat”.

He regretted that successive governments in the past neglected these national institutions. “Pakistan Television needs Rs 1 billion for its technical revamping while the PBC needs Rs 800 million. We have spent money on other things but the motorways of mind have been discarded”. He agreed with a participant that there has to be difference between commercialisation and independence.

Jabbar told a questioner that the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), at present, is not involved in drafting the proposals but will be invited to look into the proposed law.

Jabbar said, the Government will announce shortly its policy on Channel-3. Replying to queries from participants of the seminar, he stated that Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf will announce the policy about the channel. ‘Compared to the previous Government policy, we ~ give a new dimension to news and current affairs, he said.

Meanwhile former chief justice of Pakistan Justice (R) Nasim Hassan Shah, Chairman of the Citizen Media Committee, the co-organisers of the seminar with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said February 14 has declared Electronic Media Freedom Day. He said, the challenge lying ahead is how best to coordinate and control the freedom of media as sometimes a civilised society may become a hostage to the freedom of airwaves. If properly used, this freedom of electronic media can help Pakistan overcome problems like sectarianism’. Justice Shah said, an important role devolves on the Citizens Media Committee in monitoring the working of the channels. He said, the time is ripe for concrete steps in allowing freedom of electronic media.

Ambassador of Germany, in his comments, observed that the print media is a great equaliser against the electronic media which has developed very fast recently. He referred to the issues including the debate on whether the control of electronic media should be with the federal government or the local governments and said this also should be considered.

A US Embassy representative said, America has taken the risk of maximum of freedom and minimum of control on the electronic media. He suggested that diversity on private channels will bring protection against extreme views.

Other participants included Professor Shahida Qazi from University of Professor Khawaja Masud, Burhanuddin Hassan, Ambassador (R) B.A. Malik, Huma Mustafa Baig, Saleh Zafar, Agha Nasir, Brig (R) Shaukat Qadir, Zafar Siddiqui, Sabih Mohsin, Ebsan Qadir Hashmi, Sarwar Munir Rao, Akhtar Dar and Mian Javed.

Source: The News