Jabbar says he projected issues not personalities
KARACHI- With reference to the news analysis titled: “Time to bury information stereotypes” published in The Nation, former Information and Media Development Minister Javed Jabbar in a statement said:
“If it is one thing that the information Ministry did not do during this period, it was to avoid being stereotypical. Therefore please do not prepare to bury prematurely those, whose actions have remained above the board, and above the ground!
in paras 5, 6 and 7 of the news analysis, the writer has made outright claims to the effect that the official information apparatus was used during the past 12 months to project people rather than issues, secondly, that stereo-typed dishonest propaganda was hurled upon the people.
It is notable that not a single example is offered in this news analysis to support such allegations. It is a fact that in the news bulletins of Pakistan Television (PTV) and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) we were unable to give coverage to the heads of political parties. However, while remaining conscious of this deficiency, a broad range of independent opinion highly critical of the Government’s policies or plans were broadcast on PBC’ and PTV on subjects such as CTBT, Kalabagh Dam, the economy, the tax survey, the draft freedom of information law, on the performance of ministries and public sector bodies. Frequently, political leaders who appeared in conferences and seminars were named on PBC and shown on PTV. This proves that issues rather than personalities received priority.
A significant step was taken towards introducing independent radio and TV channels by the year 2001 through the adoption of the RAMBO Ordinance on the subject. In print media no attempt was ever made to overtly or covertly control the news content or editorial comment. Nor was the allocation of Government advertising ever used to coerce the Press, unlike the past. It is curious that the news analysis makes no reference to these policies and activities.
My association with the Government covered a period of ten and a half months i.e. from 29th November, 1999 to 13th October, 2000. My association with the Information Ministry began on 29th December, 1999 as Adviser (in addition to National Affairs) and as Minister from 2nd June, 2000. There is possibly no previous period in our history in which during comparatively so short a period, there have been so many initiatives taken to strengthen and support the free Press as well as to initiate new frontiers in electronic media. Such measures included: abolition of the newsprint import quota and rationalisation of the import duty, settlement of long overdue payments to newspapers, amounting to over Rs. 170 million, substantive progress in discussions with the All Pakistan Newspapers Society and Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on the formation of a Press Council and the formulation of a new Press law; constitution of the 7th Wage Board: extensive consultation on a Freedom of Information law and strict adherence to merit in the allocation of Government advertising.
The free Press in any case presumably focused on issues and did not print propaganda. Therefore, the contentions in paras 5,6 and 7 are not borne out by the facts. In another clarification with reference to reports published in a section of the Press regarding the causes and circumstances concerning resignation from the Cabinet, Javed Jabbar said: “resignation is due to personal reasons. However in some reports there are speculative assertions about the other alleged reasons.
For example, that it is the poor performance of the Ministry in having been unable to effectively project the performance of the Government in different fields. The fact is that the parts of the free Press certainly did not do justice to the many positive and purposeful policies and actions implemented by the Chief Executive and the Government. At the same time, my humble opinion is that, faced with the unique situation of having to project the work of a military-led Government through a free and independent Press, there possibly could not have been any more effective projection than the coverage given to the Government’s work in this period. The Ministry spared no valid effort, but it did not use corrupt methods nor did it ever use any coercive pressure as has often happened in the past. Like every other Ministry there is definitely scope for reform and improvement in the Information Ministry.
Secondly, the complexity of the task facing the Information Ministry under a policy of total respect for the free Press can be gauged by the fact that both the Presidents of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) have publicly stated during the first 1 0 days as has prevailed during the past 12 months.
Thirdly, while my association with the Government covered a period of ten and a half months i.e, from 29th November, 1999 to 13th October, 2000, my association with the Information Ministry began on 29th December, 1999 as Adviser (in addition to National Affairs) and as Minister from 2nd June, 2000, there is possibly no previous period in the country’s history in which, during comparatively so short a period, there have been so many initiatives taken to strengthen and support the free Press as well as to initiate new frontiers in electronic media.
Such measures included: support to PTA in the introduction of licensing for cable TV, adoption by Cabinet of the law for independent radio and TV channels (RAMBO), broadcast by PBC and PTV of pluralist, candid, critical opinions on a wide-range of issues such as CTBT, Kalabagh Dam, the economy, tax-survey, freedom of information conclusion of rebroadcast agreements by PBC with BBC, VOA, DW; launch of daily PTV telecasts to Western Europe, UK and North America and several other measures.
Fourthly, where one report claims that there were “serious differences” between the newly appointed Additional Secretary Incharge and myself there are actually no such “serious differences.”
Source: The Nation