‘Journalism is under siege’
KARACHI: Today, journalism is under siege. On the one hand, journalists’ objectivity faces threat from extremists groups like the Islamic State and, on the other hand, from politicians like US president-elect Donald Trump.
This was stated by Dr Lawrence Pintak, professor and founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at the Washington State University, United States, during his speech at the inaugural ceremony of an international conference which opened at Karachi University (KU) on Wednesday.
Over 60 senior journalists from all over Pakistan and abroad are participating in the two-day conference on media education.
With over 30 years experience in journalism on four continents, Prof Pintak was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the conference organized in an effort to make media curriculum more relevant to the industry.
Describing the profession of journalism as one under ‘siege’, he said the present time was both challenging and exciting for journalists. “In a situation where the media is being privatised and revived in countries like Pakistan and those in the Middle East, journalists have security challenges as well as vast opportunities in the form of technological advancements,” he observed. There’s no country in the world where an ideal environment existed for journalists but certainly some countries gave more space to alternative narrative than others, he added.
Prof Arshad Ali, who represented the executive director of the Higher Education Commission chairman in the inaugural session, emphasised the need for responsible journalism and urged educationists to adopt strategies that could inculcate a sense of responsibility in upcoming journalists.
He was of the opinion that the media curriculum being taught at institutions of higher education in the country was by and large in accordance with the modern needs of media industry.
He hoped that the conference, among other topics, would also discuss the issue of intellectual property rights in journalism.
KU vice chancellor Prof Mohammad Qaiser, who presided over the inaugural programme, regretted lack of staff training at media organisations. The media, he said, had a national responsibility and should follow journalistic ethics since it had the power to influence every segment of society.
Highlighting the conference’s objectives, Prof Seemi Naghmana Tahir underlined the need for bringing the media, industry and academia closer. “Given the challenges the media face today, it is important to update the curriculum in the light of experts’ recommendations,” she said.
In a session titled, ‘TV Broadcasting: News Current Affairs’, Aaj TV Peshawar bureau chief Farzana Ali said those who were not journalists yet running shows as anchor persons had harmed this profession the most.
Fahd Husain, editor of Express Tribune, said the viewers and readers who were passive recipients had become active recipients due to social media. That’s why, he said, the future of TV and newspaper both was in danger.
Sajjad Meer of News One channel said many TV anchors were not actually journalists but people from showbiz. “We have turned journalism into entertainment,” he remarked.
Athar Waqar Azeem of Hum TV said 90 per cent anchor persons of current affair shows did not do any homework.
Speaking on opinion writing in digital age, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said social media opened avenues for independent writers, but it lacked ownership and thus credibility. He added that the mainstream media ought to act responsibly while picking anything being run on social media.
Dr Jaffer Ahmed, who was presiding over the session, talked about the corporatisation of the media. People were considered consumers as the concept of ratings was created by the media industry, he said, adding that a nexus could be found between the media and other industries. He said the only way to counter this challenge was public awareness and unity.
In another session, Fahim Zaman from spoke on digital reporting whereas Qaiser Mehmood highlighted the need for making practical reporting as part of media curriculum.
Other speakers included Sultana Siddiqui of Hum TV, KPC Secretary A.H. Khanzada, Jang editor Muddassir Mirza, editor of Roznama Express Tahir Najmi, Fakhar Abbas of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, former editor of Jang Mehmood Sham, Centre for Excellence in Journalism director Kamal Siddiqi, and president of the arts council Ejaz Farooqi.