Media asked to regulate itself
ISLAMABAD: While appreciating the role of journalists in their struggle to achieve freedom of information during military regimes, speakers at a seminar here on Tuesday stressed that media needs to regulate itself in order to give primacy to public interest and protect citizens’ right to information instead of playing a role that could harm democracy in the country.
Senior journalist Najam Sethi spoke about the struggle by media persons against the repressive policies in the past. “It was not only the military rulers but also the civil bureaucracy that was against giving any room to share information and allow growth of media,” Mr Sethi said.
“But now we are in another era and there is need that media persons should consider themselves accountable too.”
He said there were apprehensions that a new troika – media-judiciary-military – would replace the traditional one, which would be even more detrimental to the democratic and fundamental rights of the people.
The seminar “Free and responsible media: issues and challenges,” was jointly organised by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), Individual Land (IL) and Friedrich-Nauman Stiftung fÃ¼r die Freiheit.
Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director CPDI, said performance of media was praiseworthy but at the same time critical questions were beginning to be raised and many circles felt that the role of the media was negative and irresponsible in many respects.
He said when a resolution was passed by Punjab Assembly it was not printed by newspapers and only after a week or so its content was made available to people. This, he said, was a violation of citizens’ right to information.
Veteran journalist M. Ziauddin said journalists had launched a very long struggle against four military regimes and the present media freedom had been achieved after many sacrifices.
He said before Ayub Khan’s martial law, journalists were sent on exile after being lebelled communists; he gave the example of Khalid Hasan and Abdul Shakoor.
He said the first attack on media freedom was launched by Ayub Khan through the Press and Publication Ordinance which had serious implications for media freedom in the country and it took 20 years of struggle to get it repealed.
However, he said, politicians should also raise their tolerance level as it was a common practice throughout the world to criticise politicians.
Information Secretary PPP Fauzia Wahab said her party had never put restrictions on media, adding Article 19 of the constitution imposes reasonable restrictions which should be adhered to by newspapers and media organisations.
She criticised some segments of the media for what she said regular negative reporting. “Section of media is trying to create political instability through biased reporting,” she said, adding: “It is unfortunate to see that in their quest to speak against the government they are indirectly harming the interests of the country.”
Country Representative Friedrich-Nauman Stiftung fÃ¼r die, Olaf Kellerhoff said freedom comes with responsibility and journalists should be careful to exercise their freedom.
There was a consensus among the participants that there should be an effective regulatory body consisting of all stakeholders to ensure rights of the citizens.