Media should keep a distance from political parties -
Pakistan Press Foundation

Media should keep a distance from political parties

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Media houses and journalists should not get close to political parties because it will not only affect their efficiency but also their credibility.

The trend of investigative journalism is reducing because the media has been concentrating on daily issues.

These views were expressed by Sherry Rehman, former minister of information and ex-ambassador to the USA, at the launch of a report “The media of Pakistan: fostering inclusion in a fragile democracy?” The BBC media action policy brief has been co-authored by Huma Yusuf and Emrys Schoemaker.

It examines the role of the media as a driver of inclusion and accountability in a country in the midst of a democratic transition.

It also shows how a changing media landscape in Pakistan is increasingly giving voice to the citizens historically excluded from the public sphere, even amid ongoing political, security and economic constraints.

Ms Rehman said though the media was also an industry it should understand that it was not like bread or gold making industry as it dealt with the issues of the general public and made public aware of their rights.

“There should be a line between marketing and editorial departments of the media houses otherwise the quality of the news would be compromised.

In reply to questions, Ms Rehman said though an information minister can not do much because of the workload and bureaucratic hurdles, being a journalist she tried to protect the rights of mediapersons when she was the information minister.

“During my tenure, not a single channel was blocked despite pressure. I stepped down but did not ban the channels,” she said.

About the report, Ms Rehman said it was good and informative. It speaks about all the issues faced by the people and journalists. “Security of journalists is a big concern for me as 52 journalists have been killed during the last seven years,” she said.

Emrys Schoemaker said the report was based on months of research. As many as 23 in-depth interviews were conducted with Pakistani media professionals, analysts, policy-makers and members of the telecommunication industry.

In addition, 32 focus group discussions were conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Multan to get feedback for the report.

Mr Schoemaker said so much negativity was talked about Pakistani media but during the last 10 years the media had changed and was playing its role in shaping the country.

“Media is playing the role of a watchdog and has been exposing corruption. Security of journalists in Pakistan is a big issue because journalists are getting threats from political parties, extremists and influential personalities. Eight journalists were killed in 2012 and seven were killed in 2011,” he said.

“The positive thing is that public debates are created by the media. Media challenged Musharraf’s emergency and now campaigning for education,” he said.

“Media is driven by advertisements so it cares more about viewers and ratings. Local communities have grievances that national media never listen to their voices,” he said.

Talking about the social media, Mr Schoemaker said though it was important only 20 to 30 million people used it. Majority of the people on the social media use it for ‘flirting’, added.

He was of the view that the Baloch nationalists had been using social media to reach the international community.