Monitoring Freedom of Expression in Pakistan, Karachi | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Monitoring Freedom of Expression in Pakistan, Karachi

December 20-24, 2003

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organised a five-day workshop on “Monitoring Press Freedom in Pakistan” at PPF Vicky Zeitlin Library, Karachi from December 20-24, 2003.

On December 20, 2004, Mr. Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General PPF, held a reception to welcome journalists, both male and female, who came from all provinces of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. He briefed participants on the objectives of workshop.

He gave an over view of the situation of press freedom in Pakistan and the role PPF has been playing in its defence and in collaboration with local journalists as well as national and international network of press freedom monitoring organizations. He said whenever any event or policy decision adversely affecting the freedom of the press took place, PPF investigated the incident with national and international freedom of expression organisations in different parts of the world.

He cited examples of how international organisations in coordination with PPF had raised their voice in favour of victimised journalists leading to withdrawal of actions, which curbed freedom of expression in the country. He said the purpose of holding workshop was to impart, to participants, skills to play a positive role in monitoring of press freedom.

Mr. Fazal Qureshi, Vice Chairman PPF and Chief Editor PPI, presented a description of journalism training programmes conducted by PPF all over Pakistan.

Ms. Samina Ishaque, Director PPF, informed participants about workshops, seminars and other events being regularly organized by PPF in Karachi.

The first formal session held on December 21, was on understanding legal basis of freedom of expression. Mr. Fazal Qureshi gave a detailed lecture on legal situation of press freedom in Pakistan as guaranteed by Article 19 of Constitution of Pakistan. He also gave a detailed review of various laws relating to media such as The Official Secrets Act, laws of defamation and contempt of court.

In second session, “Constraints to Press Freedom in Pakistan and Importance of Monitoring Press Freedom”, Mr. Owais Aslam Ali said press freedom has made considerable heading over the last two decades. He said this was possible because of sacrifices of Pakistani journalists and support, they received from national and international media and human rights organisations. He, however, cautioned that journalists will continue to face many problems and hindrances and stressed the need to remain vigilant.

He asked participants to point out cases of violation of press freedom and attacks on journalists in their areas, which were then used them as case studies for familiarizing participants with process of effective monitoring and lobbying.

The session also took up the case of arrest of two French Journalists and their Pakistani colleague on charge violating visas regulations and allegation by authorities that they were involved in making a fake film on Taliban presence in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, through hired people. The case was analysed and participants gave their opinions on how to help the arrested journalists, French as well as Pakistan national by monitoring progress in the case and in generating support from national and international media organisations.

The afternoon sessions on December 21, 22 and 23 were devoted to practical training of the use of Internet as a means for monitoring freedom of expression in Pakistan. Mohammed Zeeshan, Computer Engineer of Pakistan Press International (PPI) news agency, conducted the training. Although most of the participants were users of Internet, but their knowledge was limited to use of Internet for e-mail only. The training concentrated to enhance their knowledge about Internet newsgroups and mailing lists.

The first session on December 22, was about guidelines for Monitoring and Investigating Violation of Freedom of Expression

Mr. Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of PPF, asked participants the procedure they would follow to monitor and investigate violations of freedom of expression in cases referred by them. The suggestions were discussed and a variety of ideas and working procedures came forward. Participants, also, offered suggestions for improvement where necessary.

Second session of the day was “Effective Action Alerts To Report Press Freedom Violations.” Mr. Fazal Qureshi gave a presentation on designing alerts to report press freedom violations. He explained that Alert was a report of an event or issue, which was sent out to individuals and organisations to seek support and suggest actions to resolve the issue.

The participants were asked to give their suggestions on how to write effective alerts. Their suggestions and proposals reflected their experience in journalism. Every proposal and suggestion was thoroughly discussed with more suggestions and proposals from other participants.

Mr. Fazal Qureshi gave information to participants about steps considered necessary for preparing a comprehensive report on particular cases of an attack on a journalist, arrest of a journalist etc.

The sessions of December 23, were about the presentation skills conducted by Mr. Mahmood Mirza, Consultant and Trainer of many national and multinational organizations.

The programme was conducted in two parts:

1. Instructional Techniques for Trainers “Skills Enhancement Programme – Teaching how to learn and learning how to teach.”

2. Towards Effective Learning: Techniques in making learning organized, understanding made effective, remembering made effective, needs based measurement of learning effectiveness.

Mr. Mirza started with quotation from the 5th Century BC Chinese philosopher Lao Tse who said: “If you tell me, I will listen, If you show me I will see, But if you let me experience, I will learn.”

Based on this philosophy, entire instructional techniques programme of Mr. Mirza was based on extensive interaction with participants, advising them to avoid long monotonous lectures.

By making participants active at workshop, Mr. Mirza presented techniques to make their skills enhancement programmes more interesting, more effective and more inspiring, more sustaining and more enlivening to achieve optimum results.

In the second part relating to Effective Learning programme, he emphasized on meeting objectives, maximizing quality of presentation, reviewing overall task, measuring performance, maintaining track record and modifying programmes for greater effectiveness.

At the end of programme, Mr. Mahmood Mirza carried out a demonstration by organising the participants in five groups and making them act out their presentations.

The groups carried out mock role-plays of Information Minister, of a cruel father trying to block daughter’s further education, opposition leaders press conference and press conference of Minister of Information justifying arrest of French Journalists and their Pakistani colleague. The mock role-plays were a great success and marked a befitting conclusion to a highly effective presentation.

In evening, participants were taken on a sight seeing tour of Karachi, and visited the museum and Tomb of founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. From there, they drove through various parts of the city to beautiful well-lighted Sea View Beach.

The final session of the day was devoted to a discussion on freedom of press, importance of ethics and the role of a free press.

Participants were advised by Mr. Owais Aslam Ali to form press freedom committees consisting of senior local reporters. These committees could deal with issues of press freedom, not only in their own area but also throughout Pakistan.

The concluding session of the workshop in afternoon was presided over by Adviser to Chief Minister Sindh for Information and Archives, Mr. Salahuddin Haider.

Mr. Salahuddin Haider said interior of Sindh seems to be an “insecure” place for journalists and provincial government was trying to provide protection to media. He advised journalists to report on human rights violations and said their reports will guide government and help in taking action against those responsible.
He spoke of problems faced by journalists, including issuance of accreditation cards, inadequate and delayed payment of salaries, and said his “association and sympathies are with them”.
Mr. Salahuddin Haider in his speech recalled his association with PPI and paid glowing tributes to the two founders of the news agency Mr. Muazzam Ali and Mr. Aslam Ali. He also warmly praised the role of PPF as a media research, training and documentation centre. He said roles of PPF in raising standards of journalism in Pakistan and in defence of press freedom was greatly appreciated not only nationally but also internationally.

Later, Mr. Salahuddin Haider distributed certificates among participants.

List of Speakers
Salahuddin Haider
Adviser to Chief Minister Sindh for Information and Archives
Government of Sindh
Mahmood Mirza
Consultant and Trainer
National and Multinational Organizations
Owais Aslam Ali
Secretary General
Pakistan Press Foundation
Fazal Qureshi
Vice Chairman
Pakistan Press Foundation
Samina Ishaque
Pakistan Press Foundation
Mohammed Zeeshan
Computer Engineer
Pakistan Press International