National Assembly body asked to help implement code of ethics in print media
ISLAMABAD: The Press Council of Pakistan on Tuesday urged the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting to help enforce and implement the ethical code of practice in print media.
The committee met Tuesday to deliberate the functions of the Press Council of Pakistan The code of practice was framed by the council to make the press function in accordance with the principles of professional conduct and precepts of freedom and responsibility aimed at serving the public interest by ensuring an unobstructed flow of news and views to the people.
It envisaged honesty, accuracy, objectivity and fairness as guidelines for the press while serving the public interest in any form of publication such as news items, articles, editorials, features, cartoons, illustrations, photographs and advertisements. “Things can be a lot better if the print media observed ten out of the 17 clauses laid down as code of ethics,” said Chairman Press Council of Pakistan Raja Mohammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi, who took charge of the office earlier this year.
Raja Mohammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi told the committee that the Council’s 19 members, mediapersons, parliamentarians, academia and lawyers, had already formulated a code of ethics.
“But there is a room for improvements and new clauses are required for an ever evolving media,” said Shafqat Abbasi.
He informed the meeting that the council’s members included individuals nominated by All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) such as Chief Executive, Jang Group of Publications Mir Shakilur Rahman, Chief Editor, Daily Pakistan, Lahore Mujibur Rehman Shami, and Jugnoo Mohsin, Chief Editor, weekly The Friday Times, Lahore.
It also included members nominated by Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) such as Chief Editor, Nawa-e-Waqt Group of Publications, Lahore Majid Nizami and Chief Editor, Khabrain Group of Publications, Lahore Zia Shahid to mention some besides members nominated by Higher Education Commission (HEC), National Commission on the Status of Women, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ), Pakistan Bar Council and National Assembly.
Shafqat Abbasi could not give a convincing answer when MNA Malik Mohammad Shakil Awan asked why the Press Council had failed to implement its code of ethics despite deliberations and such a strong team of members.
“Print and electronic media has failed to ensure accuracy and fairness and uphold the sovereignty of the country,” said Malik Mohammad Shail Awan who, in not so many words, described media as undisciplined rather that free.
Urging parliamentarians for support, the Mr Abbasi described the Press Council as a helpless body, although it was responsible for monitoring and regulating media, and had the powers to suspend a newspaper for seven days and even cancel its declaration if it fails to comply with the council’s directions and rules.
“For the last 40 or 45 years this autonomous and independent office is trying to establish itself as a sound body. It was not until October/November last year when the Press Council became operational with roughly 30 staff,” said Mr Abbasi.
In more heated deliberations, MNAs Shireen Arshad Khan and Shakil Awan registered their complaints with the Chair of the Committee when the Chairman Press Council was unable to give convincing answers to most of their questions.
“We have asked the owners of the newspapers to send trained journalists to conflict areas for reporting and to provide them with safety gear such as bullet proof jackets,” said Shafqat Abbasi explaining to the members that private news organisations were solely responsible for the safety of reporters working for them and not of the Press Council.
Coming back to code of ethics, MNA Bushra Rehman said: “The Press Council must be clear that the Two-Nation Theory, on the basis of which Pakistan came into being is not open for discussion.”
The Chair of the Committee Belum Husnain formed a sub-committee headed by himself to work with the Press Council to amend its constitutions and introduce new and amend the code of ethics where required.