Only freedom may make press fair
KARACHI – The three-day national conference on Urdu Press – Problems and Prospects concluded here on Wednesday with a call to the government to accept press as a public institution and free it from all sorts of restrictions.
It is freedom which only could enable press to function as the fourth pillar of the state and safeguard the interest of the nation and country, it noted. The conference also stressed the need for making arrangement at the earliest for press to have access to sources of information and for the establishment of a Press Council, plan of which has been kept in abeyance.
The federal minister for information and broadcasting Shaikh Rashid Ahmed was the chief guest at the concluding session. It was recommended that the government should ensure an atmosphere conducive to the implementation of law. It should also create a situation where journalists could be able to perform their duties without fear or duress.
Journalists and their employers should be provided protection from revengeful acts and hostile activities on the part of influential figures, parties and groups.
The conference also urged the CPNE, APNS and other bodies of media men to arrange for the observance of journalistic ethics in letter and spirit so that standards of journalism could be improved and investigative reporting could be promoted.
It called for the formation of an organization under the title of ‘Pakistan Council of Mass Communication Education’ comprising the CPNE, APNS and journalists’ forums, ministry of information and departments of mass communications at university level throughout the country.
Stressing on avoiding use of English words in Urdu press, the conference called for the implementation and practice of pure Urdu language in its true sense.
In order to ensure an enhance credibility of Urdu press, the conference suggested several measures, including the implementation of Wage Board Award for employees of all urdu newspapers which, it said would ultimately remove the sense of deprivation and unrest prevailing among the employees.
During the two earlier working sessions, the participants discussed the demand of digests, magazines and news weeklies of international standards in Urdu. They also expressed views on improving the standards and ensuring availability of low-priced quality Urdu newspapers. The session on magazine journalism was presided over by Jamiluddin Aali.
Dr Mugheesuddin Shaikh of the University of Punjab was of the view that prospects for political weeklies in Pakistan were not bright as most of the Urdu newspapers were already bringing out special editions and reports on political developments.
All sorts of news, analyzes and opinions, he said, were presented instantly and efficiently by the dailies, and the electronic media and readers could not wait for a whole week for the magazines.
He, however, said there was always a room for magazines containing objective, neutral and advanced coverage of issues related to all sections of the population and different shades of opinion.
Dr Mohammad Khalid of Bahauddin Zakria University, Multan, said that the digest journalism was introduced in 1960s on the pattern of Readers’ Digest. However, he noted, most of the digests were now being published from Karachi and they were mainly women-exclusive.
Dr Aali remarked that contents of digests often appeared fictionalized, thus misrepresenting facts. Terming this ‘negative trend’, he said it needed to be checked properly as it undermined the element of objectivity.
At the other session, Mr. M. Ziauddin, the Resident Editor of daily Dawn at Islamabad, presented a comparison of English and Urdu press. He said that both categories of papers catered to the needs of the same society but their readers appeared different.
He noted that the aggressiveness and missionary zeal that the newspapers inherited after the creation of Pakistan was now being replaced with industrial trends and demands. The trend of investigative reporting could not be promoted as journalists did not have access to information about government departments.
Dr. Nisar Ahmed Zuberi, a former chairman of the Department of Mass Communication, spoke about the trend of the low-priced Urdu newspaper which have gained popularity in the recent years.
Not satisfied with the quality of content and language of these newspapers, he attributed their popularity to the non-availability of sober newspapers at an affordable price.
Chief guest at the session Prof Sharif al Mujahid appreciated the quality of Urdu newspapers, and said that their standard could be improved if perks of their employees were made handsome.
He said that Urdu newspapers were lacking boldness on certain issues. On the other hand, he added, they could easily be blackmailed and compelled to play submissively.
In his presidential remarks, Dr. Jamil Jalibi, a former VC of the University of Karachi, called for a change in Urdu papers’ presentation style. He said that by placing most of the reports on front and back pages, and running on the remaining parts of reports on inside ones was against the international standards.