Pakistani newspapers’ coverage of media focuses on flexing of muscles by electronic media regulators
Pakistan’s print media highlighted important issues including the revival of Censorship Committee on Defence Planning (CCDP) after 18 years; the recent flexing of muscles by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to regulate private TV channels and the opening of Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi.
PPF monitored 18 daily newspapers monitored from February 22-28, including Dawn, The News, The Nation, Express Tribune, Business Recorder, Pakistan Today and Regional Times, Jang, Dunya, Roznama Express, Nawa-e-Waqt, Pakistan, Intikhab, Quami Akhbar, Amn, Kawish, Ibrat and Awami Awaaz.
Of the 70 news published during the week in the newspapers monitored, 11 were on media ethics, 20 on media rights, 10 on media safety, 3 on media bodies, 5 were obituaries and 3 were on welfare of journalists. Nineteen stories covered a number of miscellaneous issues.
Development of professional capacity
All major newspapers including Dawn and Express Tribune prominently covered inauguration of Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi established in collaboration with International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and United States Department of State.
At present 280 journalists attending programs and participating in training in television production, editing, documentary making, upcoming course on news writing, reporting, editing for TV, print media and data journalism. IBA plans to introduce Master’s journalism degree programme.
Kamal Siddiqui, Editor of Express Tribune is the chair of the CEJ Board of Advisors.
Censorship Committee on Defence Planning (CCDP)
The News (Feb. 24) carried exclusive story by Ansar Abbasi highlighting the government’s revival of the Censorship Committee on Defence Planning (CCDP) after 18 years to protect “national interest threatened particularly by unregulated and unchecked electronic media.”
CCDP which met on December 16, 2015 under chairmanship of Secretary Information, decided to regulate the selling of airtime by local TV and radio channels to foreign media because the committee felt “many TV channels and radio stations are airing foreign programmes and content which could be detrimental to national interest.”
CCPD decided that there should be uniformity at federal and provincial levels to evolve to mechanisms to review censorship regulations and procedures that have a bearing on national interest or defence planning.
It also decided to have an effective monitoring mechanism of private TV, radio channels during emergencies and war situation for which a media cell was set up comprising civil, military and security agencies representatives. The story did not clarify if the committee considered current situation in the country to warrant such monitoring mechanism.
CCDP also reviewed proposed changes suggested by Films Censors after the 18th Constitutional amendment.
PEMRA Flexes Its Muscles
The Nation (Feb. 25) carried story of PEMRA Council of Complaints (COC) imposing fine of Rs. 100,000 on ARY TV for “incitement for dislodgment of democratic system” in their programme “Sawal Ye Hai” hosted by Dr. Danish that included an appeal to Army chief to come and take over the country and topple the democratic setup.
PEMRA COC warned Express TV News for airing programs in violation of Code of Conduct 2015 and levelling allegations without credible information against Taimur Rehman, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Lahore University of Medical Sciences (LUMS). COC also directed ARY News to air apology and rebuttable for airing incorrect information against functionaries in Aviation Division of the Federal Government.
The COC advised PEMRA to issues advice to all TV channels to refrain from the use of derogatory words against persons, institutions, maligning government functionaries, airing allegation without credible information. It recommended issuing advice to TV channels to strictly refrain from calling a citizen enemy of Pakistan, anti-Islam, traitor, using racial and religious discriminatory words.
PEMRA Chairman Absar Alam convened consultative conference with stake holders on March 16 with participation of Information Minister, senior officials, civil society members to enhance confidence with media industry reported by Jang (Feb. 28).
The News (Feb. 24) carried a report on the ceremony to destroy 3,000 illegal Indian Direct to Home (DTH) decoders that PEMRA had recently confiscated. PEMRA said illegal Indian DTH were distributing illegal and unlicensed channels in Pakistan in violation of PEMRA rules.
The Business Recorder, Express Tribune and The Nation (Feb. 24) covered the resolution passed unanimously by Punjab Provincial Assembly seeking to ban television channels from broadcasting shows based on reenactment of crime scenes and court stories.
Dunya, Pakistan and Amn (Feb. 26) reported a request submitted by advocate Ishtiaq Chaudri in Lahore High Court to stop TV channels presenting airing crimes in dramatic way which violated Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority PEMRA rules, enabling criminals adopt new methods and attract children to crime.
According to news stories by Urdu dailies Amn (Feb. 24) and Quami Akhbar (Feb. 23) BOL TV Action Committee members’ demonstrated at Karachi Press Club with demand to restore bank accounts so that employees’ wages are paid besides restore its license.
Amn (Feb. 27) covered story on Sindh Assembly passing a resolution in favour of BOL TV. Sindh Minister Nisar Khoro and MQM member Faisal Sabzwari were among movers of resolution in house urged the federal ministry of interior to immediately grant security clearance to BOL media group. The resolution says BOL news and BOL entertainment should be allowed to start transmission and decision to suspend their license be revoked.
The house demanded investigation and action against those who resorted to this illegal action against BOL group, causing it billions of rupees loss.
Pakistan Cable Operators Association (PCOA) announced to suspend TV broadcasts in Punjab province if tax not revoked, reported by The News. PCOA said it would suspend three hours transmission daily of all private TV channels from 25 February 2016 for a week in protest against tax imposed by Punjab Revenue Authority PRA.
PCOA head Captain (rtd.) Jabbar said transmission of all private TV channels other than state-owned Pakistan Television Corporation PTV will be suspended daily from 7pm to 10pm for a week. If demands were not considered, time span will be increased from three to six hours. He warned if any cable operator was arrested protest would be extended all over the country. Chiniot Cable Operator Association also announced suspending transmission of all channels in the district from 25 February except PTV.
Jang (Feb. 27) reported Managing Director of Pakistan Television Corporation PTV Mohammad Malik relinquished charge on completing two years contract, not further extended and new MD to be appointed soon. On 27 February The News reported Attaul Haq Qasmi assumed charge of additional MD PTV.
Media Freedom And Safety
Express Tribune (Feb. 24) covered story of Rana Arshad, Punjab parliamentary secretary for information announcing formation of a committee to probe alleged manhandling of a journalist by a deputy medical superintendent at a public hospital. Rana Arshad, Mian Aslam Iqbal and members of press gallery were included in the committee.
Pakistan (Feb. 27) reported, journalists boycotted Sindh Assembly’s coverage over threat by Tariq Masood Arain to Shah Waliullah reporter of local TV channel. Pakistan (Feb. 28) covered protest of journalist in Tank press club against Kalachi police head constable Ramzan’s misbehaviour with its President Awardin Masud while he was going to Dera Ismail Khan.
Express Tribune and Regional Times (Feb. 25) reported the arrest of Raees Ahmed, owner of Pasban publishers, Hyderabad, along with his employees from the press for publishing an anti-Pakistan advertisement in a Sindhi weekly newspaper. The advertisement contained content against Pakistan, armed forces, intelligence agencies and China Pakistan Economic Corridor project. During initial investigation, police have come to assessment that Ahmed did not read the content. “The man is illiterate,” said Station House Officer Afzal Qureshi. “He received ad from a person whom he couldn’t identify. He didn’t read it as it was written in Sindhi language.”
Right to Information (RTI)
Express Tribune (Feb. 23) published story based on directives of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Right to Information (RTI) Commission to government departments to share details of their retired employees in a monthly report. Chairman KP RTI Professor Kalimullah told Express Tribune he had to take this step after getting application of 80-year-old Muhammad Shareef who has yet to get his pension as it was stuck in district accounts office of Dera Ismail Khan. Kalimullah said under KP RTI Act 2013, Commission had power to ask all government departments to share information of those entitled to pension.
According to news story of Dawn (Feb. 24) a meeting chaired by Special Assistant to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister on Information approved proposed amendments in KP RTI Act 2013 to make it more comprehensive and accessible to people in the province. It proposes to include registered organizations and the High Court into the ambit of RTI law for provision of any sort of requested information, criminalizes provision of false information, those responsible to be fined and sentenced to two years in prison.
In Punjab implementation of Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act 2013 faces hurdles of lack of finances and awareness among people reported by Dawn (Feb. 24). Chief Information Commissioner Mazhar Husain Minhas said there is a flood of information untapped in Punjab which should be used for research, governance and solution of problem.
Gender in journalism
Express Tribune’s photographer Aysha Saleem, was elected as member of governing body of Pakistan Association of Press Photographers. This is first time in the history of 55-years-old association that a female photographer had contested elections, won and is now member of governing body reported by Express Tribune (Feb. 24).
Pakistan Press Foundation