=> PESHAWAR: As the electioneering is expected to gai -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

=> PESHAWAR: As the electioneering is expected to gai

PESHAWAR: As the electioneering is expected to gain momentum after the observance of Ashura across the country, all mainstream political parties have expressed their dismay over the coverage of their political activities by the official media, while accusing the government of manipulating the coverage.

However, the Information Ministry says any party having complaints against the Pakistan Television (PTV) should register them with the news director, in addition to sending a copy to the ministry.

The political parties believe the government is manipulating the private media in one way or another in favour of those supporting President Pervez Musharraf. Several opposition parties also expressed reservations about the role of the private electronic, as well as print media.

Owing to the blitz of electronic media, the high risks involved in electioneering in public, ban on holding of public gatherings at certain places by the government and a lukewarm response from the people to public meetings, the private, media, especially the television channels, are considered as the most effective means to reach the common man.

Awami National Party (ANP) Central Information Secretary Senator Zahid Khan objected that the media was giving more time to the two big parties, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML­N) while the smaller ones were being short-shifted. “Of course, the government is manipulating the private media through different tactics,” Zahid Khan said, adding that whenever political leaders were invited to talk shows, they were advised by the management of the news channel to observe restraints while speaking against the government. Regarding the PTV role, he said the opposition parties were getting only 20 to 25 percent coverage.

PPP Spokesman Farhatullah Babar was of the view that media should unveil the “pre-poll rigging” and assert itself to ensure fair elections in the country.

Though satisfied with the overall election coverage, Babar was a bit blue about the private media role “to unveil the intelligence agencies influencing the polls”.

He pointed the finger at the Election Commission (EC) when asked about the PTV role, and said the EC had failed to ensure a balanced coverage, which he believed was partisan and in favour of the PML-Quaid. Ahsan Iqbal, from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML­N) media wing, said in this era of commercialisation, those having more funds were getting more time.

About government role in the manipulation of media coverage, he said media had been gagged since November 3. He also referred to the closure of Geo transmissions on cable and “restrictions” on others. Iqbal said the government had increased the release of advertisements to newspapers to leave little space for news and editorials. He alleged the PML-Q had spent World Bank funds on the Parha Likha Punjab advertisements for its own publicity. Former federal minister and PML-Q Information Secretary Senator Tariq Azeem spurned the impression that the government was interfering with media coverage of the elections. “The government should not manipulate,” he said.

Caretaker Information Minister Nisar A Memon said the official media was giving due coverage to all the parties in its news and current affair programmes. He said all this had been done under a formula and coverage was being given to a party keeping its strength. “Any party having any grievance should directly approach the ministry or the concerned branch of the PTV and their gripe would be addressed,” said the minister. He added that they would soon launch the ‘Election Hour’ programme, where leaders of all parties would be invited to express their views.

Source: Daily Times