Plan to use media against media and judges -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Plan to use media against media and judges

By Hamid Mir

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari and his close associates have formulated a two-pronged strategy to use the media against the judiciary and to use sections of the media against the critical media, just to divert public attention from corruption scandals.

This dangerous strategy is being run by elements close to Zardari. These elements have started raising a hue and cry in the name of unbalanced reporting and about one-sided talk shows but they have not informed PM Gilani about their anti-media plans despite the fact that Gilani is a major stakeholder in the system. Two media groups have started their “sponsored” campaigns not only against the judiciary but also against all the journalists who are not ready to become part of anti-judiciary campaign. The owners of these two media houses are in contact with Zardari who asked government departments to shower advertisements on these anti-judiciary media groups. The thinking process of Zardari is no more a secret. Every enemy of the independent judiciary is his friend and every supporter of the judiciary is his enemy. Interestingly, some PPP leaders leveled baseless allegations against many journalists of Jang Group and even declared some of them as “Indian agents” but the same PPP is supporting and promoting some elements in the media who are famous for their Track-2 diplomacy with India. Three years ago, former dictator Musharraf was patronizing these friends of India in Pakistani media. Now President Zardari is also supporting these elements but his critics are openly being accused of being Indian agents.

Friends of President Zardari in the media have started a campaign against many journalists saying, “You people are trying to ridicule the elected representatives because you have a political agenda”. The same people are getting monetary benefits from PPP government due to their bias against judiciary which is very clear from their writings and views expressed on electronic media.

The same people are openly trying to use the platform of media for friendship with India. Personally I have no objection to friendship with India but why they are not “Indian agents” for President Zardari? It is clear that PPP leadership will only consider those as “Indian agents” who are supporters of an independent judiciary. Many PPP leaders are openly speaking against the judiciary since long and they are trying to increase their allies in the media. It is learnt that two media cells have been established in Karachi and Islamabad under the supervision of some PPP office bearers. These cells have motivated some columnists recently to condemn “one sided and unbalanced journalism in support of some political judges”.

These cells are trying to make an issue out of a recent controversy generated when a TV reporter claimed that the government has decided to cancel the notification through which judges were restored last year. PPP leaders are trying to use the media against the media using the notification story. The Supreme Court asked the attorney general to get a written contradiction from the prime minister but he was unable to do that.

Finally Supreme Court directed the government to investigate how this news was aired on many TV channels. Government established an inquiry committee with President of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) Hameed Haroon as its head. Unfortunately the President of another very important media body Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) Khushnood Ali Khan dismissed this inquiry committee and said that there could be no credible inquiry without the participation of the country’s supreme editors’ body. He also said that APNS President has no right to investigate any event without the approval of his own executive committee. An owner-cum-editor, on the condition of not being named, told this correspondent as the three members of the APNS included in the Inquiry Committee were in competition with other APNS members, the investigations could not be transparent. To make the probe transparent, the APNS should have first held an in-house consultation and then nominated three impartial persons from outside of its fold. These three persons should have represented the APNS in the Inquiry Committee. This would have increased the credibility of the findings of the Inquiry Committee. This Inquiry Committee “summoned” Khushnood Ali Khan because he also hinted in one of his columns last month that the government is thinking of withdrawing the judges’ notification. Shockingly the CPNE President refused to appear before the inquiry committee and created a controversy within controversy.

This big ‘no’ from CPNE President has disappointed many PPP leaders who were waiting to start a new campaign against the media after the completion of work by the Hameed Haroon Committee. A former president of APNS told The News that Hameed Haroon is not heading an APNS committee, in fact he is heading a government committee and he was not responsible for ignoring the CPNE. The government ignored the CPNE just to divide the media.

The reporter of Aaj TV who broke the judge’s notification news still stands by his story. He is not ready to disclose his source, many senior journalists in the capital are aware of the fact that more than one government sources were claiming few weeks back that they may cancel the judges’ notification.

The question arises as to how an inquiry could be completed without investigating the top government functionaries who were allegedly saying to different journalists that they could cancel the judges’ notification. It is evident from circumstantial evidence and many anti-judiciary statements of PPP leaders in the recent past that the said reporter was not wrong. May be he was not careful in picking his words but his story definitely blocked a big anti-judiciary plan. Government is looking for some scapegoats and this reporter is a prime target.

Some PPP leaders eagerly want to make him an example but what will happen after that? Will the PPP start obeying the court orders? Will the PPP write a letter to Swiss authorities in compliance with the verdict in the NRO case?

The Government cannot make any breakthrough in relations with judiciary without implementing its orders. An independent judiciary and a free press are essential tools of good governance. It is the responsibility of the media to pinpoint bad governance and corruption but the media cannot correct the balance between right and wrong, between justice and injustice or between honesty and corruption.

The PPP must realize that Pakistan is changing. The judiciary cannot be dictated anymore. Media cannot be monopolized. The rulers must respect the rule of law because the ultimate survival of their government as well the survival of the country lies in rule of law.

The rulers must stop the old colonial formula of divide and rule. It is the time to unite the nation under rule of law and win hearts and minds of the people not divide and destroy them further for petty personal vested interests.
Source: The News
Date:11/7/2010