PM and the media
Close to the two-year mark of his third stint in power, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has thought it to be a prudent time to address the media directly, taking advantage of the occasion of a meeting with the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE). This is a gathering of distinguished people who matter in the print industry, a medium far older and with more credit than the booming electronic media of today. What stood out during the PM’s address to the editors and people of note in attendance at this meeting was the fact that the premier was extending a hand to the media, asking for support and a working relationship during what is now a time of national crisis.
The nation is in the grip of a terror alert of the kind we have never witnessed before. After the tragedy at the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar exactly two months ago, the nation woke up to chalk out a National Action Plan (NAP), which, it seems, has also woken the PM from his slumber where the role of the media is concerned. It is in the implementation of the NAP that Nawaz Sharif seems to want to enlist the help of the media. He has asked the media to set aside ratings and business concerns for a period of two years to support the government in ridding the country of terrorism. It seems the government has realised that without the support of the media in such matters, the message of any action plan will never be properly conveyed to the public. When the government wishes to transmit its point of view to the people, it needs to maintain healthy ties with the media so that the government’s commitment to the cause is adequately reflected in how the media portrays it. Never has this PM — and even many of the PMs before him — bothered to interact in this manner with the print media members, instilling in them the feeling that they too have a role to play in defeating the terror threat. With this kind of exchange, the government can help ensure that the media does not become privy to speculation and rumour due to the lack of communication from the government. It truly is the turn of the government to understand just how important the role of traditional media is. Yes, electronic media is the bee’s knees in this day and age but it is the professional editor and the renowned columnists who can influence and shape public opinion and perceptions in a way that no television screen ever can. It is hoped that this kind of exchange between the PM and print media’s senior members is made a more regular event, encouraging the government to offer its side of the story.
The implementation of NAP is not going according to plan. A consensus plan of all political parties must be behind it, a will to show the people that the government and all stakeholder parties mean business. The media will come round and will disseminate the right kind of message to the people provided it is given importance of the kind that it deserves.
The PM also spoke about normalising realtions with India, a breath of fresh air when one considers the tensions running high on our border areas, specifically the Line of Control (LoC). He spoke of foreign secretary level talks being initiated and this is a welcome step after the hiatus following Modi’s election to India’s premiership. There needs to be a breakthrough in the dialogue process for there to be complete implementation of NAP for the stability of not just the country but the region. Nawaz Sharif did a good thing with CPNE; he needs to follow through now, like with everything else he has spoken at length on.