Proposal to make state media independent hailed
By: Shabbir Sarwar
LAHORE: In a seminar organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) on the Media Commission report, Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors former president Arif Nizami, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Associate Professor Dr Osama Siddique addressed the audience, while participants from various media organisations participated in the open house discussion session.
The house was briefed about that 1,500-page Media Commission report prepared by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, after taking views from 168 people and different stakeholder organisations. The report states that financial matters of the media organisations were not transparent because media groups have other businesses, which affect their freedom. The report further stated that media had a code of ethics but lacked any mechanism to implement this and, therefore, the parliament should make legislation on this matter.
The report said that there are around 68 media laws, which should be amended in 6 months and new laws should be made. The report also states that the Centre should not issue advertisement and the local media should also be given share in ads.
The report talked about having proper laws for different cable networks, which are running channels showing films and Turkish drams. It added that there should be impartial boards to run PTV, PBS and APP on the pattern of BBC.
Reacting to the Media Commission report, the speakers of the seminar expressed their serious reservations regarding any restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. However, they welcomed several parts of the report endorsing independent functioning of the state controlled Pakistan Television (PTV), Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and the associated press of Pakistan (APP).
Speaking on the occasion Arif Nizami, who recently served as caretaker minister for information said that large-scale reforms were needed in the Information Ministry. He said despite of all shortcomings in the country, media freedom was a success story of Pakistan. He said however, because of irresponsible use of this freedom there is some talk regarding regulations. He added that the stakeholders should mutually frame the regulations.
He expressed the reservation that this commission might deprive this country of a free media. He said political recruitments in PTV, AAP and PBC have stuffed these state media organs with incompetent people and suggested immediate privatisation of PTV.
Talking about APP, he said that a non-professional bureaucrat was heading the organisation. He said, “I tried my level best to appoint a professional journalist as head of APP but it was all in vain.” He expressed his concern regarding the financial burden on the state media due to which it might face closure, as it had happened in Greece. He said some media chains were more powerful than PEMRA and suggested making the laws of libel and defamation strong.
Regarding a concern of Turkish dramas shown in Pakistan, he said that if “there is no restriction on Indian media content in Pakistan, what is wrong with Turkish dramas?”
Summing up the discussion of the house, Imtiaz Alam said there should be reforms in the Information Ministry, and all public media organistaions including PTV, APP and Radio Pakistan must be free from the government interference. He said PEMRA should be an autonomous body and should not be misused by political forces and demanded that the Supreme Court forward this report to the parliament, where it should be discussed in parliamentary committees.