System for media accountability demanded
KARACHI: Speakers at a conference on Tuesday criticised the freedom with impunity enjoyed by the electronic media, which, they regarded as misogynistic and leading to societal deformity in many ways with no one to exercise checks and balances.
`If no one else is there to censor us, we should at least go for self-censorship; to work for the good of society and not to be part of those deforming it,` said Sultana Siddiqui, president of the Hum TV Network, while presiding over a session on trends in the electronic media on the second day of a three-day National Media Conference organised by the Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) at a hotel.
She was very critical, especially of the trend of re-enactment shows being telecast on almost every news channel, which, she said, were utterly misogynistic showing no respect for women and took liberty in expressing everything that could not be allowed in any cultured social order.
`Such shows are on the top of the pecking order of those TV channels and sadly no one is there to put a ban on them.
She was critical of the interviews of young rape victims by certain news channels, which she put as `molestations of the poor souls after molestations` `They disgustfully show the victims without giving a second thought about their future, thus molesting them again; while they show the perpetrators with their faces covered.
She said there was a rating race among the scores of TV channels which were unmindfully presenting stuff which was highly dangerous to social values given the fact that Pakistan had a poor literacy rate, which made it a further detrimental for the people who knew little about many things.`Where is Pemra?` she repeatedly asked for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the media watchdog, which, according to her, should control the quality of the content.
Dr Nisar Zubairi of the University of Karachi said there had been no media policy on the part of the government for decades. He said the increase in TV channels had created chaos instead of sanity.
He suggested a media watch system on a regular basis, which should be monitored by civil society.
`Our channels gleefully show palatial intrigues elsewhere but are little aware of the real facts, which can suggest where are we leading to?` Danish Saeed of the Express Media Group and a radio professional offered an insightful presentation on the evolution of radio in the country, its challenges and problems it posed as it got stronger.
Najia Ash`ar of the Geo News channel said the media had somewhat changed society, but many challenges remained.
She said despite criticism the media was bringing about `positive changes` in society. She, however, said TV channels were busy in a `race for ratings` which, in her opinion, was not fair.
`There is insurance for TV equipment but not for a journalist,` she remarked.Earlier, students of the SMIU screened five documentaries on historical sites of Sindh.
In a session on media and culture, Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh, vice chancellor of the SMIU, said the people of Sindhwere inheritors of the legacy offered by the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation. He said the Quaid-i-Azam had once said that he was born in Sindh, thus he was proud to be a Sindhi.
`By calling ourselves Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtun, Baloch makes our identity as Pakistanis more relevant.
Dr Murtaza Jaffery, principal of the National College of Arts, Lahore, said the media, culture and art were closely related as they were related to the people.
He said the SMIU and the NCA should cooperate in promoting art and culture. He said the Punjab government wanted to control the NCA after the passage of the 18th amendment, but since that institution was regarded as a national college should not be given to the provincial government as it catered to the students from across the country.
In the final session on media and society, Prof Inam Bari said the media`s role was important in society, but it should adhere to basic ethics. He expressed hope that press councils, which were elected bodies in some developed countries, would be set up here as well to investigate and ensure that media do not misreport with impunity.
Zafarullah Khan said Pakistan had witnessed more decades of dictatorship than of democracy a fact that configured the media values and mindset.
Kamran Ahmed Soomro of the Chinese Huazhong University of Science and Technology said the media was a powerful tool that could bring fundamental changes in society.