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The News

Published Date: Jun 12, 2012

MEDIA MUST BE REGULATED BY ITS OWN

Former Judge, Lahore High Court, Raja Shafqat Abbasi and Chairperson of Press Council of Pakistan has said that the media needs a self checking mechanism to create credibility which goes to its own benefit by devising and implementing an independent ethical policy.

Justice Abbasi was speaking as a chair on seminar on “Media and the issues of professional ethics” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute here Monday.Raja Abbasi said that Pemra Council consists of government nominees mostly whereas PCP includes all stakeholders. He said that Constitution guarantees freedom of expression but Punjab and KPK did not legislate on right to know.

He said mediapersons are better judges and should have their own say in professional ethics. He stressed the need to empowering the institution of editor in newspaper industry.M Ziauddin, Editor of Express Tribune said that media is in flux the world over due to advancement in technology which brings about ethical issues also. He referred to telephone hacking by Rubert Murdock through police affecting inter-state relations.

He said that journalists in Pakistan are struggling for freedom of expression for decades. He said there are no gatekeepers to take care of professional ethics in a real-time situation in the world of electronic media. He said that print media has so many gatekeepers to take care of a situation. He said that there are red lines drawn by agencies and militants and cross-fire also targets them.

Mohammad Malick, Resident Editor, The News, said that it was unfair to expect the media to behave impeccably while it was even denied facilities that are a given in civilized societies. We don’t even have a functioning Right of Information Act, let alone other things. There is no security of life or safety and yet the media personnel are expected to face all the odds. He opined that the media should display greater professionalism and responsibility instead of hiding behind the ruse of “this is what the people want to see and that’s why we are showing what we are”. He said that professional editors and owner’s editors would always have a different approach because a professional editor or anchor had the option of quitting his job and walking away but the owner could not walk away from his own business and therefore this difference needed to be understood to understand media behavior in Pakistan.

He said that at the end of the day, media was a commercial enterprise and a Rs38 billion a year industry and “you cannot ignore this aspect and expect the management to pay salaries to the staff”. Anchor Hamid Mir from Geo TV said that we can only raise the issue of media ethics where a state exists with its writ all over the country. He said that state and owners both target working journalists. He said that secret fund of Rs5.5 billion with Information Ministry is also used to influence journalists.

Hamid Mir said that strong parliament and judiciary are essential for vibrant media. He said that it is the responsibility of PCP to ensure implementation of code of ethics.Moeed Pirzada from state-run TV said that cross-media ownership led to monopolies in Pakistan where print and electronic media were owned by same persons.

He said that huge media monopolies in our country have no parallel in Europe. He said that the director or editor news had no authority and owners had all the controls in media.Fahad Hussain from ARY News said that media ethics is a big issue and cannot be solved by individual efforts. He said that ethical stand is not economically beneficial as viewers do not boycott channels airing unethical matter. He said ethics are absent in other sectors also. He posed the question who will determine what is ethical.

In the question hour, while replying to a question, Hamid Mir said that government, political parties and religious groups terrorise newspapers for favourable coverage. Mr Ziauddin said that coverage of women/children is at times shameless in media. Mr Pirzada said that there is no need of government channels. He said that instead of state or private channels, there should be public