ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira Thursday said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government has firm belief that responsible and independent media was imperative to sustain and nurture democratic norms in the country.
Addressing as chief guest at the inaugural session of two-day national conference, organised by Press Council of Pakistan, Kaira paid tributes to the journalists’ community for their struggle for independence of media.
The minister said no doubt mediapersons had rendered unprecedented sacrifices, but political workers had also supported them in their cause.He said for the first time in country’s history the right to information had been ensured to the citizens through the passage of 18th Amendment.
The minister said the media criticism was an important component of the accountability process but the balloting was real platform for accountability in the democratic world. He said, “The present government has never stopped the advertisements of any media house despite the fact that certain media groups launched vilification campaign against it.” He said electronic media should verify facts before broadcasting a story.
He, however, said that media freedom should also bring responsibility as there was no concept of freedom without responsibility.Kaira said that three other pillars of the state work under some code and media should also adopt some code of conduct for its working. He said that the government had no intention to impose any regulations on the media; there should be some organisations to implement the code of conduct adopted by the media itself.
He appealed to the media to verify the facts before printing or telecasting a story as news without verification was tantamount to character assassination and media trial of somebody, who may prove innocent in the court of justice. In advanced democracies defamation laws are very strong and nobody dares to indulge in character assassination of any person, he said.
The minister said that in the developed world, talk shows were not held on sub-judice issues but in Pakistan anchorpersons issue their own judgements and try to influence the courts.The minister said that the credit of making PCP functional goes to its Chairman Raja Shafqat Abbasi but time has come that it should start addressing the complaints. The minister said the government was working to facilitate media growth, despite the fact that a section of press was involved in mudslinging against the PPP leadership.
The minister asked the media not to make caricatures of political figures as it was not in the national interest. He also lamented that the TV channels only make cartoons of the politicians, but they do not dare make such cartoons of the heads of other institutions. He said that there was no doubt that judiciary was the most respectable institution and it should be respected, but we should also keep in mind that the Parliament is the representative of over 180 million people.
Kaira made it clear that the PPP would never allow any person or institution to use PCP for imposing curbs on the media as free media was the essence of democracy.
In his welcome address to the conference participants, Shafqat Abbasi said Thursday the council was striving to create awareness about the code of ethics among the media professionals.
He said there had been wide gap between theory and practices and the conference would deliberate as how to update the curriculum in accordance with modern trends to teach the students about current issues. He said that the Council was expanding its network at local and international levels by establishing linkages with various organizations for collaboration and experience-sharing.
Abbasi said the Council would not only address the complaints received from the public against media rather it has been mandated to also resolve issues confronting the media persons.Abbasi said that media needs to settle a self-accountability mechanism as this practice would add to its credibility.
He further said that the Pemra council comprises of government representatives only whereas Press Council of Pakistan includes stakeholders from every sphere of life. He said if any newspaper had a complaint against the government it could bring it to the PCP.
The chairman PCP said that council has taken all educational institutions on board which were offering media education and organizing seminars to make students aware of the media code of ethics. A debate has been initiated in universities on ethics to create awareness, he added.
Veteran journalist Mujeebur Rehman Shami said codes of ethics for media persons was need of the hour. He said that in the past, the media faced very strict censor in the times of dictators but now it was enjoying overdose of freedom, which also causes problems.