Thursday July 07, 2022

Without any curbs, politeness be ensured on social media

October 19, 2016

Media Commission suggests Pemra chairman be appointed through parliamentary committee with representation of civil society and minorities; regulatory body be answerable to parliament and not to any ministry or Establishment Division

ISLAMABAD: The Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court in its proposals has said that the Ministry of Information Technology and the PTA are jointly responsible for ensuring justice, balance, politeness and impartiality in web media and other kinds of social media without imposing any restrictions.

The Media Commission, in its suggestions, says the regulatory authority administratively should be answerable to parliament, not any ministry or the Cabinet Division.

The press would avoid biased reporting, publishing unconfirmed material during the general elections and portraying analysis and views as facts. Airing or publishing the behaviour of one or some persons as general behaviour would also be considered unethical.The total circulation of newspapers in Pakistan is not more than 1.5 million, meaning that seven to eight million people read these dailies. On the other hand, the estimated number of internet users ranges between 25 to 30 million.

It is believed that a large number of these internet users visiting the websites of print newspapers as well as TV and radio channels daily. In this connection, both the ministry and the PTA are responsible for ensuring a minimum least standard of justice, balance, politeness and impartiality on these websites and blogs.

The Media Commission has reached the conclusion that the Ministry of Information and provincial information departments need reorganisation and some of these should either be abolished or go through comprehensive reforms.

Furthermore, the chairman and members of Pemra or any other institution established to manage electronic media should be appointed through one of following two mechanisms: (a) A six-member committee comprising the National Assembly Speaker, Senate Chairman as well as Leader of the House and Leader of Opposition in National Assembly;  (b) The prime minister should chose a name out of the three given by a committee comprising leaders of the house and leaders of opposition in both National Assembly and Senate. Respected citizens representing civil society, media and non-Muslims selected by the leaders of the house and opposition in both National Assembly and Senate should also be members of the aforementioned committee.

The Pemra should invite civil society organisations – especially those working for women empowerment as well as human, child and minorities rights, and advocacy organisations – for discussing and taking steps on their views for implementing its policies and measures.

In year 2000, a report suggested formation of a taskforce which should give recommendations for making Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) independent more effectively and less dependent on the government funding. There is need for looking into that report again, which was not implemented at that time.

New realities in the new circumstances, prevalent in 2013, or the new elements that can be seen emerging in near future, should be added to the report. Unlike the PBC, PTV has been given legal protection under the 1973 PBC Act. The PTV is a joint stock company, fully owned by the state, and registered under the 1984 Companies Ordinance.

The commission suggested that the government should own only 25% shares of the company, and the major 75% shares should be auctioned to the general public through the stock market of the country. However, the auction should have the condition that no individual or company could buy more than two percent of the company shares. Private TV channel owners should be ineligible for purchasing the PTV shares to avoid the clash of interests. The purpose of this special arrangement would be elimination of the chances of influence of the shareholders on the programme content.

Governing the PTV under the amended and reformed Pemra rules should also be discussed, as mentioned in clause B of the Terms of Reference section. The income generated through the PTV fee and giving this amount exclusively to PTV is an unjustified privilege needs to be discussed. The PTV staff should be reduced to lessen its dependence on the PTV fee, and its structure should be rearranged. To reform and restructure the organisation, the methods of golden handshake etc are already in place, which can be utilised.

The commission says that until today, policies have been formed for the print media only. However, the new policy must cover multidimensional and multifaceted media channels. The new faces of the media including digital media, social media on the Internet, must be covered under the policy. Expertise and technical information in this regard could be borrowed from advanced countries in this regard.

In Pakistan, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has always strictly maintained its control over the government advertisements. However, under the new policy, the federal information and broadcasting ministry and provincial information departments apply judicious methods to manage the government advertisements. Philipp Kauppert, the ex-resident director in Islamabad of FES, non-profit organisation committed to the precepts of social democracy, said that the new edition of the report should correct an inadvertent mistake of the previous edition. That means that the text of the applications, filed by two senior journalists – Hamid Mir and Absar Alam – in the Supreme Court should be made part of the commission report. When the apex court had issued its verdict about formation of the media commission, the FES application was also clubbed with other pleas.