Journalism defining, defending public good’

KARACHI: Journalism is not a job. It is not about selling something. It is a job to defining public good and defending it, said the speakers of a moot here.

Senior Vice President Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sherry Rehman said in South Asia media is largely dominated by the corporate business; consequently, journalists have to do what owners of the media houses want. Bonafide journalism is required to raise questions over public issues, she opined.

Business and media may not always have the same agenda. For reporting independently it would have to face many challenges as media houses sometimes are easily pressurized by political, religious and ethnic groups, she said addressing the launching ceremony of ‘Support to Media in Pakistan’ project at a local hotel Friday.

She said that journalist community was one of the most vulnerable communities in Pakistan. They did not have a code of conduct that could be followed by their owners and strictly enforced to filter down news content without being biased and influenced.

“Journalism is not a job. It is not about selling something. It is a job to defining public good and defending it,” she said.

PPP Senator Taj Haider said that the journalists wanted to reflect the issues of society, but they were controlled by militant groups and owners of media houses.

“Do we really expect from a corporate media to raise voices for the rights of people? Perhaps not!”

Sometimes media house owners think that they have more power than the state institutions and they start ridiculing the government institutions along with political parties, he said.

Haider said that labour rights were also violated by the some owners of media houses as salaries of many journalists were not paid for months together.

Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF said Pakistan was among the few countries where community radio was not permitted. He said even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were far advanced in this regard.

Commercial push is missing in the community radio and we do not have a trend of non-commercial media, locally. On the other hand, the government fears of uncontrollable propaganda through community radio; therefore it does not allow it, he said.

Ali said despite facing many issues, Pakistani media was still doing a fantastic job. Keeping high values of professionalism was not an easy job; however, the Pakistani journalists are doing a good work despite problems and challenges.

“You have to be impartial, fair and unbiased while covering conflicts and I don’t think that the local media has done a job that bad. Of course it is not up to the mark but it is good under such tremendous pressure,” he said.

Senior journalist Iqbal Khattak said media in Pakistan had come a long way and we could not provide media an environment to flourish. He said electronic media specially lacks following ethical standards. “Sometime, there is no cohesion between newsroom and reporting. Stories should be told ethically and professionally.” He said illegitimate things in media could be reported to ombudsman.

“Media plays incredibly crucial role in a corrupt society to enlighten public about what is happening in public and private sectors,” said Ambassador of Denmark Jesper Moller Sorensen. “I don’t think that media can solve every problem, but it is a part of solution.”

The two-year program has been launched by the Government of Denmark to support professionalization of Pakistani media and to enable Pakistani media to keep up with the growing demand for professional journalism and access to reliable information. The project will be implemented by International Media Support (IMS), a media development non-profit organization which will work together with several Pakistani media support organizations.

Jesper Moller Sorensen said gender inequality was a global issue, out of some 18,000 Pakistani journalists less than five percent were female. If you would see the number of female Danish ambassadors against male Danish ambassadors you would find huge imbalance there as well, he chuckled.

To a query, he said in a long run we do not want Pakistan to live by aid but with its own resources. “We neither say aid nor trade but gradual transition towards development through collaborative working.”

Sorensen termed media as the backbone of a democratic society which plays a crucial role in shaping healthy democracies around the world. “The regional journalists also play an important role in highlighting socio-economic challenges in far-flung areas which otherwise were neglected by the mainstream media.”

He said following the devolution of power to local governments in over 100 districts across Pakistan, district-based journalists had become more important player in evolving scenario of devolution of power in Pakistan due to increase in political and development activities at local level.

The ambassador said the two-year project was set to improve skills and safety of journalists in Pakistan’s provinces, and enable media stakeholders to produce a consensus code of conduct for

the entire sector based on international standards.

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