FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
BY ARSHAD DOGAR
As World Press Freedom Day was observed across the world, in Pakistan media houses clashed with each other over their vested interests instead of pressuring government to ensure the safety of journalists.
Almost every working journalist is under threat in Pakistan. On April 19, miscreants attacked two famous anchorpersons, leaving Geo-TV anchorperson Hamid Mir seriously injured and resulting in the death of the other’s driver.
Soon after the incident, the brother of Hamid Mir, alleged that the chief of country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in the attack. Most of the anchorpersons of other media houses almost immediately started a mud-slinging war against Jang-Geo group (the leading media house in Pakistan) terming it traitor.
The ISI spokesperson issued strong denials as well as demanding closure of Geo news channel.
It is strange to talk about the freedom of press when the journalists themselves are not united – even when several colleagues have been killed in the line of duty. Seven journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 2012; several others sustained injuries. Most professionals received life threats.
Media in Pakistan is still going through the stage of infancy. Some of its stalwarts are still reluctant to grow up.
During my stay in the U.S, I have observed that freedom of press helps create a sense of dignity and security under and the rule of law. But yes, the press here also abides by ethics of journalism and the law of the land.
The role of media is appreciated here at every stage and journalists work for the development of their country.
Former army-chief turned president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, helped media boom in the country but he also laid the foundation for curbs on free media. Despite being exploited by the owners of media houses, the journalists have become vulnerable due to the lack of integrity and unity among themselves. They are under threat not only by terrorists but also by the powerful and rich.
There is a dire need to unite journalists in Pakistan, lead them toward maturity and develop codes of ethics.
Free access to information is still a dream in Pakistan.
The government is now trying to promulgate a law against free access to information due to the immature attitude of journalists.
World Press Freedom Day should be observed with the resolve to give every person the right to expression, access to information, and awareness about the rights of journalists.
This year World Press Freedom Day will be marked with a three-pronged theme. It includes safety of journalists and the rule of law, sustainability and integrity of journalism, and the importance of media in development.
The unity of journalists and political will of governments can help fulfilling those ‘dreams.’