Sun, Nov

Press Problems


Boom of Electronic Media:

Electronic Media liberalization drive after 2002 has increased importance of electronic media manifolds. In 2001-2002, there were only 3-4 state run channels but now there are more than 50 private channels.

A  report by International Media Support (IMS) indicates that in 1997 the total number of daily, monthly and minor publications in Pakistan was 4,455, but by 2003 only 945 remained. During the same period, however, the circulation of print media publications increased to a daily distribution of 6.2 million.

Security Threats:

A recent report by Freedom House released on May 03, 2013, a Washington-based organization, has painted Pakistan ‘red’ on the global map labelling it as ‘not free’ for the journalists to report on domestic issues. Freedom House, which has been at the forefront in monitoring threats to media independence since 1980, released its report in the presence of journalists currently.

In 2012, a United Nations report ranked Pakistan as the second-most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent international body working for press freedom, ranked it as the most dangerous in both 2010 and 2011. Reporters Without Borders, another independent body, consistently ranks Pakistan in its top 10 most hazardous places for journalists. The high death toll in the profession explains why. Since 2000, more than 90 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. At least eight journalists were killed in the country in 2012 alone.
Some of the notable murder cases are that of Saleem Shehzad, Wali Babar and attack on Hamid Mir.

Yellow Journalism:

In our country, mostly newspapers are practicing “Yellow journalism”. They are guilty of sensationalism and superficial entertainment. Journalists can easily be bribed and bought by anyone who has money to fill their empty minds and hungry bellies. The secret funds of Information Ministry are clear evidence which came to the front last year.

Lack of government support:

Another problem is the lack of government support, both financial and policy-related. Despite accepting that journalism is critical for the country's development, the government still treats the public communication of science as 'non-developmental'. In other words, as an activity that does not contribute to the country's social and economic development.

Attacks on Press Freedom during Military Regimes:

The first step in introducing media laws in the country was done by the then military ruler Field Martial Ayub Khan who promulgated the Press and Publication Ordinance (PPO) in 1962. The law empowered the authorities to confiscate newspapers, close down news providers, and arrest journalists. Using these laws, Ayub  Khan nationalized large parts of the press and took  over one of the two largest news agencies. The other agencies were pushed into severe crisis where they had to seek financial support from the government. Pakistan Radio and TV, which was established in mid-1960’s was also brought under the strict control of the government.

More draconian additions were made to the PPO during the reign of General Zia Haq in the 1980’s.  According to these new amendments, the publisher would be liable and prosecuted if a story was not to the liking of the administration even if it was factual and of national interest. These amendments were used to promote Haq’s Islamist leanings and demonstrated the alliance between the military and religious leaders. Censorship during Zia’s years was direct, concrete and dictatorial. Newspapers were scrutinised; critical or undesired sections of an article  censored. In the wake of Zia Haq’s sudden death and the return of democracy, the way was paved to abate the draconian media laws through a revision of media legislation called the Revised PPO (RPPO).

Pre-censorship was structurally introduced as well as a press advice system, the main purposes of which were to induce the media to refrain from publishing anything hostile about the military regime, rather than the regime having to intervene afterwards with more repressive and harsher measures.

Low Salaries in Print Media:

Financially, the greatest divide is between print journalists on the one hand and TV-journalists and other electronic media workers on the other. A full-time TV employee earns up to 100,000 rupees  a month (1.200  Euros). The most prominent reporters and anchors have higher salaries than cameramen and other TV employees under regular contracts. Newspaper journalists earn less, often with no clear contracts and irregular payment of wages. The minimum wage at a newspaper is officially 10,000 rupees a month (120 Euros). At a larger paper a regular employee will typically make 15-20,000 rupees a month. Salaries at the large national papers and especially those in English are higher. According to the general secretary of PFUJ, Mazhar Abbas, up to 80% of the print journalists have no contracts or employment letters and media houses invent scams to avoid paying higher salaries.

Print Media & Business interests:

The establishment of media outlets in Pakistan was a response to a broad nationalistic project but today it is mainly corporate and business interests that drive the existing media groups. Some owners of these groups use them as a protective cover for their other  business interests. These owners are no longer media people themselves. One case in point is the Century Publications group, which publishes the Urdu Daily Express, whose owner, Mr Lakhani, also heads the American fast-food chain McDonalds in Pakistan.

Quality Difference in English & Urdu Papers:

Urdu newspapers rely on their monitoring desks, which lift, or follow, the news and reports from electronic media. English-language media is generally considered more professional, accurate, liberal and democratic.

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