- PTI shooting itself in the foot
The decision to merge the Pemra and Press Council of Pakistan into one body is based on a misperception of their respective functions. What is more it exposes the authoritarian tendencies in the PTI government. Even in 2002 when the two organisations were set up under a military ruler, clarity existed about the differences between the private TV channels and the print media. The electronic media has greater accessibility and much wider reach. In their race for rating the less careful among private TV channels can cause mischief on a large scale by airing raw or fake news. The newspapers on the other hand have more time at their disposal to cross check the reports. What is more in their case the journalistic standards and editorial controls are stiffer than those in the electronic media.
Pemra was created to regulate the private channels that were to mushroom after 2002. The regulatory body was therefore dominated by government officials. The Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), established under an Ordinance in 2002, was however meant to implement an “ethical code of practice” and attend to complaints whenever they emerged. The Ordinance required that the PCP “while preserving the freedom of the press” shall maintain highest professional and ethical standards of newspapers and news agencies. Keeping in view the nature of the task assigned to PCP, 12 out of its 19 members were taken from the newspaper industry.
On Wednesday the HRCP launched “Curbs on freedom of expression in Pakistan”, which is a fact finding report. The Commission’s spokesperson pointed out that in a number of localities in some cities the entry of certain newspapers has been banned and there is no one to tell who is responsible. He maintained that press advice is conveyed even during live TV programmes .
In democracies instead of being subjected to the control of regulatory bodies, newspaper industry is encouraged to evolve its own code of ethics. Unless the PTI government takes measures to ensure that media freedom is not encroached upon, it would jeopardise its own future.