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Media Development Authority – A state priority

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President Musharraf made two big blunders one was giving NRO to corrupt politicians and secondly allowing mushroom of TV Channels without any scrutiny, anyone who gave application was granted license. Similarly licenses were granted to cable operators. It must be stated very categorically that he paid very heavy price as both the beneficiaries turned against him. Nevertheless credit has to be given to him allowing every tom dick and harry to criticise him that never happens anywhere in the world. Unfortunately in Pakistan freedom of press means do anything say anything and take cover of freedom of press and get away. The law of Pakistan prohibits spreading or publishing fake news through social print and electronic media and violators can be tried and punished or temporarily ban the newspaper, but how many of us follow the law of land is not a secret. It has become fashion in Pakistan to criticise state institutions carry out character assassination supposedly working on some agenda. Pakistan’s geographic position is very strategic and important therefore we cannot afford luxury of fake news and allow propagation of any narrative that goes against the state.
At present there is no check on media personnel, seeing is believing. The way they address heads of state institutions, carry out character assassinations of leaders has become matter of great concern and some journalists have been misusing this freedom beyond acceptable limits and openly violate code of conduct and cross red lines, because they know even not worried about contempt of courts. Just watch the talk shows it looks as if nothing right is happening in Pakistan, the only knowledgeable is the anchors. It is good that media is divided and some journalists give balanced views on national and international issues and display greater sense of responsibility while discussing sensitive matters. It is no more a secret that any information of any government departments or ministries is fed by the people from inside to the press and when they discuss they take the cover of “source” which they are exempt to disclose. The press has to be very responsible it can improve and as well damage relations internally and externally. There is well known saying Press and nation fall together. If we keep national interest supreme we can never err but once we start giving individual personal definitions to national interest that is the point where we go wrong and miss the spirit of national interest. Journalism requires highest sense of responsibility that most of us don’t understand and care. Here I would like to quote an example of newspaper “News of the world” was a weekly national red top tabloid newspaper published every Sunday in the United Kingdom from 1843 to 2011. This paper gained popularity due to focus on sex scandals. It had a reputation of exposing celebrities drug use, sexual peccadilloes, or criminal acts by using insider’s journalists in disguise to produce video or photographic evidence and covert phone hacking on on going police investigations. It had record weekly sale of over 2.8 million copies.
From 2006 allegations of phone hacking began to engulf the newspaper. On 4 July 2011 it was revealed that paper had hired private investigator who had intercepted the voicemail of missing British teenager who was later found murdered. The seniors of paper including editor acknowledged that” phones were hacked, for that this newspaper is truly sorry….there is no justification for this appalling wrongdoing and took a historic decision and announced closure of paper. The final edition published on 10 July 2011 sold about 3.8 million copies. Imagine the sense of discipline and integrity and accepting their wrong and closing paper losing millions of pounds is now part of history. They did not hire expensive lawyers to defend themselves but preferred to close the paper. Can we dream an iota of this happening in Pakistan? That day can never dawn in Pakistan. That is real journalism, the meaning not understood by many. We have seen Article 19 of Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s constitution is quoted too frequently, but it appears most of the journalists has ever tried to read the article properly. It binds each and every one to enjoy the fruits of freedom of speech but it has great check and limitations that we deliberately ignore. Let us see what at all Article 19 speaks of freedom of speech.” Quote “Article 19 Freedom of speech, etc.-Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, 1[commission of] or incitement to an offence. If we carefully read the article on one hand it allows freedom of speech but it is subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign state, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or incitement to offence. The violation of this article is taking place on daily basis and there is no check by government. Let us examine what are major objections to the Pakistan Media Development Authority. It is not at all against the journalists and apprehensions that it is to silence the voice is not correct. We have seen how some journalists take liberties if there was no freedom of speech how dare anybody could take the liberties. Each institution of the state needs proper rules and regulations to operate; it is mainly to regulate the industry. It is the prerogative of the government to appoint members of any authority same rules shall apply to MDA with one provision it will have proper representation of print and electronic media. Once rules are framed circulated and made in to a law it has to be followed in true letter and spirit and violators to be dealt in accordance with the law if someone breaks it. Like any other business necessary taxes are to be levied and nothing is free anywhere in the world. It is very good step as all other media organisations set up shall cease to hold office and come under the umbrella of Media Development Authority. It will be discussed with media owners and after obtaining consensuses will come in to force. In the mean time there is urgent need to streamline the social media as at present it is displaying immaturity and airing anti state narratives that should never be allowed. As an immediate step all private you tube channels be brought under regulation and allowed to operate with proper license. At present anyone can upload any material any time of the day without bothering about its consequences.It is worthwhile to quote that Facebook has suspended Face Book and Instagram account of Donald Trump for 2 years, and have closed 90 Facebook pages and doubtful accounts groups of Pakistan have been closed. The formation of Media Development Authority be accorded highest priority and put in place as soon as possible.