KARACHI: The allegations of corruption against journalists are not new in this country. Political parties and successive governments have never been happy with this community. But such accusations, if they come from the national leaders like Imran Khan, they damage their credibility. So the accusations must be probed and Imran should come out with evidence, and it’s better for him not to rely on unreliable people. Imran Khan is the most prominent opposition leader who not once but repeatedly have branded anchors, columnists, analysts and even media houses as “saleable property”. Therefore, it should not go unnoticed. In today’s competitive world of media, allegations should not be rejected without a proper probe but the burden of truth always should be on the accuser. Journalists in the past and even today have been accused of taking “bribe and favour”. Accusations are no more confined to the government and agencies but also to other “interested parties”. Complete polarisation of the media has not only divided the journalist fraternity but they have also been criticised for their “biases”.Late Justice (retd) Dorab Patel once said about the media: “You are under obligation not to distort the truth. But what is the truth? Ask the governor, two thousand years ago, and that question has never been answered, because our conception of truth is affected by our biases. So, the obligation on the journalists is to try to be as objective as possible.” The Press need freedom not as a right but in discharge of its obligation in a free society to expose possible wrongdoings, particularly of the governments and corruption in other institutions, including within the media. Justice Patel further said: “I think the power of the Press will increase and it will become stronger to the extent to which you are moderate in your language and to the extent you discharge your duty of verifying to the best of your ability the facts before you publish them.” The same standard stands for political leaders who are supposed to lead the nation. How can you accuse a community without having any evidence?Imran, who is also the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, by attacking the journalists without naming as who has taken the money and from where, has endangered their lives as they can come under attack by his ‘motivated’ workers. In a way, he has presented his ‘concept’ of Press Freedom, which may mean “no dissent is acceptable”. Both Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, when in the opposition, had also accused journalists of taking money from the government of the day. Journalists were also accused of working on the payroll of intelligence agencies. However, when they came to power and were asked to disclose the names of journalists who had been paid from the secret funds or through other means, they just ignored it. Imran Khan must make a public commitment that when his party comes to power he will order an independent high powered commission to probe his allegations, release the list of all those on payroll or paid from different accounts. The commission should also suggest punishment but, at the same time, if his accusations are found untrue, the same recommendations should also be for the accusers. He should also make a public commitment that when his party comes to power, he will release the list of journalists on payroll of intelligence agencies. Journalist bodies like the PFUJ have been demanding this for decades. So let the leader of ‘Naya Pakistan’ make a public commitment. Perhaps, the PTI chairman was not aware of the fact that it was due to the efforts of journalists that the secret fund of the Ministry of Information was abolished. Thanks to the efforts of Mr Hamid Mir and Mr Absar Alam’s petition in which some other journalists and anchors also became a party, the SC took up the matter, which is still pending for the final order. Imran may also not be aware of our efforts to eradicate corruption from the media, as we take it more seriously than politicians because it’s a question of our credibility. Besides politicians, many untrustworthy people in the media industry also labelled such allegations without any evidence. Thus, it was due to our efforts that the Supreme Court had formed two members Media Commission comprising Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid and former Information Minister Javed Jabbar. I advise Imran and PTI leaders to just go through the Media Commission report which is now also available in book form.Imran and his party can go to the SC and become a party in the same petition. If they have evidence against the journalists, anchors, columnists and analysts, they should submit the same before the court. If nothing else, Imran should ask people like former information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, former intelligence chiefs, some of whom at times were seen on his container, to disclose the names of journalists, anchors, columnists and analysts whom they had ‘paid’ in their tenure and for what purpose. How much money they had spent on journalists from the secret funds? After all, people like Sheikh Rasheed in the past had remained the spokesman of Mian Nawaz Sharif and General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. Sheikh Saheb must have the knowledge of how the secret funds were used since the days of General Ziaul Haq. Who knows better than him how funds were used to build a leader’s image. Perhaps, the PTI and Imran Khan want that everyone should praise them, support them and don’t ask critical questions.Imran has the right to praise any anchor or columnist and one must respect his views, but at the same time he should also learn to respect and praise “dissenting voices” in the media. Only a few days back, I got a chance to meet the PTI spokesperson and former editor of an English daily, Ms Shireen Mazari in a media workshop. She was right when she said, “Journalists have every right to form their own opinions and views about us, but our only request would be that they should also take our version as well.” I endorsed her view and said, “You have every right to give your version.” She also assured complete protection and safety of journalists, particularly those from Geo TV, in PTI rallies and in Dharna. “I will make sure that the media should not have any complaint in future.” But, only hours later, Geo’s DSNG van was attacked and its reporters were harassed. She had even assured the journalists that she would talk to Imran over his verbal accusations and attack on the media persons from the Dharna container. But after what we have been hearing from the PTI chairman in the last two public meetings against the media, I wonder whether Ms Mazari was able to convince her leader or not. Actions speak louder than words. One expects from Imran Khan that if he wants to malign the journalists, anchors, columnists, analysts and accuse them as “saleable”, justice demands that he should name them. After all he is leading a “Justice Party”. So let’s wait for Imran’s fresh attack on the media. The News The post How serious are Imran’s allegations against journalists? appeared first on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).