‘State never gave priority to human rights’

IA Rehman says teaching human rights to students

can help establish peace in society

“Human rights have never been a priority of the state,” said veteran journalist IA Rehman on Thursday, “because they are not just a constitutional matter, but a complete lifestyle.”

Rehman, who also heads the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was presiding over a session of the first international marathon conference on Media Education: Theory, Industry and Research in Pakistan on its second day. The conference was organised by the University of Karachi’s mass communication department.

The veteran emphasised that inclusion of human rights in the curricula could pave the way for establishing a peaceful society.

“The human rights bill was passed in 1950 but it failed to make its way in the constitution due to the change in state priorities. The inclusion of Article 25-A [Right to Education] was a landmark step towards making education a fundamental right of Pakistani citizens.” He urged that now it was the responsibility of the media and citizens of Pakistan to ensure its application.

During the morning’s first session, KU’s Dr Khalid Iraqi deliberated on the importance of human rights in the curricula and called for revising the media curriculum on practical grounds.

University of Peshawar’s Dr Altafullah said journalists should revisit their priorities. “It’s difficult for them to report news related to human rights and also to control their emotions. They must adopt the mapping procedure while covering human rights issues.”

Uks Director Tasneem Ahmar said journalists and media students must be vigilant and careful while publishing and broadcasting news related to women and children.

In a session on Freedom of Press and Media Economy, Herald Editor Badar Alam named four stakeholders in media economy: journalists; publishers who invest their money; readers, listeners and viewers who are consumers; and government and other regulatory bodies. “We often talk about wages of journalists, but dare not discuss media economy and its impact on press freedom.”

About consumers, he said there was a strong relationship between viewership or readership and revenue in the form of ratings and advertisements. “But the newspaper industry is facing a threat in the form of technological advancement, as online journalism is growing very fast.” In this situation, he observed, newspapers seem ready to compromise on editorial freedom for the sake of advertisements.

Senior journalist Jabbar Khattak lamented that hardly 14% of the media industry budget was spent on content research and development. “There was a time when journalists fought for press freedom, but the situation has deteriorated with the rising role of the corporate sector.”

Another veteran, Ghazi Salahuddin, who presided over the next session, said he had often heard and discussed press freedom at different forums, but he wanted to share a common observation with the academia. He pointed out that he could not find newspaper stalls and many bookshops at universities. He stressed the need to develop and build the intellectual capacity of students.

He also emphasised on capacity building, reading habits among teachers and students, and professionalism. “It is lack of professionalism, rather than editorial freedom, that is adversely affecting media content.”

He advised that students should be prepared to deal with life’s challenges, adding that if universities started developing curiosity for knowledge among students, then it would be their success as educationists.

In the session on ‘Language, Culture and Media’, Geo News Senior Executive Producer Jibran Peshimam said universities must inculcate research skills among students. Pointing out the misperception that the audiences wanted sensationalism, he said his show Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath was based on well-researched information instead of one-on-one interviews.

Expanding on curricula, scholar Dr Irfan Aziz said they could not be revised single-handedly, which was why the conference had brought together the media industry, scholars, faculty and students, as well as civil society representatives.

Dr Riaz Shaikh from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology said the syllabi of social sciences subjects were outdated, claiming that they promoted right-wing ideology in a way that led to extremism.

Discussing the ‘Future of Cinema and Teaching of Film in Pakistan’, The Express Tribune’s Rafay Mahmood, who is also a film critic, said: “We don’t have films in Pakistani cinemas, whereas India is not willing to give us its films.”

He claimed that the Pakistani government had imposed a superficial ban on Indian movies; however, India itself had imposed a strong ban to give its movies to Pakistan.

For the revival of the film industry in Pakistan, film producer-director JM Ansari said our film industry was still in the ICU and suffering from cancer. “Making a film is a beautiful process, but selling it is the most difficult one.”

Dr Framji Minwalla of the Habib University said most of the younger generation faced difficulties in making movies, because they did not think about the world’s complexities. “To develop a story based on some individuals and their obstacles, [a film maker] has to understand the complexities of human behaviour and relationships.”

The News

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