Third meeting of PCOMS Steering Committee (Karachi)

Participants

1- Owais Aslam Ali, PCOMS and Pakistan Press Foundation, Karachi
2- Iqbal Khattak, PCOMS, Peshawar
3- Jabbar Khattak, Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), Karachi
4- Shaikh Wasim Ahmed, Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA), Islamabad
5- Mazhar Abbas, senior journalist, Karachi
6- Dr. Tanvir Tahir, APNS, Karachi

Attended by special invitation

1. Phyza Jameel, UNESCO, Islamabad
2. Asad Baig, FOSI, Islamabad
3. Afzal Butt, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)
4. Amer Ejaz Butt, CPDI, Islamabad
5. Afia Salam, Freelance journalist, Karachi
6. Imtiaz Faran, KPC, Karachi
7. Zohra Yousuf, HRCP, Karachi
8. Shafqat Ali Soomro, PPI, Karachi

Staff
1. Dure Shahwar-Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi
2. Naseem Shaikh- Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi

Excused

1. Adnan Rehmat, Civil Action Resources (CAR)
2. Haider Abbas Rizvi, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Karachi
3. Muhammad Ziauddin, Express Tribune, Islamabad
4. Babar Sattar
5. Moneeza Hashmi, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, Lahore
6.
No response

1. Pervez Rasheed, Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting
2. Sherry Rehman
3. Raza Rabbani
4. Sheerin Mazari
5. I.A. Rehman

The Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS) held its fourth Steering Committee meeting on May 16, 2014 in Hotel Movenpick Karachi. The meeting took place in the back drop of the crisis following the murderous attack on senior anchor Hamid Mir.

Owais Aslam Ali started the meeting and welcomed the participants. Then participants formally introduced themselves.

Owais Aslam: UN Action Plan was launched in Mar 19 2013 in five pilot countries for the safety and security of journalists and the issue of Impunity. Pakistan is among those five countries. PCOMS is a national strategic alliance of key stakeholders working for safety of journalists and on impunity issue. In Pakistan, the PCOMS Steering Committee is comprises of the representatives of Civil Society, Political Parties, Journalists and from the government. When PCOMS started, the situation of media was not as worst as now but hope to find the way out soon.

Phyza Jameel: The actual reason of PCOMS is to make a think tank for analysis and to take stance on issue of impunity in Pakistan. In last meeting, we decided to take our agenda to the stakeholder for making the effort fruitful, and Hamid Mir was the first person who raised his hand to take that initiative.

Imtiaz Faran: Unfortunately, the media community itself is playing negative role against media. Situation is worse than ever. Media community including the owners should meet and sit together to sort out the solution. Government seems helpless although it can do if take the issue serious.

Afzal Butt: The way to present the story is different in different TV channels as well as newspapers as they have their own agendas to promote that are far away from media ethics and code of conduct. PFUJ always stands with Hamid Mir and will remain with him in the fight against media violations till end.

Iqbal Khattak: April 19 2014 incident of attack on Hamid Mir was among the worst examples of violence against journalists. I personally understand Mr, Mir when met in CPJ deligation’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he announced the media commission for the safety of journalists in March 2014. I found him very host and sincere to his work. He wrote for the missing persons in Balochistan, for that, the case was registered against him in 2011.

Phyza: Yes the trend is getting change to worse and unfortunately the media is against media now.

Zohra Yousuf: Media itself is shrinking its space towards free press. Geo alleges DG ISI but in the case of Wali Khan Babar, Geo did not disclose the name of MQM. Media itself should be unbiased first. Seeing the condition, we need to be alert and be on one platform over one point agenda on the issues of safety of journalists and media men and impunity. It should have be included in March declaration that media owners should keep their personal disputes away and unite on media safety and issues of ethics.

Dr. Tanvir Tahir: I was out to solve the accommodation issues.

Dr. Jabbar Khattak: I think we are going above the mandate. The issues are separate and we should discuss one by one. The owners and even the editors working in the mainstream media are not performing their duties ethically and in some media houses, the work is on without any editor on the desk. Media freedom is only possible when media shows unbiased attitude. We being a media are ignoring the rights of our consumers and working against them. We are highlighting either the advertiser or non state actors of the society. The real stakeholders are our consumers and media should be watchdog of them. The recruitment of staff in media houses should also be proper to minimize the mistakes making by media now a days. Mostly the workers are under pressure by the owners and they have to work according to owners wish.

Phyza: Problems are in bulk, but what we should do is to separate the issues, give priority to one and get start to resolve the issue.

Mazhar Abbas: When the case ingestions of Hamid Mir are getting done by those who are the alleged attackers, than why should be the GIT report acceptable by media. Same was done in Saleem Shahzad murder case. The accused organization should not be involved in the investigations. In Hamid Mir attack and blockade of Geo transmission case, the role of some journalists is also questionable. Cable operators were also silent during first 7 days of Mir’s attack, Religious leader Hafiz Saeed was also appeared on Geo TV for solidarity but suddenly they had changed their opinions and thoughts. I think these discussions should not be done on screen but resolved in separate meetings like today. Nothing should be handed over to the cable operators.

Owais: I think, PCOMS actual challenge is now becoming difficult. Pemra should pay attention on the recommendations given by media commission.

Phyza: What should be the way forward in this media civil war like situation? I think first of all, we need to unite on one point that the attack on Hamid Mir is a direct attack on freedom of expression and it should be separated from other issues.

Aafia Salaam: One of the media commission’s recommendations is to review all 65 media laws. The members of the review committee were all civil society members mostly of lawyers and not a single journalist is in it. I think there is a need to change the mindset and restructure the committees and media laws. We are divided even in PFUJ, we need to be united first.

Afzal Butt: PFUJ always struggles for the rights of journalists. Even in the previous case of FIR registered by Khalid Khwaja against Hamid Mir, we were standing with him. I think the danger for journalist comes from owner more than state or anti state elements. We should be united and take stance for our rights and safety, security issue against media owners.

Mazhar Abbas: The definition of working journalist should be redefined. They should not be involved with any political or religious party, also should not work with other non media organization.

Iqbal Khattak: I think news room is responsible for the safety of journalist. There is a communication gap between newsroom and the reporter. The gap should be reduced and the editor should be a professional journalist because the selection of proper words in a news is must otherwise it can harm the reporter who is facing the camera and public.

Jabbar Khattak: CPNE has made efforts for the safety of journalists with the start of a complaint and rescue center that is only one call or text away from its members. It has been started in Karahi, Lahore and Islamabad and would be further expended soon. 40,000 security guards have been appointed for that. Raza Rumi was also provided by security guards by CPNE.

Phyza Jameel: Let’s sum up the discussion. The outcomes of today’s discussion are:

• Attack on Hamid Mir is an issue of freedom of expression and it must be separated by other issues.
• The issue of Geo closure should be discussed in pemra.
• A meeting should be planned with Marvi Memon.
• Try to arrange a meeting with media owners for the safety of journalists’ issue.
• Try to arrange meeting with cable operators (Khalid Arain)

 

The issue of safety of journalists has taken a paramount importance in prevailing situation and there is a dire need to devise a consensus mechanism for a media code of conduct to promote ethical journalism in the country. In this regards newsrooms can play a crucial role through proper check and balance not only for a stronger editorial content but to also to mitigate the threats facing journalists, said speakers at the fourth steering committee meeting of Pakistan Coalition of Media Safety (PCOMS) at local hotel Friday evening.

They noted that all stakeholders including journalists, media houses, journalists’ unions, and government should come forward to tackle the issues related to the safety of journalists. A threat to any journalist is a threat to whole media and hence the attack on Hamid Mir is the attack of the freedom of expression. His case deserves a free, fair and unbiased inquiry. The media professionals and organizations should keep this discourse alive. The current situation needs the media should support the media and petty differences should be shunned in the larger interest of journalist fraternity. The attack on Hamid Mir should have united the media in Pakistan but sadly it sent the media confused, divided and polarized. This divide of media would only support those hidden hands and non-state actors that are against the freedom of expression in this country.

There is a need of forging a strong unity amongst the media community and all the issues on which there is a difference of opinion should be resolved amicably by the genuine stakeholders, themselves. The prevailing tension should be diffused on emergent basis and let the issues are resolved through discussion and dialogue. The inner divisions and rifts amongst media community are more dangerous than the outer threats glaring it and the media should work as a community for the larger cause of journalists’ welfare, security and safety.

The constitution of Pakistan guarantees certain liberties and independences including media freedom and no one should be allowed to usurp these constitutional rights; however, it also needs that media should devise its own code of conduct and some rules of business should be agreed upon to ensure smooth, safe and hassle-free working of media in Pakistan. Recently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while meeting a delegation of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has assured to establish a joint government-journalists commission to address continued attacks on the press, develop recommendations, and serve as an interlocutor between the media and the government. This was a big achievement for the Pakistani media; however, the prevailing tense situation in local media is eclipsing it to a large extent. Similarly, there is an urgent need to appoint special prosecutors in all four provinces and federal level to investigate crimes against journalists. The case of attack on Hamid Mir has further raised the importance of urgent appointment of a special prosecutor. The journalists and media organizations should also raise voice formulate suggestions in this regard.

The incident of April 19, 2014 is a big setback for the freedom of expression in the country. PCOMS supports the demand of an unbiased inquiry in this regard and it considers attack on any journalist as the attack on the freedom of expression as a whole. The media is not a forum to try anyone. Pakistan needs a culture of ethical and responsible journalism. It should also respect the rights of a reader, listener and viewer as a media consumer. It needs to promote the concept of ‘content audit’ to promote a healthy and responsible journalism. It is also necessary that a high-powered body should be formed on urgent basis to resolve complaints against media.

Leave a Reply