KARACHI: Members of the journalist community got together at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday to discuss the role of the Pakistan Press Council in the freedom of the media.
Hosting the event Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan said in the last 15 days some important issues had come to the fore regarding freedom of the press. He said one of it was about a news report on a security meeting published in Dawn which the government said was false and then, after a crops commanders’ conference, said it was leaked and should be investigated. He said subsequently a joint investigation team (JIT) was formed and the information minister was removed from his position. During the entire period, he said, the government did not pay attention to the Pakistan Press Council. He said the issue pertained to the council which was the one forum where complaints against the newspapers should be addressed. As a result, he said, a meeting of the council was held.
Dr Khan said in the meantime something extraordinary happened which had never happened before. To investigate the news report, he said, a JIT was formed, headed by a retired judge. He said the formation of the JIT was a dangerous step because in the history of the country and the subcontinent extraordinary measures had always affected freedom of the press. He said the positive thing that happened afterwards was that the council’s meeting was held and it was decided that the council alone had the right to deal with issues related to the newspapers.
Journalist Khurshid Tanveer, who participated in the council meeting, first talked about the composition of the council’s members. He then said the issue should be seen in light of Article 19(A) of the constitution. He said the formation of the JIT had made the journalist community restive. He said what’s happening in the country right now was directly related to freedom of the press. He said the system of society ran on the taxes paid by the people and people’s right to information was being controlled. He said Pakistan would not move in the right direction if the country did not adhere to its constitution.
Journalist Mazhar Abbas said it needed to be seen how far the council was able to ‘assert’ itself. He said the council’s finances were a problem. The APNS, he said, was not ready to fund it, and if it took funds from the government (to the extent of its chairman), it began to limit itself. He said perhaps that was why the council’s meeting was called a month late because the chairman was unable to decide what position to take on the matter. He said member organisations of the council should think about ways to strengthen it. He said it was important to empower the council because the moment the government had denied the news report then the only forum to address the issue was the council. He said it meant that the government itself did not take the council seriously. He said APNS and CPNE delegations, too, when the interior minister had called them over, should have taken a position that the case should have been referred to the council.