Lahore - Importance of free media as a means to ensuring fundamental rights of society was emphasized at a seminar on Current Political Crisis and Role of Media held at South Asian Free Media Centre on Saturday. 

President SAFMA Imtiaz Alam said that the elements who clamored for imposing restrictions on a private TV channel have actually breached independence of media. He said that such infighting of the sort has greatly damaged the media and as a result of which the reporters are facing difficulties in the line of duty.  He said that media is facing different sorts of challenges at different levels, including most primarily the threat from militant and political parties that believe in violence.  He said that the history of achieving democratic rights suggest that whenever democracy has been dismembered, it has been done so through charges of corruption.

He also regretted that due to divisions within media- houses, those hatching conspiracies to derail democracy have gained strength.  “There should be cooperation between different media-houses. Media houses should refrain from slinging mud at each other through foul means,” he said.  He also said that the leading newspaper of Pakistan is under constant threat from a political party in Karachi to give front page coverage to news related to its leaders. He also criticized the threat posed from Taliban on the independence of media as well as to the fabric of society.  “The danger comes from Taliban who will be civilized,” he said while referring to recent announcement of ceasefire from a Punjab based group of Taliban. He said that there should be zero tolerance for such elements.  He also came down hard on political parties that have been involved in inciting violence against media houses.

Prof Dr Waseem said that Imran Khan has turned to the same old charge of corruption against the political government in order to discredit it. He said that since the charge of corruption has been a preferred way of dismembering democratically elected governments, it had struck a chord with the middle-class Pakistanis, who, he said were gullible to a certain extent when it comes to knowing the meaning of corruption.  He also called for curtailing the role of army in politics, saying that in other democracies, the word army is synonymous with the government.  He said that in this historical discourse, the role of media has been crucial. He explained that independence of media, as it exists now, was achieved with the departure of Gen Zia’s government and arrival of Benazir on the political landscape.

“That is when a free media was born. But now, there are elements in media who are more loyal than the king,” he said while referring to critics and analysts. At the same time, he said there were certain intellectuals working inside media, who should step forward to set their house in order.

President Punjab Union of Journalists, Waseem Farooq said that the sacrifices made by the media workers are often ignored.

He pointed attention towards the cameramen, drivers of DSNGs and reporters and said that the problems and threats they have to face while reporting in the field are often ignored.

Referring to the incidents during the sit-in where journalists were roughed up and some were violently beaten, he said that they should not be left in the lurch. 

“Journalists were beaten up because they were telling the truth. Some of them did their research and reported that the participants were seven thousand only to be beaten up by the participants of the sit-in then and there,” he regretted.

“Political activists kept warning the journalists to exaggerate, that they should report the figure as 10 lac which they did not and consequently they were attacked,” he said. “Those journalists who go in the field and face challenges of different sorts must not be forgotten,” he said.