June 9, 2012
Conflicts in different areas of the country are not being properly reported in the media due to threats of different pressure groups and there is a dire need to address this sensitive issue.
This was said by participants of a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters from print media, and representatives of civil society organizations on Reporting Conflict, which was organized at a local hotel by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) on Saturday.
They said that commercialism and rating issue have also influenced the conflict-related news content. As revenue generation is the most important thing for the media houses, therefore, unbiased reporting of conflicts is being harmed. Today’s media has become very commercial that it compromise on news content.
The participants said that journalists working in conflict areas, as well as, those who were working on desk should understand the nature of conflicts, so that different aspects of this sensitive issue can be highlighted.
It was noted that in some newspapers, there is an issue of space for news reports due to their preference to advertisements; hence, the concept of detailed reporting was being harmed. Local media covers the local issues of conflict areas to some extent, but in many cases, the mainstream national media neglect them.
They said that ongoing situation in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhuwa and FATA is very critical and reporters covering conflicts were facing threats and pressures from different sides including military, militants, local administration and political groups. Commercialization and non-professionalism have also affected conflict-related news content.
It was noted that most of the editors were opting not to public such reports based on real facts due to sensitive nature of the ongoing conflicts and pressure of stakeholders including the law enforcing agencies and militant outfits. Because of pressure and threats, many correspondents request their editors not to give their byline, or change the dateline of their news so as to ensure their safety and security.
They observed that no organization has security experts, who can analyze the situations and issue security alerts to its correspondents working in conflict areas.
The participants of the Roundtable discussion agreed on the fact that senior journalists or desk staff sitting in head offices of the media houses in big cities like Karachi, Islamabad etc do not understand the ground realities and problems being faced by their reporters working in conflict areas.
Some of them were of the opinion that infiltration of activists and sympathizers of political parties also affects fair political reporting, adding that the issue of self-censorship also affects the essence of news content.
It was also said that the Regional media is now getting more importance due to delivering better facts and detailed news to its readers by rejecting pressure of different groups. The role of Sindhi print and electronic media was highly lauded.
Secretary General PPF, Owais Aslam Ali said that cyber security has become a very important matter, but unfortunately it is not being fully ensured in Pakistan. He said for this purpose, we should hold dialogue with the concerned authorities including Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. He said that covering conflict is a difficult task as long as there is impunity for those who attack the media.
Owais added that Pakistani journalists have rendered a lot of sacrifices for the freedom of expression, and despite threats they are performing their professional duties with dedication. He said all stakeholders should ensure proper security and safety of their reporters, especially those working in the conflict areas.
The participants suggested that there is a dire need to arrange training programs for journalists, especially those working in conflict areas to build their capacity, so that they can perform their duties with more sense of safety first and ensure balanced reporting.
They added that every small story should be covered and for that, organizations should form a mechanism to ensure proper and impartial coverage of events based on facts.
They suggested that Media Houses Owners, Civil Society Organizations, Advertisers and other stakeholders including All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) should sit together and formulate a joint Code of Ethics to ensure balanced and fair reporting without any pressure from any interest group.
Kamal Siddiqi from Daily Express Tribune, Mazhar Abbas from Express News , Karamat Ali from PILER, Shamim Asghar Rao from Daily Nawa-e-Waqt, Shahid Hussain from Daily The News, Shahid Abbas Jatoi from Daily Jang, Aijaz Shaikh from Daily Express Karachi, Muhammad Ali Yousufzai from Daily Aaj, Syed Kamran Mumtaz from Daily Mashriq, Nasir Hussain from Daily Express, Javaid Ahmed from Daily Atemad, Syed Shamsuddin from HRCP, Shahbur-Rehman from PPI, Zaigham Khan from Intermedia Pakistan and Iqbal Khattak shared their views on the occasion.
A report on ‘terrorism related conflict reporting by Pakistani media’ was presented during the roundtable discussion.
Moderator: Kamal Siddiqi