ISLAMABAD: Asking the media to impose a “self-regulating mechanism”, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said the PML-N government has made every effort to ensure freedom of expression and independence of media as the age of censorship is over.
Speaking at the 23rd All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) Awards ceremony at PM Secretariat here on Wednesday, Mr Abbasi said: “You may achieve short-term gains by imposing censorship on the media, but it never goes in the country’s interests.”
The prime minister said every government had complaints against the media and he too had some complaints but “we never tried to exert pressure on journalists and never tried to lure them [through favours]”.
He said the PML-N government discontinued the practice of allocating a secret fund to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) for curbing media freedom. He said the government had to depend on advertisements to highlight its performance though it never had a positive impact on the people. He asked the media to objectively report on government achievements and refrain from highlighting negative news.
APNS president deplores ‘blatant attacks on freedom of expression’
Pakistan is the only country where the government works during the day and then defends its actions in evening talk shows, according to the premier. Mr Abbasi agreed that it had become difficult for the print media to sustain and said the government wanted to support the print media, but media representatives would have to ensure that the support should not influence journalistic freedom.
The prime minister asked the APNS to play a leading role in bringing media reforms and called for devising a transparent mechanism for determining the quantum of ads and their rates.
Just like free and fair elections, the country also needed a free and fair press, he added.
Earlier, APNS president Hameed Haroon said he believed that they were in “the process of orchestrating a state of intolerance in Pakistan today, a condition which is inimical to the very survival of a free press and to freedom of expression”.
“Over the past few years, we are encountering the most dangerous attacks on Article 19 of the Constitution,” he said, clarifying that the attacks were not being carried out by the government.
“Article 19 says that there shall be freedom of press subject to reasonable restrictions,” Mr Haroon said, adding: “And we know what those reasonable restrictions are.”
“Unfortunately, the modern state is a complex of many institutions. We find these attacks on press freedom neither silent nor modest, but blatant attacks on freedom of expression. We find that the state institutions are not showing restraint and respect for the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Haroon said once he had told Gen Musharraf that if “in the war on terror, you destroy the institutions of democracy”, there would be no future of democracy after the war.
It was disturbing to see rules being broken with impunity and distributors, hawkers and agents and cable operators being “harassed and coerced across the country by the state institutions”, he said.
“If we destroy this spirit of pluralism and do not permit freedom of expression, we not only violate our Constitution, but also face a bleak future ahead of us,” he said, urging the state institutions to play a positive role, refrain from putting obstacles to a free press and let the political process go forward.
Meanwhile, the prime minister distributed awards among the winning journalists and advertising agencies.
The winning journalists are: best investigative report — [jointly] Razeshta Sethna, Monthly Herald and Noorilhuda, Monthly Newsline; best investigative report (business/economic) — [jointly] Mubarak Zeb Khan, Daily Dawn and Nudrat Kamal, Tooba Nadeem and Zehra Nabi, Newsline; best investigative report (environmental/conservation/gender) — [jointly] Razia Fareed, Daily Jang and Zehra Nabi, Newsline; best column award (English) — Syed Saadat Ali, Dawn; best column award (Urdu) — Yasir Pirzada, Jang; best column award (provincial language) — Asad Chandio, Daily Awami Awaz; best feature award (English) — Noorilhuda, Newsline; best feature award (Urdu) — Muhammad Akram Khan, Jang; best feature award (provincial language) — Murli Dhar, Awami Awaz; best cover story (periodicals) — Imitaz Gul and Noorilhuda, Newsline; best cartoon — Khaliq Khan Paki, Jang; best photograph — Muhammad Azeem, Daily Express; best illustration (periodicals) — Adnan Faisal, Monthly Brands Magazine.
M/s Midas (Pvt) Ltd for five awards — best business performance award, special business performance award (regional dailies) and special business performance award (metro B dailies), best performance award for private sector client (Bahria Town) and best performance award for public sector client (Benazir Income Support Programme). M/s Orient Advertising (Pvt) Ltd was given the special business performance award for periodicals.
In the creative categories: best newspaper ad went to M/s Manhattan Int’l (Pvt) Ltd for its ad of Standard Chartered Bank; best campaign — M/s Adcom (Pvt) Ltd for its ad of Al Karam; best public service campaign — M/s IAL Communications (Pvt) Ltd for its ad of Depilex Smile Again Foundation.
The panel of judges comprised Ameena Saiyid, Dr Nisar Zuberi, Babar Ayaz, Dr Rafia Taj, Dr Fateh Mohammad Burfat, Dr Mugheesuddin Sheikh, Owais Aslam Ali, Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Vali Ram Vallabh, Dr Fahmida Hussain, Yaqoob Mughal, Dr Seemi Naghmana, Abid Ali Syed and Prof Shahida Kazi.