Freedom Of The Press In Pakistan – OpEd
By Irfan Mahar
Freedom of the press in Pakistan is legally protected by the law of Pakistan as stated in its constitutional amendments, while the sovereignty, national integrity, and moral principles are generally protected by the specified media law, Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and Code of Conduct Rules 2010. Everybody in Pakistan who is educated (education must not be mixed with degree or piece of paper particularly in a country such as Pakistan) and has some sense of understanding to think rationally about the things that are happening with the press. If all these happenings would be looked on with rationality, facts and figures and practicality, one understands the press freedom in Pakistan also. Such people know very well that in which time and whose government or rule the Pakistani press has remained independent.
One of the most important factors which contributes towards the development and progress of a country is considered freedom of the press because it plays an important role to aware the masses. However, the news channels in Pakistan do not follow all code of conduct and policies of just and unbiased journalism and press because of the influence of such dominant elements. When one looks at the whole structure concerning the freedom of the press throughout the world, one finds the influence of dominant elements over the press. So it is not a new phenomenon that the press of Pakistan is also influenced by the dominant elements or ruling elite of a country.
In the beginning of this year 2020 on the occasion of “The World Press Freedom Day”, a local media and development sector watch do “The Freedom Network” released the state of press freedom in Pakistan 2020 report. In which Pakistan has fallen three points on the World Press Freedom Index since 2019. The Index published by Reporters Without Borders looks at various factors to assign an overall score, relating to the freedom of the press, each year. In 2019 Pakistan ranked 143 out of 180 countries, while this year it ranked 145. Though there are various questions over the rationality and authentication of such survey conducting institutes for instance it is believed that these institutes always remained under the influence of any particular country or ruling elite. Even such institutes keep some worth because of world structure created by wealthy and rich nations. No one can deny the fact of the complex structure of the world system but for a particular group of people, it is not hard to understand the world structure and its dominating elements.
Just take an example of Moon Soon rain when it started in Pakistan this year. Urdu News channels such as Geo-News, ARY News, Dunya and many others have always been remained biased towards the provinces like Sindh and Balochistan. In the same way, during the moon soon rains throughout the country these channels played the traditional role through defaming or mentioning and highlighting the mistakes and maladministration of the provinces such as Sindh and Balochistan particularly Sindh.
There are multiple reasons behind the particularity and targeting of the Sindh province such as the PPP rule in this province which is anti-PTI present government and ruling elite of the country. In addition, the PPP also has some differences with the establishment of the country as well. In this regard, not only the PPP but also all present opposition believes that Imran Khan is brought by the establishment that’s why his government has been showing the biased behavior not only towards opposition but also towards media. Because of Moon Soon rains the whole country was suffering from multiple issues for instance the failure of water-drainage system resultantly water was stored at major roads and streets of almost all big cities of Pakistan. But Urdu Media only pointed out the Karachi as all other big cities of the country have the best drainage system and it worked perfectly.
Problem is not that these channels are showing the bad governance of Karachi by the provincial government. But the problem is that why they don’t break news irrespective of hitting and focusing only cities of Sindh province. These are the basic questions which arise in the minds of common people who are evident of such happenings and current circumstances of the country. Because these all things are happenings with the consent of a particular dominant group famously known as the ruling elite.
This ruling elite is behaving and acting like a Boss but they are not rational. They are just looking at the things which only give them benefits but they should think rationally and seriously that it is not about the dominance of a particular group rather it is the question of national power, strength and integrity which can only be achieved through just, unbiased and neutral behaviour which will give the benefits to all nation and whole people of the country irrespective of caste, creed, sect and identity. All the powerful, dominant and great nations of the world follow the same principle based on rationality and betterment of their common masses. Therefore the ruling elite of Pakistan must think and realize the reality and behave like a rational actor which will not only be in the benefit of this ruling elite but also for the whole nation.
*The writer is Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan.