Pakistan has a vibrant media landscape, which in spite of political pressure and direct bans that they are sometimes subject to from the state, the media enjoys independence to a large extent. After having been liberalized in 2002, the television sector experienced a media boom. In the fierce competitive environment that followed commercial interests became paramount and quality journalism gave way to sensationalism. Although the radio sector has not seen similar growth, independent radio channels are numerous and considered very important sources of information – especially in the rural areas. The Pakistani media landscape reflects a multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic and class-divided society. There is a clear divide between Urdu and English media. Urdu media, particularly the newspapers, are widely read by the masses – mostly in rural areas. The English media is urban and elite-centric, is more liberal and professional compared to the Urdu media. English print, television and radio channels have far smaller audiences than their Urdu counterparts, but have greater leverage among opinion makers, politicians, the business community, and the upper strata of society.
Pakistani media have not only been caught up in this violent conflict, but also in a war of words, ideologies and propaganda. FATA and NWFP have more than a hundred radical, illegal hate speech radios and the mainstream media have been subjected to a radical agenda as well.
Media reflects the society and it is the responsibility of media to expose the country to the whole world. It’s the requirement of time that our media should work for the positive and real soft image of Pakistan.
Using draconian laws the government has also banned or officially silenced popular television channels. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been used to silence the broadcast media by either suspending licenses or by simply threatening to do so.
The play of politics is depicted as a dishonest and dishonorable business. Politicians are assumed to act out of self-interest rather than on the basis of political convictions. It is repeatedly claimed that politicians are not to be trusted because they make false promises. Reporters and anchorpersons pit political opponents against one another as a means of undermining all political claims. Whenever a politician makes a statement, media persons turn to his adversaries to challenge and attack it. In this way, anchorpersons and reporters become direct participants/actors in politics.
The main recommendations suggested improve the safety of journalists and media workers through improved monitoring, risk awareness and conflict sensitive journalism training, development of risk response mechanisms, and advocacy and lobbyism. – Promote Pakistani-Afghan media relations through dialogue forums and professional cooperation. – Address the information vacuum and media distortion through awareness-raising on radicalization of media, and through strengthening radio outlets and by the use of innovative use of new and traditional media in FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan. – Strengthen investigative journalism through training and through funding that can subsidize journalists wishing to undertake larger investigative projects. – Promote the establishment of a self-regulatory mechanism that can improve standards for Pakistani journalism.
Media laws There are a number of legislative and regulatory mechanisms that directly and indirectly affect media. Besides the Press and Publication Ordinance (PPO) mentioned above, these laws include the Printing Presses and Publications Ordinance 1988, the Freedom of Information Ordinance of 2002, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) of 2002, the Defamation Ordinance of 2002, the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003, the Press – Newspapers – News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance 2003, the Press Council Ordinance 2002, the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan Ordinance 2005 and lastly the Access to Information Ordinance of 2006.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was promoted by the government as an open media policy reform and was fortified with strong regulatory teeth but it is in reality one of the major hurdles to press freedom in the country.