KARACHI, May 29: The impact of globalisation, corporatism and glamourisation on the media, interference by the management and the government in editorial content and journalists’ credibility were just some of the topics touched upon by senior media persons speaking at the third international conference organised by the Mass Communications Department of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology at the Arts Council here on Tuesday.

Day one of the three-day conference called ‘Media Agenda 2012’ saw the holding of three sessions. The morning session, presided over by Dr Mohammad Qaiser, threw light on various threats to the media. Hence panellists historian Dr Mubarak Ali, educationists Dr Seemi Naghmana, Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Prof Aijaz Farooqui and Dawn Media Group’s CEO Hameed Haroon were of the opinion that even though the press had gone through its share of difficulties over the years and this may be a relatively easier period for the press, there were still many things that the press had not been able to free itself from.

“The media’s job is to present facts to the people to enable them to make up their own opinions about the issues at hand,” Dr Mohammad Qaiser summed up the discussion as the morning session gave way to the day’s first working session, presided over by former chief editor of Pakistan Times I.A. Rehman.

Director current affairs of Express News Mazhar Abbas spoke about some of things still preventing the media from showing the true picture to the public, programme ratings being one of them. “When giving news, the channels ignore Balochistan and the interior of Sindh because there are no meters to determine the ratings coming out from these areas, and without ratings you get no commercials,” he said.

Dr Jaffer Ahmed of the Pakistan Study Centre at the University of Karachi questioned whether the media was a neutral character or an autonomous thing. He said today’s media was more of an industry that was being used to promote ideologies. But he had a solution for it when he coined the idea of having an alternative media like a media watch to stop biases being spread by the mainstream media and point out its shortcomings.

“The easiest way to set an agenda for the media is to keep in mind the greater good of the greater number of people,” said Babar Ayaz. “We know there are ratings prompting you to release all kinds of information just to remain ahead of the competitors, but you still have a responsibility towards society about whether or not to disclose certain things that may be too disturbing, which might enrage people or cause hatred among various races, classes or sects.”

Dr Shahida Kazi, a former chairperson of the Karachi University’s mass communications department, said many news channels were grabbing viewers’ interest through their talk shows. “These talk shows have all the ingredients for entertainment such as drama, thrill, suspense, glamour, etc.,” she said.

About globalisation and the media, she said that unlike in India, where you see first-hand globalisation, we only have second-hand globalisation. “In India, you have programme franchises like soap operas in Hindi, National Geographic in Hindi, Sony channel, etc. So there exposure is more direct unlike here where we only copy the Indian media,” said Dr Kazi.

“But the good thing is that all this aping exercise was rejected by our viewership,” she said. “We need originality in our media.”

About the many existing news channels, she said, it was a shame that the English language news channels had to close down or convert to Urdu due to falling ratings and lack of sponsorship. “We had two English [language] news channels with another one about to start but sadly one shut, one switched to Urdu while the third never materialised,” she lamented.

Finally summing up the speakers’ views, I.A. Rehman said when they say that the media’s agenda was business, there should still be the drawing of the line somewhere.

Talking about the credibility of journalists, he said: “Working journalists, be they electronic or print media journalists, they need to see what they can do to protect their credibility. Not giving away their sources ever, they should also have other means to prove their facts correct if questioned about them.”

The media companies should allow the journalist to work with consciousness, he said, adding that the journalist should also negotiate for his or her freedom.

Speakers at the day’s final session, presided over by former editor of Hurriat Farhad Zaidi, included chief editor of Awami Awaz Dr Jabbar Khattak, senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, social worker Haris Khalique, editor of Daily Express Tahir Najmi and Arts Council president Ahmed Shah.

Picture on Page 17

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