Media bodies urge govts not to use adverts as control tool

Published November 25, 2021
Pakistan Broadcasters Association asks government to make public the media spending of last 20 years. — AFP/File
Pakistan Broadcasters Association asks government to make public the media spending of last 20 years. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Government advertising should never be used to influence editorial content or to control free speech, said the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) on Wednesday.

In response to a statement made by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz as well as Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the two bodies representing radio, television channels and newspapers said in their separate statements that governments should not try to create divisions within media industry or use advertising as a tool to exercise control over news organisations.

Read more: PTI ministers cry foul as Maryam admits audio clip about refusing ads to certain TV channels is legit

“We ask the government to make public all media spends of the last 20 years, including the present government’s spend,” PBA said. “PBA strongly condemns all forms of coercion by any government past or present that has used government advertisements as a tool to influence editorial policy. The present government also faces accusations of adopting the same strategy whereas as per its manifesto, it should ensure that taxpayers’ money for advertisement in public interest is well spent and is given on merit.”

PBA said the present government had centralised the process under which decisions pertaining to advertisements are made, taking this right away from individual government organisations, departments and ministries, in order to exercise total control over media.

“The present government’s track record on media relations has also come under a lot of criticism by media watchdogs and journalists’ bodies. When governments try to control freedom of expression, democracy and the people of Pakistan suffer the most,” it added.

Read more: Digital media freedom in Pakistan remains weak: report

Meanwhile, APNS also expressed its profound concern over the statement of Ms Nawaz and the subsequent statement of the information minister wherein he shared figures of advertisements released to media during the tenure of the previous government.

“The figures released are not only partial and selective but purposefully do not include the advertisement spend of the present government. The APNS asks the government to release the figures of advertising released to the media in the last 20 years,” said the APNS statement.

It said APNS always strongly condemned and resisted all acts and policies of the past and present governments which were intended to curb freedom of press and expression by using government advertising to influence editorial content.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2021

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