Freedom to report
· Mustaqbil Pakistan is committed to the complete editorial freedom of all media – print and broadcast. We are especially committed to ensure that the press is not constrained by legal or other impediments from critically monitoring and reporting on the following:
· The Government and its policies
· Government officials and functionaries including the Prime Minister and President
· All political parties and their officers
· Members of Parliament at both the national and provincial levels
We strongly believe that the unbiased, transparent and truthful coverage of these agencies and individuals without fear of legal or other reprisals or consequences is vital to the functioning of any democracy.
In line with this belief, within the first year of taking office, we will undertake a comprehensive review of libel laws as they now apply in Pakistan. The objective will be to remove any unnecessary impediments which limit the ability of the press to report on matters related to government and politics.
Broader role of broadcast media
Mustaqbil would like to see the media – especially the broadcast media – play a part in the social and economic development of Pakistan and her people. We believe that the role of television and radio extends beyond news and entertainment to actively contributing to the achievement of broader social and economic goals.
The best way to explain what we have in mind is to give a set of examples where TV and radio can actively contribute to social welfare and development:
· We have talked in the section on Mustaqbil’s education policy about the stigma associated with blue collar jobs in our society. One way to tackle this would be to develop TV dramas that show blue collar workers as respectable and
materially successful people. We need to portray workers such as plumbers, masons, A/C mechanics as professional people who enjoy, or at least should enjoy, the same level of respect in society as doctors or engineers. And why not? They are indeed respectable professions. TV could play a powerful role in challenging this senseless stigma
Few people will disagree that we have a problem in Pakistan in regard to a civic sense of cleanliness. Plastic bags are strewn everywhere. It is a common sight to see trash, tissues, empty cigarette packets etc – being thrown casually on the roads by even apparently well to do people. Spitting in public places has acquired the status of a pandemic. Why cannot the media play a role here? Such a role could have multiple facets:
– Commercials could educate and guide the public
– Announcements during popular programs could denounce and lampoon anti civic conduct
– Drama could again to used to portray characters who litter or spit as socially unacceptable
· We suffer, as a people, from a lamentable lack of common courtesy. Public officials will talk rudely to visitors. The police – depending on the perceived status of the person they are ‘involved’ with – can either be on the giving or receiving end of an expletive laced conversation. The concept of a queue is thought to be naive. And, of course, our bad manners extend to our driving. TV and radio can play a powerful and effective role in highlighting these destructive social and civic ills and working towards their elimination from society.
These are just some examples of many. Mustaqbil believes that the people who run the media have a duty, indeed a moral obligation, to serve Pakistan and her people in the broadest possible sense of the word. We hope to work closely with the media to help focus and direct such efforts.
A sense of responsibility
With power comes responsibility. Mustaqbil believes the media – especially the broadcast media – has failed to fully appreciate its obligations towards society. One of these obligations is manifested in contributing to broader social and national objectives which we have already discussed in the previous section. Another, perhaps just as important, has to do with matching the nature and content of programming to the culture and social values of our society. And here we believe the media has acted in an irresponsible, perhaps even reckless manner.
Pakistan is a varied country. The vast majority of our people are conservative. There are, of course, also people who hold liberal views. This is not only desirable, but essential to creating an environment in which debate is encouraged and ideas are judged on their merit. Mustaqbil, as a matter of policy, strongly believes that all points of view must be respected and have a voice in the conduct of the nation’s affairs.
Yet if one were to judge by the content of media programming it would appear that all of Pakistan is an ultra liberal society. An outsider would think that Pakistanis have nothing better to do than sing and dance all day. He would get the impression that women are liberated and modern.
But the reality is quite different. The sort of content that now goes out over the airwaves is not only misleading but displays a lack of respect for the feelings and values of the vast majority of Pakistanis. Some have even argued that the ‘fundamentalist’ backlash that now threatens to sweep across the country is, in part, a reaction to irresponsible programming.
There is another related issue. This has to do with content that is not locally produced. This includes foreign TV channels distributed by cable or received via satellite. Here we have to ask ourselves the following: Does it make sense to beam highly provocative and inappropriate foreign content into deeply conservative Pakistani households in our cities and villages many of whose residents may be illiterate and would not have travelled more than a few kilometres from their homes? Could not such content be severely disruptive to a social fabric carefully woven over many generations? Mustaqbil is not arguing for government control of content or information. But what we are saying is that broadcasters must exercise judgment and common sense. In the race for ratings and advertising revenues this may not be easy but, in the interest of preserving harmony in a multi cultural society, it has to be done.
In order to encourage balanced and thoughtful media programming a Mustaqbil government will set up a ‘Media Committee’ which will include all stake holders. This will include representatives from the media industry, from civil society, religious leaders from different religions and schools of thought. The committee will be chaired by a Member of Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister. Its mandate will be to draw up media broadcast standards. Such standards will be subject to a majority vote in the committee and will come into effect only when approved by the Prime Minister. Mustaqbil sees no role for a “Ministry of Information” in this age of instant communication. We will abolish this ministry and transfer essential functions to other relevant federal agencies.