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Category Archives: Reporting at the Institute

News reports of the seminars/lectures/conferences/workshops that are conducted frequently in my parent Institute (Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab).

T.V Channel Ratings: “Sensationalism versus Responsibility”


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The long standing debate of ethical concerns in the Pakistani media has been raised quite often at the seminars organized by the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), University of the Punjab, Lahore. However, this time the topic alluded towards “Television Channel ratings: Sensationalism versus Responsibility”. The key note speaker was Syed Talat Hussain (renowned columnist, anchor person and analyst). Vice Chancellor of University of the Punjab, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar and Tanveer Shehzad (representative of Voice of Germany) also spoke on the occasion. The seminar received media coverage and the enthusiasm of the students was evident as there was no vacant seat left in Hammed Nizami Conference Room of the ICS.

Mr Tanveer Shehzad while opening the discussion expressed his disappointment over the shameless degree of irresponsibility found in the media persons of Pakistan. He quoted the example of Z.A Sulehri, who used to detect and edit trivial errors of his program in order to practice ‘responsible journalism’. According to Mr Tanveer, media is a business and the owners are concerned with ‘revenue’ instead of considering the reform of the society. In his opinion, “rating” is a controversial term that needs to be redefined and its basis should take into account media content and quality. Mr Tanveer suggested the inclusion of independent media watch groups in the Pakistani media landscape. He laid stress on the formulation and implementation of ‘sound code of ethics’.

The key note speaker, Mr Syed Talat Hussain, explained to the students how “facts” can be dangerously sensational. According to him, people want to know the facts, but they don’t possess the “stomachs for it”. The seasoned journalist elaborated the difference in choice of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ viewer. He told the students that during the genocide of Hazara community in Balochistan, the members of the community wanted an extensive media coverage of the dead bodies that were not being laid to rest. On the other hand, urban viewers were fed up of the issue. Mr Talat didn’t favour ‘Television talk shows’ as platforms for policy-making. In his opinion, “media owners” are now a part of “power politics” and have converted into power brokers. He concluded his note by suggesting that all the television channels should abide by the PEMRA ordinance and advertisements need to be more sensible.

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According to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran talked about “media conglomeration” and told the students how 95% of the U.S media is owned and controlled by six corporations. Dean Faculty of Social and Beahvioural Sciences, Dr Zakriya Zakar, emphasized that underlying social mechanisms should be explained through journalism. He believed that for a social scientist, accidents don’t happen the negligence of human beings make them possible, the media should highlight that negligence as well.

It is noteworthy that Mr Syed Talat Hussain has recently joined Bahria University as project director in order to reinvigorate the Media Studies program at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. The increased interest of media professionals in academic sphere is a positive sign for the students of mass communication and journalism who require the right direction to make their mark in the practical field.

From left to right: Dr Noshina Saleem (Incharge Director Institute of Communication Studies), Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar (Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Syed Talat Hussain (renowned journalist), Tanveer Shehzad (correspondent Voice of Germany), Dr Ahsan Akhtar Naz (faculty member of the Institute of Communication Studies).

From left to right: Dr Noshina Saleem (Incharge Director Institute of Communication Studies), Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar (Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Syed Talat Hussain (renowned journalist), Tanveer Shehzad (correspondent Voice of Germany), Dr Ahsan Akhtar Naz (faculty member of the Institute of Communication Studies).

Photo courtesy: Facebook page of the Institute of Communication Studies https://www.facebook.com/ICSPU.Pakistan

 
 

PML-N’s Relations with the Press and Media


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi
JournalismPakistan.com
May 26, 2013

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) is geared up to govern Pakistan, under the leadership of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Third chance to grasp the throne, inevitably, precipitates multiple hopes, expectations and above all, renewed political acumen.

A substantial mandate and favorable public opinion has made Nawaz indebted towards the nation. Members of the civil society appreciate his humility, however, in my opinion, this should have been an obvious outcome, keeping in view the degree of trust that the nation bestowed upon him. Several factors contributed to his victory. Among the long list, projection given to PML-N by the media stands out.

Few months before the elections almost all the television channels made their prime time slot anchor persons sit in the Metro bus with Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, the then Chief Minister of Punjab province (and hopefully the new one as well). Three exclusive interviews were given by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to a single private television channel in 2012.

On the other hand, his younger brother always enticed media’s eye with his fiery rhetoric and unique speeches studded with rhythmic abstracts from the poems of Habib Jalib. Shahbaz even encountered the ‘youthful Tsunami’ under the captaincy of Imran Khan and organized events like Youth Festival to get Pakistan’s name in the Guinness Book of World Records. The partnership of Guinness World Record with the Punjab Youth Festival was peculiar and a rare accord in the country’s history. Whatever the reasons, it provided PML-N immense ‘media exposure’ before the formal electioneering campaigns began.

A glance at the past explains that the present-day press in general had been quite sympathetic towards PML-N in the context of party’s relations with the media during its previous tenure. During 1999’s Nawaz had become increasingly intolerant and frequent attempts were made to muzzle the media. Journalists were harassed and victimized during 1988-99.

– Mahmud Lodhi (a Lahore-based journalist), was picked up and held in illegal custody for two days. He was inquired about his involvement with a BBC team filming a documentary on the rise and wealth of the Sharif family.

– CIA police raided the residence of Idrees Bakhtiar, staff reporter of the Herald and Karachi-based correspondent of the BBC. This was the fate of journalists and media professionals associated with international media outlets like the BBC.

Those affiliated with national or regional publications were gagged more severely.

– The owner of The Frontier Post, Rehmat Shah Afridi, was arrested in Lahore on April 2, 1999. The Peshawar-based Frontier Post was critical of government’s policies.

– Najam Sethi, the Editor of Friday Times was arrested from his house in Lahore in the most unethical and humiliating manner reportedly on the orders of Nawaz Sharif. Later, Nawaz Sharif reportedly asked the then Chief of Army Staff General Musharraf to charge Mr. Sethi under the Pakistan Army Act for being a traitor.

– The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom organization, said on June 1, 1999 that it was conducting an investigation into a “hit list” prepared by the Pakistan government that had names of 35 prominent Pakistani journalists. According to reports received by the CPJ, the federal government had decided to establish a special media cell comprising officials from the police, Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency to punish journalists, who had been writing against the government.

The aforementioned examples don’t indicate PML-N as a tolerant party when it comes to the press. It shouldn’t be forgotten that ‘if’ Nawaz believed in a free and impartial national media, he could have stopped dictatorial boots from coming in the political arena of the country for the third time. The army could have taken over the PTV station at that time as it was the only broadcast television channel then. Had there been networks like Geo TV and more space for journalists to express their opinions, things would have been nearly impossible for General Musharraf.

PML-N needs to revise the past acts against the media and press. The party shouldn’t forget what the media has done to make its success certain in the general elections of 2013. In the latest article published in Newsweek, which considered Nawaz to be the most significant leader in Pakistan’s history after Jinnah it has been suggested that the PML-N should avoid its over-responsiveness to the media and be more logical. Among other obvious indicators of good governance, PML-N’s relations with the press and media would be under stringent observation this time.

(The writer is a student of BS Mass Communication at the University of the Punjab and blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com)

 

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Watchdog’s version of Elections 2013


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi
JournalismPakistan.com
May 13, 2013

LAHORE: The much coveted elections were conducted on the proposed date and with an overwhelming voter turnout. Ultimately, the lions roared, taking the leverage from the citadel of Punjab province and the bat swept prominently in the valleys of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), except for the province of Sindh, limped in other parts of the country.

Amidst all the hassle of electioneering, counting of votes and the overall coverage of the ‘Election Day’, the role of media had been worthwhile and interesting at the same time. It was, perhaps, the only election in the political history of Pakistan, to which the media gave ample time and space. The pre-planned structure of General Elections, a relatively viable socio-political environment and the mushrooming of private television channels, together, contributed to lend the elections better media coverage.

On May 9, 2013, it was Geo TV that inaugurated an emotionally-charged election headquarters with Iqbal’s poem (Lab pai ati hai dua ban kai tamana mairee- My longing comes to my lips as a supplication of mine) with the entire Geo and Jang network vowing to give credible coverage of Elections 2013 to its viewers.

The entire set of Geo studio was transformed, in order to make the elections a special occasion for the nation. Both political analysts and public figures were invited to share their expert opinions about the elections. Such headquarters were the only one of its kind in the ‘mass media time line’ of Pakistan. This channel swung its coverage in favor of PTI the day Imran Khan fell and the nation commiserated with the captain. Such a U-turn must have been a surprise for supporters of PML-N who were enjoying favorable media coverage from Geo network days before the unfortunate incident overtook PTI’s chairman.

Dunya TV adopted an anti-PML-N stance right from the beginning of election campaign. It was apparently involved in a cut-throat competition with Geo network to declare unofficial results of the ‘vote-count’. The state television, PTV, took a proper route to announce unofficial results. Unlike the other private channels, the satellite based PTV didn’t announce results before the time for casting votes ended. Interestingly, during the bombardment of unofficial results, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reminded the media outlets that they were violating the rules by declaring results before the polling closed.

However, the intriguing aspect was that electoral malpractices and cases of rigging were first reported through the social media. For instance, the most trending topics for the social information network, ‘Twitter’, were #NofearKhi and #DisqualifyMQM followed by #rigging and #Saad Rafiq.

The blast in NA-1, Peshawar that claimed the life of 11 people, was first reported by citizen journalists through websites like Facebook. The citizen journalists effectively used tools of communication like Internet and Smart phones to collect and report data. An interesting and healthy campaign, ‘iVoted’, published pictures of people with stained thumbs to show that Pakistanis were cognizant about their social obligation of casting votes.

It can be concluded that in the future, election coverage will be a battle between social media versus conventional media. On the other hand, watchdog’s version of Elections 2013, can be compared to a canvas, which every television channel wanted to stain first without paying much heed to rules and credibility.

 

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Media Spin and Elections 2013


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 
JournalismPakistan.com
May 06, 2013

LAHORE: For the first time in the political history of Pakistan, dictatorial fists are not in a position to muzzle the press or media outlets. However, irresponsible use of freedom will be followed by a trust deficit between ‘watchful media’ and its consumers.

With the elections around the corner ‘voters’ education’ through the mediated messages of electronic and print outlets is gaining momentum. Where paid political advertisements flash frequently on the television screen, commentaries about ‘what next?’ are also surfacing at a swift pace. Voters are being sensitized politically and the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power carries precedence under the umbrella of various media organizations.

Undoubtedly, mass communicated messages have a certain impact on public opinion and voting behaviors of the people. It is a positive development, like other democratic practices, emergence of the watchdog role of media would turn out to be a decisive factor in the upcoming elections. On the contrary, if the media barons and analysts adopt a nonchalant attitude, then the struggle for indoctrinating democratic values will be abortive. Contextual manipulation or misrepresentation of political parties is a violation of the guidelines framed for the fourth pillar of the state (i.e the media). As devised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), rules should be followed by mass media, with ‘public good’ being its foremost priority.

Instead of cutting excerpts from the old speeches of politicians and joining them to depict an altogether different and misleading message, focus should be converged on electoral manifestos and election campaigns. Adducing electoral malpractices and projecting the transgressions of political parties during the election campaigns should be the primary goal of Pakistani media.

A report by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reveals that around 89 percent of the 49 ‘observed’ election rallies violated the rules set by the ECP. Rallies are fervently shown without any allusion towards the way they deviate from the rules and regulations. All the mainstream political parties including Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaaf, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, Jamaat-e-Islami and even Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam-F have jeered at the principles for conducting rallies, but the electronic media turned a blind eye to such violations or downplayed them.

In a country like Pakistan, where majority of the people are illiterate and depend heavily on visual communication, privately owned television channels need to be careful. The pliant or murky attitude of a relatively free media can have adverse effects on public opinion. There are a number of guidelines that conform to ethical reporting of facts and obligate each component of a particular television channel (ranging from talk shows to political advertisements) to be impartial. In line with this code, even the paid political advertisements of various political parties should get equal time, space and projection in the media. No particular party should be given the leverage of additional representation at the expense of other parties.

With a clear boundary demarcated to tap the potential of media, positively, there is no reason for broadcasting houses or other sources of information to deviate from it. On the other hand, in case of gross violation of the ethical code of conduct, the ECP has also directed to make corrections adequately, where required. The media has been granted the liberty to be critical of the policies and electioneering of political parties, but at the same time reminds it to distinguish between manipulation and constructive criticism.

It is an abysmal fact that some of the mainstream television channels are not abiding by ECP’s media code of conduct. As a result, the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), a global coalition of media professional groups and journalists, is purporting a ground-breaking monitoring program led by citizen journalists. Under this program, the performance of local journalists and media coverage of elections 2013 will be carefully scrutinized. The initiative – Pakvotes’ – comprises a handful of trained citizen journalists. It is relying on around 40 field monitors armed with smart phones in various parts of the country. The citizen journalists will report electoral malpractices, especially in conflict-ridden regions like Balochistan.

It is heartening that the incompetence of mainstream media outlets has rendered this ‘observatory role’ to be transferable. Citizen journalists, who usually work voluntarily and are often unpaid workers, will now be making a worthwhile effort during the upcoming elections. Apart from keeping an eye on the menaces of rigging and bribed voting, they’ll also keep a check on media’s performance. Reports that will be overlooked by the national media, won’t go unattended this time as Pakvotes aims to project them to social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Although their strength is negligible, in the future, their performance can help to frame a well-planned monitoring map for electoral campaigns after 2013.  In addition to this, campaigns of this nature provide a moment of honest reflection for the country’s media organizations. It would be a despondent embarrassment if the media fails to deliver to the masses and does not guide them in a reasonable and responsible manner for ‘Elections 2013’. ‘Media spin’ will tarnish credibility of journalists and broadcasters, something that isn’t a good omen for any democratic transition.
(The writer is a BS Mass Communication student at the University of the Punjab, Lahore and blogs at www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com. She is also
Editor-in-Chief – The Voice of Youth  – an online youth blog).

 

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Al-Qaeda and Militancy- Lecture by Jason Burke


The Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS), University of the Punjab, arranged an interactive session with Jason Burke (South Asia correspondent for Guardian and The Observer). The discussion revolved around the evolution of Al-Qaeda, 9/11 terror attacks and the impact of militancy on the upcoming general elections in Pakistan.

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Jason Burke has been covering issues pertaining to extremism and militancy since 1990. He told the students about the birth of Al-Qaeda back in 1988 and opined that militancy had been fomenting in various parts of the world even before the existence of Al-Qaeda. According to Burke, 9/11 terror attacks marked the climax of Al-Qaeda’s capability. He was of the view that the West had poor understanding of Al-Qaeda’s linkages with other militant groups and the fact that none of the militant groups ever swore allegiance to Al-Qaeda. “The attack on the World Trade Center, targeted America, specifically, but had a global impact. The campaign initiated by Osama Bin Laden was fostered by Bush administration through the Iraq invasion in 2003”, said Burke. He explained to the the students and faculty members of Behavioural and Social Sciences that attacks of this nature compel people to make a choice. Osama Bin Laden wanted to unite the strands of militancy against the U.S in the wake of 9/11 attacks. He labeled this as a mass scale clash of ideologies, proliferating mass violence. However, as per his views, violence no more prevailed through global collaborations, but it was relatively localized now.

Regarding the upcoming elections in 2013, which Burke intends to cover as a correspondent, he held the opinion that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) might threaten the elections by claiming that they are being held in line with global ideals of democracy or secularism.

 

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Guide on Ethical Journalism


The Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), University of the Punjab arranged a special lecture on ‘Ethical Journalism‘. This was the third time in the past two years that the Institute touched issues pertaining to Media and Ethics by inviting media professionals who are related with field work. However, this time instead of personnels belonging to national media outlets a journalist working for the BBC was given a chance to share his views about the ethical dimension of journalism.

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Mobeen Azhar a British born Pakistani delivered his lecture by relying on a comparative approach based on British and Pakistani context. The purpose of the lecture was to stress the need for media accountability and to treat “ethics and responsibility” as the top most priority instead of hunting for material gains. To support his argument, Mobeen shared a presentation with the students that included three examples from British newspapers and two examples from Pakistani broadcast media.

After his presentation, Mobeen concluded along with the students who contributed during the lecture that the problem of ethics exists in both the British and Pakistani media. However, the difference lies in the stringent measures of accountability to discourage unethical practices.

Other alarming aspects were raised during the discussion that followed the lecture.

Not only does Pakistani media avoid accountability of irresponsible journalists, but they also continue to be a part of the mainstream media by switching over to other networks on higher salaries

Public interest is compromised to push ethics aside and to save vested interests.

In the UK, Public Service Broadcasting saved the media outlets from falling into the hands of advertisers.

Mobeen agreed that Pakistan is a young country and the media is even younger (especially electronic media), but individuals especially journalists cannot rely on ‘hoping for the best’. Although being ethical while being a part of Pakistani media was an uphill task, but this shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, a weak regulatory system like PEMRA in Pakistan calls for a stronger sense of responsibility within the Journalistic community of Pakistan, in his opinion. 

 

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Roy’s Chal Parha: Education Emergency!


We’ve seen some scintillating performances by Shehzad Roy ranging from ’Laga rahay’ to ‘Uth Baandh Kamar kya Darta hai’. His proximity with the general public and the extent to which he seeks solutions for the myriad problems being faced by Pakistan, exhibit his patriotism. On the other hand, his non-governmental organization – ‘Zindagi Trust’ has burgeoned up since 2007 to contest the case of ‘education emergency’ in Pakistan.

Being a pop-singer, Roy is both a motivation and a lesson for any young adult living in this country. Unlike many, he isn’t chasing projection in the neighbouring media outlets, allured by ‘piles of money’ or the lust for fame. If he continues with his efforts, there are good enough chances for him to introduce a new ‘genre’ in Pakistani music industry– something like ‘social responsibility’.
Similar to other institutional transitions budding in the Pakistani society, ‘music’ also requires a reorientation. The mass media (including ‘music’ as a means of communication) is also ploughing for a ‘fresh crop’ that wants to satisfy the need of ‘social uplift’.

Making the message of ‘positive change’ vocal, isn’t an easy task. However, ‘music’ seems to be the compatible format considering the level of ignorance and illiteracy in the Pakistani society. Any nation heading towards intellectual demise should be purported by arts, literature and music to engender the thirst for ‘knowledge’.

Chal Parha- a new program being aired on GEO TV during prime time slot is a success story for the local media. It is for the first time that the most urgent need of the country has seeped into the electronic media to grab the ‘time’ and ‘space’ of a television channel. The show is unique with regards to purpose and format. Above all, it has the privilege of ‘Shehzad Roy’ serving as a testimonial.

As the renowned singer himself says: “In this show, I travel across 80 cities in Pakistan from Attabad Jheel and Gulmit to Gojal and Thar and film in more than 200 government schools. In each episode we highlight an issue from public schools for example, corporal punishment, medium of instruction, population, textbooks, curriculum, teachers etc” 

Zealous Roy also gets a chance to fulfil his passion for ‘bike riding’, while hunting for the loop holes in the education sector of Pakistan. You’ll get a chance to see schools where donkeys (real ones) are found in the class rooms. The host will open the doors of those buildings where the future of the country is being prepared or where the majority of the children can afford to go.

The promotional song (Chal Parha) of the program defines the digression of the society, in general, for not giving due attention to ’education’. In a light yet piercing manner, the lyrics serve as a stringer for the listeners. It is a rhythmic reminder to rescue the country from the darkness of illiteracy through the light of ’education’. Moreover, an allusion towards another dilemma of the society has also been made, that is, the non-acceptance or indifference shown to talented people. Roy selects a young girl hailing from Faisalabad as a co-vocalist for the song in order to encourage her exceptional singing abilities. She complains of the lack of projection given to talented individuals in Pakistan, the reason she hums melodiously: Pair ho par saya na ho, din ho par ujala na ho, aisaa mumkin nahi… (‘how can hope and darkness coexist?’). Shehzad aptly responds to this: Yai anhonee jo baat hai, mairay dais k saath hai (this strange thing is seen in ‘my’ country).

Chal Parha is another call to declare ‘education emergency’ in Pakistan – not just by adding Article 25-A in the Constitution, but to ensure its fair and proper implementation. It aims at revolutionizing the education system of the country for saving the lives of innumerable talented gems and to alter the fate of Pakistan.

Originally written for The News International Blog: http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2013/02/roys-chal-parha-education-emergency/

Chal Parha-Roy

 

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