Media has a role in reinforcing democracy: Marriyum


ISLAMABAD: Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage State Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb while co-chairing a boardroom discussion titled ‘Information and Entertainment Systems Stewards Meeting’ at Devos on Thursday said that as Pakistan is at the cusp of history to complete uninterrupted democracy for a decade for the first time and the media which enjoyed freedom of expression and access to information had a role in removing the ambience of mistrust in the country and transforming it into hope and confidence while reinforcing democracy.

She said that democracy was well on its way to entrench itself and there was a permeating view in the country that existing fault lines in Pakistani politics would gradually be eliminated with the support of an independent media.

The minister said that ensuring freedom of expression and allowing free flow of information was one of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League’s (N) top priorities and since assuming power in 2013 it has made strenuous efforts in this regard.    

She said that Pakistan was currently in the process of implementing CPEC and the role of information in safeguarding news about it and ensuring regional prosperity could not be overemphasized.

“Pakistan has joined the club of countries who have formally done legislation on the free flow of information by adopting the ‘Access to Information Bill’ in the recent past that was a result of prolonged consultation with media representative bodies and other stakeholders,” said the minister.

The minister also stated that as far as the freedom of expression and information free flow was concerned, Pakistan was faithfully adhering to Article 19 of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and the ‘Declaration of Fundamental Principles’ adopted by UNESCO on November 28, 1978 for the promotion of fundamental human rights including the ‘Freedom of Expression’ designed to establish a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) besides other international conventions.

With a view of creating an enabling and secure working environment for journalists, Marriyum said that the government was in the process of promulgating a law for the security and welfare of journalists by seeking input from the journalist community itself.

While striving to create a congenial atmosphere for the media to play its desired role, the minister stated that Pakistan was also fighting a perception war regarding its image at global level, an image tarnished by terrorism in our region and to a large extent biased and out of context reporting by international media that glosses over the successes that Pakistan has achieved in the war against terrorism and the sacrifices rendered to accomplish the objective.   

She said apart from the media’s offensive to portray the country’s true image, efforts are also underway for the cultural revival, national heritage and film industry which are considered essential ingredients for projecting the real and soft image of a country and changing existing perceptions.

“We are also promoting screen tourism with a view of fighting perceptions and unfurling realities,” said Marriyum.

“A film policy will soon be announced by the government for the revival of the film industry,” she said adding that the first ever cultural policy is also in the making.

She said that Pakistan was according to top priority to the education and training of youth as they constitute majority population of the country.

“The development of the digital technology has broadened the scope of communication outlets and revolutionized the media industry,” she noted.

“The government has also created a social media wing for technology-based monitoring of electronic and print media, analysis, communication, advertisement and providing authentic news concerning the implementation of government policies and achievements, for the information and awareness of the masses,” said the minister.

She further observed that foregoing developments have thrown up new challenges for the media industry to adhere to internationally recognized parameters, as well as, the government in regards to ensuring that it served national interests in the best possible manner, and for this pre-career and mid-career training for the journalists to keep them abreast with the emerging media trends and demands and the ethical aspects of the profession were a necessity.

She lamented that unfortunately, Pakistan does not have training institutes for the media like the ones established under the auspices of the UN, UNESCO and the private sector in developed countries and apprised that her department was currently engaged in creating training services for journalists in the Information Service Academy. A training module in collaboration with international training institutes is being developed for the purpose.

“In addition, the government is also encouraging private media houses to create training facilities of their own. It is continuously engaged with media representative bodies to move towards a self-regulatory mechanism similar to developed and European countries,” the minister concluded.

The meeting was held to take stock of multi-stakeholder cooperation on key issues and explore how collectively cooperation could be strengthened.