IA Rehman critiques journalism for commentary, not facts


The Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) organized a seminar on “Reflections: On the Changing Role and Dynamics of Media in Pakistan” where the renowned journalist Mr I A Rehman, who also serves as the secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) broached a number of issues the media, print and electronic, was facing today.
He opened his address by locating the print media in its historical context drawing a distinction between the vernacular newspapers and the English newspapers Pakistan inherited. According to him the vernacular press talked in black and white, and there was no grey.
Mr I A Rehman stressed the martial law of 1958 as a watershed in the evolution of press and media. With these ten years of controlled journalism, all that was left of journalism was ‘hang-out’ journalism, he opined. It turned the press into an avenue of press notes and press releases than a place for debate. He stressed that while the print media needed time to recover from this ‘suffocated journalism’ but its recovery was stifled with the advent of electronic media.
He announced that today’s journalism was spending all its energies on commentary, hardly any of which was research and fact-based. He said when he used to write an opinion in a paper, he used to go through thick files of all that happened in the past fifty years in that area. Newspapers were creating and selling campaigns which linger far beyond public interest, he added.
Rehman said that magazines had turned away from being sources of education, information and critique in favor of fashion and shopping reviews and the focus was on catering to the business and power lobbies.
While responding to questions, he emphasized the role of PEMRA as a body of government officials who have ‘assaulted’ the rights of people by restricting foreign media. For the state channel, he only had to offer a prediction that just like the state-censorship was ‘demolished’ by fax and internet, the state media will also be sidelined by free-media.