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`Journalists should be provided training, protection`

By Ikram Junaidi 2015-11-26
ISLAMABAD: Speakers at the fourth National Media Conference on Wednesday called for safety mechanisms for the media, which will allow journalists to provide people with accurate information.

They said that trainingfacilitiesfor the media must be ensured, and that media houses should provide employees with a peaceful environment and reasonable salaries to ensure better reporting standards.

The conference was organised by Individualland Pakistan and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FnF) held at a localhotel.

Veteran journalist Mohammad Ziauddin said that sacrifices made by journalists for freedom of speech and democracy cannot be compared to any other group or organisation. He said the journalists had stood against martial laws and fought for democracy.

`However, most of the owners of media houses now influence editorial policy,` he said. He said there was a disconnect between media owners, editors, bureau chiefs and reporters.

`Senior journalists should train their juniors, and media houses should play their due role in developing media ethics, he said.

Another senior journalist, Arif Nizami, said that electronic media gave the public access to whatever it wanted to see.

`Our public is more interested in celebrity divorces, so channels have to comply.

There is a dire need for a code of conduct for journalists and effective training,` hesaid.

Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad said the implementation of the state cybercrime bill would limit space for journalists.

`Once the bill becomes law, journalists will not be able to give critical information without mentioning the name of the source.

Speaking in favour of a suspect will not be possible because it will be taken as glorification of an accused,` she said.

Television anchor Saleem Safi added that while mediapersons made several sacrifices in the past, today`s television anchors have become spokespersons and representatives of various groups and political parties, and receive benefits like being made the PTV managing director or advisers to the prime minister.

`On the other hand, those who stood for their principles have been ignored. Hamid Mir has made more sacrifices for democracy than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but no one cares,` he said.Mr Safi said that while it was not easy to work as a journalist in Pakistan, the feat is much harder in areas such as Fata.

PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group President Afzal Butt said that in Pakistan, 80 per cent of media houses were not free to write. He said in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtulchwa (KP), journalists could not file stories without feeling fearful.

`We have the liberty to criticise politicians,butcannotspeak out againstjudges and generals,` he said.

He added: `Owners of media groups are more dangerous for media freedom, because news can`t be published against those who give advertisements to media houses.

Individualland Executive Director Gulmina Bilal Ahmed said that media houses must invest in their staff, for training and to protect them, rather than NGOs.

She said the responsibility lies with owners, but NGOs are forced to step in if they do not comply.