Free Media – bane or boon ?

In today’s time when freedom of expression cannot be emphasized enough, a pro media censorship agreement could be considered as blasphemy! What people should understand is that censorship doesn’t mean inhibiting freedom of expression – It is just drawing a line between freedom and uncontrolled deviltry. Censorship is a reminder for all those who have crossed the lines of morality and compassion under the name of freedom of expression.

With more than 40 television channels beaming soaps, satire, music programmes, films, religious speech, political talk shows, and news of the hour the significance and need of media censorship in Pakistan today is at its pinnacle hence I believe not all opinions, information and pictures need to go on air.

 

Firstly, speaking of censorship, one section of the media that is in a terrible need of censorship regulations are the news channels. Visuals of disfigured bodies during riots, bloodbath and carnage television channels appear to have forgotten about media’s moral values in their rat race for TRPs. Being a witness to some of the most ruthless reporting scenarios in some of the most devastating catastrophes, it is my personal opinion as a viewer and as a global citizen that censorship should be about keeping the media real enough to reflect the society but subtle enough to keep it humane.

Secondly, censorship regulations should also be applicable on most of the young and new anchors that are the product of lack of training, knowledge and experience. They seem to be mesmerized by their own faces on mini-screens. An anchor’s duty is to present events as they are happening without personal commentary but in all private television channels, it is seen that these people, who have less political training, are trying to present events according to their own liking.

Because of which it becomes relatively easier for them to mould public opinion because people only see what media shows them and most of the times it is perceived to be true and with low literacy levels it doesn’t require rocket science to propagate something which might be non existent.

Thirdly, the dog-race that the media has gotten itself into for delivering or ‘creating’ breaking news the first, which is sometimes not even confirmed causes panic among the masses, hurts business activity and hampers economic growth. Along with painting a very volatile picture in the mind of foreigners as if Pakistan is full of instability. Hence news which harms the country at large needs to be censored as well.

Abstaining from censorship in the above mentioned scenarios we ourselves are exposing children of impressionable ages to excessive violence at a growing age, innocence of children is replaced by questioning the happenings around them the bombs and the bloodshed. Hence to make sure that our future generations are intellectual and progressive the content on TV should also be one which promotes these traits.

Talking about the entertainment media – stage, film and drama is exposed to threats from two fronts. Firstly, the news media with all its drama and sensationalism has driven away the audiences from stage and films and secondly the foreign channels with their quality programming and marketing expertise have been a substitute to our local channels for the viewers which is diluting our culture and we seem to be more abreast with foreign cultural and religious rituals and occasions than our own.

Hence censorship of foreign content being aired in our country complemented by the revival of the entertainment industry is need of the hour.

Today, no law on media censorship exists in the country. However quite recently the senate standing committee on Information and broadcasting proposed a new media code of conduct. The bill calls for a ban on graphic footage of terrorist attacks and forbids the media from airing the statements of violent extremists. But so far it the government hasn’t been successful enough in getting it passed because of concerns raised by the media.

 

So rather then indirectly influcing media by means of threatening to cut off advertising or suspending licenses to censor certain information, pictures or news which might not yield favorable results, government should try to expedite the on going process in which media has been asked to prepare their own code of conduct which is acceptable to the government as well. Along with a mechanism to ensure that the regulatory institutions use censorship judiciously.

 

Furthermore, media training institutions which produce professional and politically unbiased media personnel need to be setup. And steps should also be taken after consultation with all stake holders to establish a credible ratings agency which rates the television channels and their programs comprehensively and serves as tool to gauge their true popularity.

 

Lastly I would like to make a point that media greatly assist in building better societies by defending rule of law, encouraging human development and security. However a media without a “code of ethics” will harm people, make media lose its credibility gradually and the role of watch-god will get weakened eventually.

Published in Slogan media magazine November 2010

 

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