There is to my mind absolutely no need to comment on the merits and demerits of the now infamous resolution passed by the Punjab assembly against the media imposing restrictions on the media’s fundamental right of freedom of expression and information as guaranteed in our constitution. It is accepted all over the world especially in the civilized world that freedom of information and access to information are key to accountability and debate, which in turn promotes efficiency, effectiveness and fairness in the system of governance.
It is also an established fact that in today’s world of cyber net, satellites and fibre optics information travels at the speed of light and what might have happened minutes ago in London or New York could be seen and heard by humans across the globe within minutes.
As we do know that unchecked freedom may lead one in taking wrong decisions, we also know that with freedom comes responsibility and that responsible reporting should be the objective. To my mind responsible reporting means across the board reporting wherein issues not personalities are discussed and analyzed. I wouldn’t agree with the notion as prevalent in our country that media should judge this or that and that it must become a party to proceedings while judging. It is my humbly opinion that media’s role is much more noble and therefore it should promote open debate and highlight issues while adhering to the cherished principle of positive criticism.
Having said this much, I will turn to the real purpose of this article and turn my readers attention to a matter of urgency. I am talking about the on going controversy about how the Punjab assembly passed a resolution against the media. As aforementioned I am not entirely satisfied with the quality and standard of reporting, but at the same time I detest the prevalent culture and practice of hitting below the belt. I am compelled to ask why did the legislators have to pass such a resolution in presence of sufficient or if not sufficient at least enough laws in the field imposing checks and balances on the activities of media.
It is now common knowledge that the great servant of Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif orchestrated the said resolution and used Mastikhel as a mere tissue paper, however, the question that arises is that why did the CM have to stoop to this level. If he or his government genuinely had a grievance against the media, then why not go to the court or file a complaint with PEMRA. Wouldn’t it be better to form a commission or committee to inquire into any such grievance and proceed in accordance with the law? Surely, such an action would have taken the wind out of the sail and brought positive results. What was the urgency and wisdom behind attempting to impose a resolution which so completely backfired?
The problem I think is in the mindset. The Sharif mindset, I would say. After all PPP, whose policies are blasted daily on the screen, also has serious disagreements with the same media. But has PPP ever superimposed itself in such a manner? The question is why then?
If one goes back in time a little, it is not so difficult to remember that the Sharifs also did something similar in spirit against the august supreme court of Pakistan, as well as the armed forces (which backfired completely). And what about the attempt of pass the 15th amendment and in it the dream to wear the royal title Amirul Mohminin. While all these may have a justification for some, there is a similar pattern one can see. Yes, it’s the deep desire to suppress opposition be that in the form of law, soldiers or now the media. A total absence of tolerance and fair play is what the Sharif mind set seems to be. Or as it is famously said in Punjab i.e. “Na Khaydaan Gay Na Khaydan Diyaan Gay”- Neither I will play nor I will let you play.
This mindset has already caused enough trouble in the land and needs to be changed for the better. It’s not the solution but a part of the problem. Pakistan has too many serious issues for some to play their dangerous games at the cost of others and if it doesn’t change then God help us because people are sick of it.
The only way forward is openness, fairness and resolution of disputes and not persecution, gangsterism and retribution which has never worked.