Democracy and free media are co-related; democracy is impossible without a free (unbiased) media, and free media is impossible without democracy. Democracy and free media reinforce each other. Huge credit goes to Pakistan Peoples Party, which is the biggest voice of free media and it has contributed too much in this regard.
Quiad e Awam Shaheed Zukifiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the third world, for the first time in Pakistan’s history succeeded in achieving broad based national consensus for the 1973 constitution. It was the biggest achievement and development in Pakistan’s unconstitutional history,through this for the first time fundamental human rights incorporated in constitution. Through Article 19 of the constitution, freedom of expression was guaranteed and legal cover was provided for public speeches and independent publication. These great measure injected new life into neglected print media industry.
Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime is considered a unique era of democracy, human rights and free press. Before and after that era, during military dictatorships of 60’s and 80’s especially, the state of independent print media were very bleak, where undemocratic governments were the biggest stakeholders in the media development and that’s why nobody escaped the institutionalized assault on media. Independent voices were victims of state torture and solitary confinement without any cogent reason. Voices of independent liberal journalists were muffled. During that dark periods, there are lots of untold stories state despotism to snub liberal democratic voices.newspapers who followed an independent lines were often coerced to submission by blocking advertisements and using other pressure tactics.
During General Ziaulhaq’s dictatorship journalistic neutrality and independent views were tamed in torture cells. State coercion was at it’s peck and manhandling of media persons and confiscation of printing press was a routine matter. General Musharaf pretended to be champion of free press and freedom of expression but acts of Nov 3, 2007 suspending transmission of private channels speak volumes of his true face. It was the most brutal example of how undemocratic rules dictating to the media.
Shaheed e jamhooriat Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s visionary leadership recognized and encouraged the value of free media, in contributing towards the development of a well informed society,her first Government(1988-90)press laws aimed at censorship lifted,Journalists terminated from service during Martial Law regime were reinstated. No objection certificate for journalists to travel abroad was abolished. Employees of Radio and Television were reinstated. During her 2nd government (1993-96) huge development were made in communication and media sector, laying of the optic fiber along with right bank of Indus; introduced cellular telephones, digital pager, satellite dish and FM Radio; provided complete press freedom; annoucned sixth Wage Board award for the newspaper workers. The award was also implemented in the APP.
The unprecedented proliferation of new media outlets could be attributed to the media liberalization policy of Shaheed benazir Bhutto, due to this policy, besides privately owned vibrant media,number of new FM radio stations, cable televisions networks, satellite televisions and interactive websites plus blogs on internet are catering to the citizen’s information needs. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s 2nd government had taken many bold steps to liberalize country’s airwaves,until 1995 the country had only state controlled media in the form of PTV and Radio pakistan when the first licenses were awarded to a peoples television network,later named as Shalimar Television network (STN) and it nurtured Network Television Network (NTM) and three FM radio stations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. With the advancement in information and communication technologies era of dish antennas brought various television channels directly to Pakistani household.
It is quite evident that the present PPP government also realizes the significance of free press and freedom of information for transparency and open government and, therefore made a number of moves to introduce and enact new and better laws that would replace the existing freedom of information ordinance 2002.While addressing the joint session of the parliament soon after becoming the president of Pakistan,Mr Asif Ali Zardari stated: “we will soon be bringing other fundamental laws,such the freedom of Information Bill and work with stakeholders toward an open atmosphere of self regulation with no interference from the state”
In his first speech in the National Assembly as the newly elected Prime Minister,Mr Yousaf Raza Gillani had stated: “A new freedom of information law would be promote press freedom while the PEMRA would be made a subsidiary of the Information Ministry and it’s law changed”
The PPP present government abolished the emergency Pemra Law 2007 and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is on record of having disallowed the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee regarding retention of some provisions of the 2007 Pemra Ordinance.
The media in the country is the freest ever in its history even the head of state is subjected to rigorous criticism and ridicule by the national media which does not happen even in the most advanced democracies of the world. “Unfortunately, some vested interest are taking undue advantage of the media freedom and trying to mislead the people by confounding facts with fiction,” The detractors of the government should take a breath and look at the performance of the government objectively and come up with suggestive criticism, which is always welcomed by the people’s government. The government’s resolve to work for consultative, re-conciliatory and futuristic vision of democracy in the country.
It is also high time that media also regulate itself by working on common “code of conduct” for itself. Otherwise independent observer,analyst and even citizens will consider it, free but irresponsible anti-democratic and anti-people media.