PAKISTAN: Media's role in social change discussed

Seminar organizaed by Pakistan Press Foundation highlights media's role in bringing local issues to light, but stresses that it must also uncover those abusing the country's resources
Dawn


KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Thursday lauded the role of media in highlighting local issues, especially facing people of rural areas, and stressed it should now focus on wrong doings and abuse of resources by elite class in urban areas.

The seminar on "Role of media as human rights educators" was organized by the Pakistan Press Foundation on Thursday in connection with Human Rights Day being observed on Dec 10, dedicated by office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO to human rights education.

PPF General-Secretary Owais Aslam Ali, in his address, deplored that media highlighted human rights violations in the country but failed in playing due role in opinion building and educating the masses.

Media exposed military generals, bureaucrats, corrupt politicians and their feudal approach, but, it failed to focus on urban elite that was abusing the country's resources, he added.

He opined that media should show the real face of urban elite as it did in the case of feudal lords in order to introduce a new culture and change in society. Ghazi Sallahuddin, Council Member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: "It is high time to see our society with a critical eye.

We always portray discouraging scenario of the society instead of thinking about the ground realities and what role is being played by civil society, government and the media," he said.

According to him, Pakistan is sixth largest country in the world with respect to population and the 7th nuclear power with a strong army, but the UNDP indicators about human development show that Pakistan is at 140th level in the world in human development.

Analysing current scenario of Pakistani print media, Mr Sallahuddin said that the combined circulation of all newspapers being published in English, Urdu and Sindhi in Pakistan was not more than circulation of Indian newspapers in a single city.

"Circulation of newspapers is not satisfactory while book reading and education level is also alarmingly low. Unless universities provide us quality products, the situation will not change," he added.

He maintained that universities should promote education in real sense and if higher educational institutions would not bring forth talented and educated people, who would bring definite changes.

In this gloomy situation, he said that a few people were struggling to change present situation in the media and they must be appreciated. He said that some people had reservations on the role of non-governmental organizations, but, in his opinion NGOs were playing their due role for betterment of civil society.

He said media could not attract talent as much as multinational companies were attracting towards them, as media was commercially motivated. In this situation, salary structure was also shocking and one of the reasons for its decline.

Ghazi Sallahuddin said that local media institutions lacked credibility and to improve their credibility, they should focus on genuine issues. However, he said that electronic media had played positive role to some extent in highlighting the real issues and educating the society.

Rumana Husain of the Human Rights Education Programme, in her presentation, briefed the participants about the working of her organization that had involved schoolchildren in social activities.

She said that instead of expecting more in the first step, media should try to educate people for social change. Fazal Qureshi also spoke at the seminar, which was attended among others by NGO representatives, human rights activists and journalists.