Tag Archives: Journalism

Press clubs to have a national council

Strengthening Press Clubs: Heads of country’s leading press clubs sit on a panel during the 3rd National Media Conference, organised by Individualland Pakistan.
Strengthening Press Clubs: Heads of country’s leading press clubs sit on a panel during the 3rd National Media Conference, organised by Individualland Pakistan.

Heads of various press clubs from across the country have agreed to set up a national council for press clubs to ensure better coordination, says a statement issued by the National Press Club, Islamabad, Thursday.

The meeting picked Arshad Ansari, president Lahore Press Club, as the convener of the council. Presidents of Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Sukkur and Abbottabad Press Clubs will work as members of the proposed council.

The team will contact all the press clubs in the country and will also ink a constitution and other regulations for the council. The meeting also announced to hold a national convention of press clubs at Lahore soon.

The announcement came on the heels of a session that stressed need for such a body and called for its establishment earlier in the day.

Speakers and leaders of journalists’ unions were speaking at a panel titled ‘Strengthening Press Clubs’ at the National Media Conference (picture), convened by the Individualland Pakistan.

They said while the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists remains an umbrella organization for journalists in the country, such a body will ensure better coordination among the press clubs and will help resolve issues facing clubs across the country. There is no confrontation between the press clubs and the unions of journalists (UJs) and the proposed council will not run parallel to the PFUJ, they emphasized.

Highlighting press clubs’ role in protecting and promoting democratic values, Imtiaz Faran, President Karachi Press Club, narrated how they were resisting demands to either relocate the press club or stop public demos there, as the club falls in the red zone.

Arshad Ansari, said there has been Section 144 imposed around the Lahore press club for years now to discourage public rallies there. “But we never accepted this restriction, and daily demonstrations tell us that nobody accepts it.”

The panel also discussed ways to overcome financial problems of the clubs. Ansari said Lahore Press Club’s annual budget was over Rs30 million. “Punjab government contributes a mere Rs2.5 million, and we raise the rest through advertising hoardings and other means.”

He said it is shameful that a subeditor gets paid less than a constable in this country, and sought NGO sector’s help in overcoming financial problems of the clubs.

President of the PFUJ Afzal Butt emphasized the need to differentiate between clubs and unions. “Club’s basic purpose is recreation of members whereas a union strives for media workers’ rights.”

But Matiullah Jan took a swipe at the way affairs were being managed at clubs and by the unions. “A club is meant to be just a facility. Its elected body has to exercise its role within the club premises.”

He said corruption is rampant at most press clubs and questioned why public funds are not distributed equally among all the recognized press clubs.

“Unfortunately, clubs are richer and more powerful today than unions, which have lost all their credibility. Clubs should be restricted to their basic role i.e. facilitation of members and the unions should assert themselves.”

Instead of clubs, we should be strengthening unions, Mati concluded.

The chair Saleem Shahid agreed that the profession is faced with all these problems due to its rapid expansion over the last decade.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said clubs are important but should not overtake the unions. He said many union and club members do not fulfill the membership criteria and hence all these problems.

For press clubs, he proposed other ways to generate funds, like enrolling diplomats as ex-officio members, than submitting before the government.

(Published by JournalismPakistan.com here)

All praise for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa RTI law

Activists says the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state is the same as the colonial state - opaque and secretive.
Activists says the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state is the same as the colonial state – opaque and secretive.

ISLAMABAD: Right to information (RTI) is a contested right in Pakistan as the state is reluctant to grant it to the public, said Rashed Rehman, Editor Daily Times, at the start of a two-day National Media Conference Wednesday.

He said the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state was the same as the colonial state – opaque and secretive.

Pakistan was the first country in Asia to have an RTI law in 2002, but it was not the result of demand from within the country. Rather, the Asian Development Bank had conditioned its loan with the introduction of such a law. The Musharraf regime enacted a toothless RTI law that conceded more than it revealed.

Discussants agreed that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s recently-promulgated RTI law is one of the most forward-looking pieces of legislation Pakistan has had. They, however, cautioned that a law is only as good as its implementation mechanism.

The KP law has also outlined its implementation mechanism but an information commission that will oversee its implementation is yet to be established. Under this law, a person can submit a hand-written application and government officials are bound to provide the applicant a certified copy of information they have requested. The law, however, excludes the higher judiciary in the province from what the public can access information about.

Zahid Abdullah, an RTI activist, said even parliament and prime minister can’t access information on certain issues in Pakistan. He said a blanket exemption to security issues is not the way to go about it.

Toby Mendel of the Center for Law and Democracy, Canada, defined RTI as a right to access information held by public bodies. He said the recent KP and Punjab RTI laws are an “incredible breakthrough” in Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s 2002 RTI law was one of the weaker laws. However, the KP law has broken the mould of Pakistani laws. It is stronger than any national law in 95 countries. It is better than the Indian law, which is one of the best in the world,” he remarked. He said Punjab’s law though isn’t as good as KP’s, it is a strong one as it is ranked 18th in national RTI laws in the world.

Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director of CPDI, said: “Our system is exclusionary and secretive. RTI actually challenges this system that has been in vogue since the colonial times in this part of the world. Normally, everything is meant to be secret in Pakistan, except that has been declared otherwise. It ought to be vice versa.”

Though he said the KP and Punjab laws are a step in the right direction, he took a swipe at the federal RTI law that has unanimously been passed by the Senate. One of the defects of the federal law is that it gives parliament a blanket exemption, he said.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas lamented journalists’ ignorance of the RTI laws in Pakistan. “Until they know the law, they can’t make any use of it.”

Another session titled ‘Pakistani media, graveyard of trainings?’ discussed how successful NGO sector’s media training efforts have been. Over the last few years, some 15-18 organizations have trained about 4000 journalists in Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the total number of journalists in the country is 18,000.

“But it seems these numbers haven’t translated into quality journalism in Pakistan so far,” observed Adnan Rehmat, chair of the session.

Senior journalist Shahzada Zulfiqar highlighted how poor law and order was impacting media professionalism in Balochistan. “One feels as insecure in the provincial capital as in Khuzdar and other militancy-hit regions,” he said and added that journalists from interior Balochistan are not so well-educated and thus are in need of more trainings than others.

Iqbal Khattak, Daily Times bureau chief in Peshawar, noted how fierce competition of breaking news was endangering journalists’ lives.

Panelists agreed that trainings should be customized as per needs of various parts of the media industry and apart from reporters, desk staff too need to be trained.

The conference, organized by the Individualland Pakistan, concluded on Nov. 28, 2013.

(Published by JournalismPakistan.com here)