Censorship not a solution to terrorism, IFJ & Pakistan media reject guidelines20 Jan, 2015
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expresses its strong concern over new press guidelines for Pakistan’s television and print media. The IFJ said the guidelines, created in reaction to the horrific Peshawar school terrorism attack in December 2014, would be a disaster for press freedom in Pakistan.
In the ‘Proposals to Strengthen Media’s Role in Combating Terrorism’ Report by the Standing Committee for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage. The 46-point guidelines have provisions for censoring live reporting and setting up editorial boards to vet ‘each and every news, image and breaking news’.
Under the guidelines, social media is targeted for legislative regulation as a means to ensure that avenues of incitement to violence, abuse, and other dangerous material are brought under tight scrutiny with government control through software. Endorsed by the Standing Committee, the guidelines are now awaiting approval from the National Assembly.
The PFUJ has strongly rejected the proposed guidelines which developed following the massacre of 152 people, including 134 children by Taliban terrorists in Peshawar on December 16 last year. The PFUJ says the guidelines are not relevant to current situation and would result in a restriction of press freedom.
The PFUJ said: “The government seems to have made its mind to control the media and its role. We condemn such efforts to control the freedom of expression. The PFUJ will resist any such attempt to limit the freedom of media and freedom of expression.”
Bytes for All, a Pakistani human rights organization and research think tank has also strongly criticized the proposed guidelines and said “the categorization of terrorists by the government is too arbitrary as it can be used to victimize legitimate political activists”. It also said in a strong culture of impunity, any “recommendations pushing propaganda in place of facts will render journalists more vulnerable to violent attacks”.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington, reiterated the PFUJ’s concerns, saying the guidelines would spell disaster for press freedom in Pakistan.
“The whole tenor of these guidelines reeks of State control of the media. Even the basic premise that the media should somehow stand in solidarity with State organs to combat terrorism is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role and function of an independent media.”
Already Pakistan’s media is under pressure on numerous fronts with an increasing number of violent attacks. Further curbs by the state under the guise of guidelines would effectively constrict freedom of expression on multiple fronts and has the great potential for misuse by the State, the IFJ said.
“We urgently call for a rejection of these guidelines – created from as a knee-jerk reaction to an understandably horrific terrorist event. Media guidelines should be created in consultation with media practitioners in the interest of supporting and promoting ethical and professional journalism, not censoring it.”