Experts show concern over declining state of freedom of information in Pakistan
Senior journalist Wajahat Masood and others showed concerns over the declining state of freedom of information in Pakistan on Wednesday in a webinar organised by a Karachi based not-for-profit Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovations (GNMI).
“Our state made several laws just because they needed favours from international orders. The intent behind that was not the implementation of the law,” Masood said. “I was a very happy person when this PTI was introduced but I reached the conclusion that the state that used to work in secrecy now wanted to provide us access to information. However, our misunderstanding has been removed.”
The webinar was organized under one of the programs of GNMI titled fighting disinformation and supporting independent media in Pakistan. The objective of the program is to further the professional development of the Pakistani press and strengthen the independent media by improving print, broadcast, and online media practitioners’ ability to develop fact-based, investigative reports and provide Pakistani citizens with the information need to make informed judgments about their lives, communities and public institutions.
The panel also had a journalist and columnist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, anchor and analyst Urooj Sayyami, and broadcast journalist Nayyer Ali.
Masood also said that the hurdles in access to information were not linked to the digital age. It had a long history and is linked with the power politics of the state.
He also said that the media had been used in the past for political and personal benefits. Talking about increasing censorship he said the mainstream media of Pakistan had become PTV 2.0
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid said one role of media was to filter the excessive information, however, the power structures do not allow journalists to do it in their own way.
“The role of a journalist has transformed in the digital age. Media is no longer just limited to accessing and sharing information but also to filter the excessive information,” Shahid said. “Unfortunately in Pakistan, we have a fixed template dictated by powers that be, where information has to adjust to a predetermined reality and not the other way around.”
Taking the conversation forward, Nayyer Ali said there was a need to ensure the implementation of RTI in its true sense. She also discussed fake news and its use on social media for agenda building against journalists.
“Journalists are the main affectee of fake news. Even those on social media are talking about fake news who do not what it is. A narrative has been building against journalists [on social media] with the help of [the term] fake news,” she said.
Urooj Sayyami talked about the effect of breaking news on the credibility of news and journalist. She shared how her previous organization used to force her to produce more breaking news. She said the organizations should free journalists from this pressure of producing more news to ensure the authenticity and credibility of news.