Pakistan: Accountability of media and code of conduct
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Pakistan: Accountability of media and code of conduct

A serious debate about accountability of journalists and code of conduct for media has started in Pakistan following the infamous Lucman-Bokhari and Malik Riaz episode.

In June of this year, two anchors of Dunya News TV, Mr Mubashir Lucman and Ms Meher Bokhari were seen “facilitating” the business tycoon Mr Malik Riaz in off-air footage of his interview that was leaked on Youtube, after the actual talk-show was aired.

Soon after the video surfaced on social media it spread to the maximum through a number of other mainstream TV channels and the talk-show was termed as a “planted show”.

The two anchors invited widespread condemnation not just from the general public but from media persons and the journalism community as well. This also led to a volleying of allegations against both the anchors in particular and against Pakistani journalists in general on social media.

A number of Pakistani news channels also organised special talk shows on the video leak and questions were raised over media ethics in Pakistan. However Dunya News TV termed the video leak and subsequent criticism as “an orchestrated campaign launched by nefarious elements.”

Renowned Pakistani journalist Mazhar Abbas writes in his blog post “Meher-Mubashir: Time to re-visit ethics”: “This leak (the off-air footage) has, without a doubt, damaged the credibility of the anchors that our youth looked up to for being liberal and fearless. It has reduced the value of talk shows that generate so much debate amongst our most literate rung of society.”

He went on to say “What we saw (the off-air footage) may go down in the history of journalism as a glittering case of non-professionalism and unethical journalism”.

It is also worth mentioning here that the post “Lucman-Bokhari and Malik Riaz episode” discussions on social media including Facebook and Twitter targeted a number of senior anchorpersons and journalists for allegedly receiving villas, plots and hefty bribes from the business tycoon Malik Riaz. These allegations were denied by Mr Riaz and the said media persons.

However, what emerged from the whole episode so far, it seems, is need of an accountability mechanism for media persons and a proper code of conduct for media in Pakistan.

Quite recently two senior and prominent Pakistani journalists, including Mr Hamid Mir and Mr Absar Alam, filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking the formation of an accountability commission for the media. A copy of the final draft of the petition is available at Pakistani Press on Google Groups here.

According to a news report, “The petition prays to the Supreme Court to form a commission that will be responsible for inquiring about the source of income of TV channel owners, advertising agencies and anchorpersons.”

However The Express Tribune newspaper in its latest editorial has suggested that instead of allowing any government body to investigate the media as it may end up inviting the government to launch a witch-hunt, it would be better if media organisations started policing themselves.

Recently at a seminar, the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) Chairman Raja Shafqat Abbasi had also advised Pakistani media to devise a self-accountability mechanism saying “this practice would add to its credibility.”

Reading all the post might prompt someone to ask, “Is there any law for media in Pakistan?”

Yes, there is and the best answer, as mentioned in this report is, “Pakistan has laws and a constitution, but nobody follows them. Similarly, the country’s media does have codes of conduct, but very few journalists practice them.”

Nonetheless, one can hope that the present scenario with pressing demands of media’s accountability and code of conduct will go a long way in positively influencing and shaping media ethics in Pakistan.