Rare media unity

It is not too late

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The other day the media representative bodies came together and unanimously rejected the government’s proposal to introduce media tribunals in the name of delivering speedy justice concerning media issues. Behind the façade of justice, there was some hidden effort to force media outlets as well as journalists to fall in line.

To test waters, the prime minister’s special assistant Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan shared the news with the media saying the draft was not yet finalized and when it was ready it shall be shared with stakeholders for their input.  Well, the input is here. The representative bodies of owners, editors and media workers from across the spectrum of media landscape spoke with one voice and called into question the government’s intentions behind this move.

Media already in country was in dire straits, particularly since the time the PTI took charge. Media is under financial pressure as government was either not releasing advertisements or releasing them to a few select outlets. Those trying to be impartial are being punished for their professionalism. Many of the senior journalists are sitting at home as they upon ‘instructions’ from powerful quarters were fired. Many rather most of the media houses are not able to pay salaries for their staff. So much so daily Dawn that was known to have no major financial issues since it started publishing has introduced pay cuts. Its flagship publication – monthly Herald – has closed its operations.

Under the circumstances when media people were visibly divided, this rare unity among their ranks is a breath of fresh air. This government should realize that if democracy is to function optimally, the presence of a vibrant and free media was an essential prerequisite. The media owners should also realize that the workers they do not care a fig about are the ones who come to their rescue in times such as these. They should never be ignored. The least they deserve is payment of their salaries on time.