KARACHI: Electronic and print media is giving low coverage to human rights and social issues, while politics is given highest coverage; says a new report on Ethical Dimensions of Media Content in Pakistan released by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).
The report was launched by Pakistan Press Foundation in support with Open Society Foundations at a local hotel. In the report, the monitored news items in print and electronic media have first been categorized into different themes. Both in newspapers and on television, political news dominated the news agenda. During the monitoring period, PPF identified over 30% of news focused on politics.
Twelve issues were chosen for news selection for the audit and analysis of news coverage. There were 30.40% news on politics, 20.60% on governance, 14.96% on state institutions, 8.27 % on foreign policy, 6.65% on terrorism, 6.01% on violence, 4.06% on non-state institutions, 2.53% on corruption, 1.93% on crime, 1.58% on social justice, 1.51% on human rights, and 1.49% on religion.
Furthermore, the PPF print media monitoring showed that average breakup of issues covered in newspapers – Jang, Express, The News, Express Tribune, and Business Recorder is as: 30.40% on politics, 20.60% on governance, 14.96% on state institutions, 8.27% on foreign policy, 6.65% on terrorism, 6.01% on violence, 4.06% on non-state institutions, 2.53% on corruption, 1.93% on crime, 1.51% on human rights, 1.58% on social justice, and 1.49% on religion. The report said that media needs to focus more on issues directly related to public interest like health, education, gender, and environment.
Speaking on the occasion, PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali said that news channels are providing highest coverage on politics (over 30%) and governance (20.60 %), while vital issues of human rights and social justice are deprived of due coverage, as they only get around 1.5% coverage.
There is need to give due coverage to human rights and social issues. He said that to be able to grade news items on an ethical scale, six key components of ethical journalism were identified, including accuracy, fairness, impartiality, balance, privacy and pluralism.
“Ethical reporting and code of media ethics is mandatory to be followed by journalists and media organizations.” He said that commercialization of media is affecting news coverage, which also needs to be reduced. Owais said that the report would also be made available on Internet, which would help journalists and media organizations to take required news details about politics, governance, crime, human rights, environment, and other issues from it.
Giving briefing on the report, Asad Khalid Baig of Media Matters for Democracy, said that report looks at six key pillars of journalism, including fairness, impartiality , accuracy, balance, privacy and pluralism. He said that print and electronic media content of three media houses Geo/Jang, Express, and Aaj/Business Recorder groups was monitored for a period of 12 weeks. He said the monitoring of television content was conducted by Mishal, while the content of print media was monitored by PPF.
He said that human rights and social issues lack due coverage in media, particularly in electronic media. Ethical reporting and code of media ethics needs to be fully implemented while reporting issues.
Mazhar Abbass, a senior journalist, said that media is not fully under control of journalists because of the fact that owners are stopping editors from publishing and broadcasting certain news which are not in their interest. He said that editors have become weak due to heavy pressure from the owners. He said that prime news times are now being replaced by advertisements in electronic media which is matter of great concern.
Afia Salam, a senior journalist and environmentalist, said that media organizations need to follow code of ethics and give due coverage to social issues. The commercialization of media has badly affected news reporting. There is need to provide due coverage to vital social issues, she added.
Faysal Aziz Khan of Bol TV said that Pakistan media is running on pattern of weather. “The cable operators have become big mafia, and Rangers have also lifted some of them for their illegal acts,” he said. He said that there are no ethics on TV channels, as they are focusing on money making. They prefer to broadcast those programs which generate more money.
The program was also attended by other senior journalists and dignitaries Ghazi Salahuddin, Qazi Asif, Iqbal Khattak, and M Aftab Alam.