Faisal Naseem has sent us this letter to the editor already published in a daily newspaper. It is worth citing here for it brings forth an alternative perspective on the current hysteria over the Punjab Assembly resolution. Raza Rumi
This is with reference to the resolution by the Punjab Assembly condemning the media for its alleged irresponsibility. Here is the answer to all those who think this tantamounts to damaging democracy. One might recall Justice M. R. Kiyani’s speech on the issue of ‘Freedom of Press’ that he delivered while speaking to journalists of the International Press Association, Zurich. (Ref. ‘Not The Whole Truth’ Pg. No. 193) in which he had observed, “If the press has a right to be free, the individual whom it represents has also a right to his standing in life and not to be defamed; the society for which it caters also has a right to maintain a certain standard of decency and guard against corrupting influences. The journalist may argue that in a free country, the press has a right to publish everything in the first instance, as there is a right to eat everything. But if you eat a snake, you take the consequences”.
This decades-old speech is being quoted here because it has a direct link with incidents of the present. The complaint against the media is that the right to publish everything is just like a right to eat everything. There are two incontrovertible aspects of the resolution that Punjab Assembly has passed; first, the media cannot be left unchecked with the ability to publish anything and everything. Unbridled powers cannot be vested in any institution of the state as unrestrained discretion eventually leads to misuse of discretion. The media must devise internal systems of checks and balances for the sake of constructive journalism and for maintenance of standards of decency according to demands of the society we live in. Leaving it all to the sole discretion of media would continue to create the unpleasant situations that occurred in Punjab Assembly. No sensible or prudent person can deny the fact that some segments of the contemporary media are currently playing a visibly one-sided role, a role that is both questionable and partisan and is being enacted in the name of this newly-invented slogan of ‘investigative journalism’, or sometimes even in the name of ‘greater welfare of the country’. Finally, they resort to citing their ‘national duty’ of ‘helping the public to form an opinion’. In the name of all of the above, one political party is being hammered consistently over the past two years even though it continues to withstand the utterly uncalled for criticism with great fortitude. It is time the media should work out a plan of protecting itself, not just from external threats but also from internal prejudices. There must be certain standards of journalism that everyone must be held to—no matter how powerful and untouchable? -FAISAL NASEEM CHAUDHRY, Lahore, July 10.