Media coverage of terrorist attacks
Thursday, January 08, 2015
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) outrightly rejected the recommendations made by Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage “which approved 46 recommendations for the media to counter terrorism in the prevailing wartime situation”, says a press release.
The committee also recommended that live coverage of terrorist attacks be highly restricted and media houses restrict discussion of plans and movement of law enforcement agencies. Media would not cover statements issued by those classified as `terrorists’.
The recommendations asked that media channels, “[shouldn’t] repeat bad news too often”, media houses not to name terrorists or run images of their faces. It further said that media should not show anti-state elements, [or] take sides in sectarian issues.” One of the most amazing recommendations says, “always show good news first and if possible at bedtime also”.
The committee also recommended details of “punitive action against what they called “individual journalists” in the wake of implementation of the Action Plan for elimination of the wave of terrorism in the country”.
In a statement issued by PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Khursheed Abbasi here on Wednesday, the PFUJ regretted that “without taking into confidence the working journalists who are major stakeholder in the print and electronic media, the Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has formulated a number of recommendations which has far reaching effect on right of know and right of information guaranteed under the universal declaration of human rights as well as fundamental rights guarantee under the constitution”.
PFUJ pointed out that “committee claimed that government would define who are to be considered terrorists and the two categories in this regard are banned organisations and potential terrorists. Under such vague terms, the government seems to put entire media and media practitioners at their mercy, fear of punishment and punitive action”.
Ironically, the PFUJ said, “the participants of the meeting stressed that providing security was the responsibility of the state, and both the government and media houses would share the responsibility of ensuring security to the media personnel. Yet there is no SOP how the media practitioners who are intact in the field in media houses are responsible for coverage and reporting of all such type of events”.
The PFUJ formed a high powered committee headed by Shamsul Islam Naz, with Muhammad Riaz, Saleem Shahid, Mazhar Abbas, Waseem Farooq and Bukhar Shah as members to formulate strategy to put forward the point of view of the media practitioners over the recommendation of the Committee and line of action for protecting the right to know and information, besides save them from the “impending danger of punishment and punitive action as in the present mode of recommendations only “journalists have been made responsible for all the ills”.
The committee would also suggest ways and means to ask the Standing Committee to reconsider its recommendations and to protect the basic structure of the Constitution which guarantee the freedom of expressions, right to know, and security of the media practitioners.