Thursday, September 16, 2021
Several senior journalists of Pakistan expressed their concerns over the declining state of freedom of information in Pakistan and said that journalists are the main affectees of fake news.
The comments were made during a webinar titled "fighting disinformation and supporting independent media in Pakistan," organised by the Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovations (GNMI), a not-for-profit organisation in Karachi.
Talking about the Right to Information (RTI) Act, senior journalist Wajahat Masood said the state should ensure its implementation.
“Our state made several laws just because they needed favours from international orders. The intent behind that was not the implementation of the law,” Masood said.
“I was a very happy person when this RTI was introduced but I reached the conclusion that the state that used to work in secrecy now wanted to provide us access to information. However, our misunderstanding has been removed.”
Masood also said that the hurdles in access to information were not linked to the digital age as it had a long history and is linked with the power politics of the state.
He also said that the media had been used in the past for political and personal benefits. Talking about increasing censorship, he said: "The mainstream media of Pakistan had become PTV 2.0."
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, a journalist and columnist, said one of the roles of the media is to filter excessive information, however, the power structures do not allow journalists to do it in their own way.
“The role of a journalist has transformed in the digital age. Media is no longer just limited to accessing and sharing information but also to filter the excessive information,” Shahid said.
“Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we have a fixed template dictated by powers that be, where information has to adjust to a predetermined reality and not the other way around.”
Taking the conversation forward, broadcast journalist Nayyer Ali said there was a need to ensure the implementation of RTI in its true sense. She also discussed fake news and its use on social media for agenda building against journalists.
“Journalists are the main affectees of fake news. Even those on social media are talking about fake news who do not know what it is, she said, adding that a narrative is being built against journalists on social media with the help of the term "fake news"
Anchor and analyst Urooj Sayyami talked about the effect of breaking news on the credibility of news and journalist and shared how her previous organisation used to force her to produce more breaking news.
She said the organisations should free journalists from this pressure of producing more news to ensure the authenticity and credibility of news.