JournalismPakistan.com November 07, 2013
ISLAMABAD: A report by BBC Media Action has called for enabling Pakistani media to “counter hate speech” along with a set of recommendations aimed at supporting media in strengthening a politics of inclusion rather than exclusion in the country.
“A democratising Pakistani media needs to be able to counter ‘hate speech’, divisive and exclusionary online content,” says the policy briefing 'The Media of Pakistan: fostering inclusion in a fragile democracy' by Huma Yusuf, a freelance journalist and media researcher, and Emrys Schoemaker, media consultant and Director at iMedia Associates.
“The international community can assist this process by working with Pakistani regulators, broadcasters, telecommunications companies and civil society organizations to manage online content that enflames societal divisions.”
The briefing paper explores the relationship between Pakistan’s on-going democratic transition and the growing number of privately-owned media outlets, with a particular emphasis on the media’s role in fostering inclusion – bringing more voices to the table and informing more citizens about the issues that shape their lives.
To counter “hate speech”, the report looks towards the government to “develop Internet specific legislation that is in keeping with international standards to ensure that online regulation is not used as a form of censorship without accountability.”
The report is based on primary and desk research conducted between November 2012 and January 2013. In December 2012, 23 interviews were conducted with Pakistani media professionals, analysts, policy-makers and members of the telecommunications industry.
In addition, 32 focus group discussions were conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Multan by a local Pakistani research agency on behalf of BBC Media Action.
The report said today Pakistan boasts 89 privately-owned television channels and 115 FM radio stations. Mobile telephone penetration has expanded from 22% of the population in 2005 to almost 70% in 2012.
According to the report, overall the media’s expanded gatekeeping function is its greatest contribution to Pakistan’s democratic transition. “The media offers an increasingly coherent platform for articulating public demand and also has the prospect, over time, of providing greater scrutiny of the country’s devolved political institutions.”
But on the other hand the media also faces public disillusionment due to the media’s perceived ineffectiveness as a driver of change. “While audiences clearly appreciate the media’s ability to articulate their demands, they are increasingly disenchanted with the industry’s inability to pressure the government to take action.”
The report calls upon international actors to “conduct or enable media training and workshops to help build the capacity of regional-language broadcast media – television channels and FM radio stations – across Pakistan.”
This could, according to the report, involve long-term capacity building via institutional support for university departments and journalism training institutions as well as increasing journalistic expertise through short-term training courses.
Similarly, the report says as Internet access grows in Pakistan, its importance as a media and democracy debating platform will grow. “Strengthening the online presence of pro-stability, inclusive and democratic media will help to ensure this new media space plays a constructive role in Pakistan’s future.” Therefore it asks international actors to support the technical digital capacity of Pakistan’s national and regional media.
The report suggests a “donors’ working group on media support in Pakistan, ensuring that this includes both national government, regional and civil society representation.” It also calls for promoting digital literacy across Pakistan. “A key role for international actors could include supporting Pakistani civil society to promote awareness about online security, privacy, data theft and other forms of best online practice.”
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