May 14, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Most journalists who accompanied Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to England have now returned home amid continuing criticism for having compromised professionally by undertaking the week-long trip.
At the outset the journalists chosen for the junket drew flak even from within the media fraternity. What angered many was that the list had several big names including editors, television anchors and senior correspondents.
It was contended that being journalists, going with a prime minister convicted by the Supreme Court for contempt, was ethically and morally wrong.
On this particular sojourn, there were at least 19 journalists representing top national dailies and television anchors.
Journalists are routinely a part of such delegations but instead of their respective organizations covering their expenses, the government pays for their trips, meaning public money.
Media houses have seldom given any thought to, or formed any policy, on who would accompany the president, the prime minister or any other minister - and that too on the expense of the newspaper or the TV channel.
Who should cover the foreign tours and in what capacity is never discussed. It is mostly the reporter’s ‘initiative’ that takes them to the foreign shores on public expense. The touring party is almost always put up in luxury hotels, paid daily allowances and pampered no end.
If a newspaper or a channel sends anyone to cover a high profile visit on its own expense, it will be looking for ‘news’, instead of reports that it was a ‘successful’ visit to ‘cement bilateral ties’.
(Rashid Ali is a guest writer for JournalismPakistan.com)
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