Govt-press problems


Senior ministers don’t even try to hide their contempt for the press anymore. Even as the government-media standoff on the matter of the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) was making headlines of its own, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar thought it was a good idea to lock the press out during the president’s annual address to the joint session of parliament
on Monday. He gave two explanations for this action; neither of which made much sense, at least to the press.
Apparently, he thought would not be a good idea to have two groups fighting in the house at the same time; but he did not explain quite what he meant. He also said that he had cleared the bit about locking the press gallery with the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA), which turned out to be a false claim. So, whatever his intentions (which have, as yet, not been properly explained), the only thing he ended up doing was muzzle the press in a manner that even dictatorships have not done in this country; and it has had its fair share of the
center trying to gag the media in its long and checkered history.
Things have now reached a point where something must be said about the PTI government’s relationship with the media. There was a time, before Imran Khan became PM, that everybody in his party backed a free media. In fact, it literally rode the media wave all the way to the PM House. But now its attitude is very different. Perhaps it should take a step back and reconsider its approach before this confrontation escalates any further. Media is, after all, the fourth pillar of state and no attempts to arm-twist it can ever be allowed in any functioning democracy. And with the elections so close, it wouldn’t be a good idea to alienate writers and reporters for political considerations as well. Hopefully these issues will be worked out properly sooner rather than later.
It should be remembered that PTI, especially Imran Khan, will need the media again in the future; perhaps when he is not in government, or during the caretaker setup. Therefore, he should only push the media back as far as it does not become counterproductive for himself and his party in the long run.