General Observations by the Media Commission

1. In addition to interacting with the stakeholders with commercial business relations with the media sector and Government entities, the Commission also as recorded in Part-One of its Report, met with several representatives of groups, organizations and institutions from civil, society with an interest in media issues as also with representatives of working journalists, audience-measurement agencies that provide the rating system for electronic media, former and serving chief executives of corporations.

2. In most of such cases, the names and organizations were made part of either Part-One or Part-Two of this Report However, as in the case of some information and views conveyed in confidence to the Commission, on the request of the persons concerned, their comments are not identified by name in the Notes of Meetings which constitutes Section-III of Part-Two of this Report.

3. The Commission noted with respect and appreciation the deep interest taken by all the groups and forums from civil society, directly and indirectly concerned with media issues. Their names and their views are part of the Notes of Meetings. Media Commission is of the opinion that both the Government entities concerned with the information and media sectors as well as the private media firms in both print and electronic sectors should take careful note of the pertinent observations and recommendations made by representatives of women’s groups, social media activists, forums such as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, South Asian Free Media Association, Society for Alternative Media, Pakistan Press Foundation, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation, Coalition for Ethical Journalism, United Producers Association, Transparency International, investigative journalists, former chief executives of PTV's Official Corporate Website" href="http://www.ptv.com.pk/" target="_blank">PTV, Universal Service Fund, and citizens-activists whose comments are listed in the Notes of Meetings.

4. Senior representatives of major media houses conveyed to the Commission in person that, notwithstanding a written policy and procedure aiming for merit-based allocation of Government advertising and notwithstanding claims made in speeches and statements made by public office holders of the Government of the day at the Federal and the Provincial level, they have been systematically discriminated against and, de facto, persecuted.

5. They ascribe the reason for such hostility against them by the Government to their independent journalism and editorial policy in both print media and broadcast media. They stated that their media was often deprived of their fair share of Government-controlled advertising due to their refusal to toe the line of the Government-of-the-day including particularly the Federal Government in office from 2008-2013. Though, on the face of it, this Government tolerated extreme and harsh criticism of its policies and leaders by the media, in actual practice, in several instances, Government took actions to reduce allocations of Government advertising in disproportion to the circulation and readership enjoyed by the larger media group/s as also prohibiting, in one case, i.e. PPP and the Geo TV group, leaders and members from appearing on a particular channel. Even in the matter of making available copies of newspapers to passengers on aircraft, it was stated that copies of leading newspapers were curtailed for supply to passengers on PIA flights.

6. One proprietor of a major media house stated that Government misused its powers on control of advertising and of secret funds to conduct character assassination of individuals such as himself and of his media group because of the independent policies of his group and candid criticism of Governmental corruption, miss-governance and nepotism. He said that despite the fact that his media group paid the highest levels of tax to the public exchequer, unfounded and exaggerated claims were filed by Government entities against his media group in order to harass him and his associates and to defame names and reputations as alleged tax evaders. He reiterated the media group’s intention to abide by its independent polices regardless of the price that has to be paid and called for a policy on Government-controlled advertising which will be genuinely transparent and contain effective checks and balances in place of the existing arrangements and policies which merely appear to be transparent but which, in practice, are easily manipulated and misused.