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Observations and Recommendations by the Commission regarding TOR No. C

Article 19 & 19 (A) of The Constitution of Pakistan

1. A response to this particular Term of Reference No. C.

2. Nevertheless, the Commission provides a brief comment on this TOR No. C as follows:

3. As stated in the section dealing with TOR No. A, the sheer variety and volume of Information in the second half of the 20th century and in the second decade of the 21St century have become so enormous that, even a large, unfettered private media sector cannot do justice to bringing all this information to the citizens of any State.

4. The advent of the Internet certainly facilitates increased access to the new ocean of information. But the existing levels of poverty and illiteracy in Pakistan mean that for the next several years, conventional mass media such as TV and radio will remain two of the major sources of information for the average citizen.

5. The commercial dimension of private media sets its own priorities by which several categories of information and analysis that are of critical relevance to the public at large do not often get the time, space and attention which they deserve in private commercial media.

6. Such subjects include aspects of public education for preventive healthcare as well as data about curative health care, civic and social issues that are not necessarily event-related or of a “sensationalist” nature e.g. the standard of behavior by citizens on the streets, in motor vehicles at traffic lights, respect for public hygiene, avoidance of unclean habits, respect for the urban and rural environment, ecological values, etc. Such subjects that deserve attention by the media are often either entirely missing from the media or are projected at timings and in spaces where they do not get the focus of the vast majority of media audiences.

7. The State, as an entity which embodies a non-partisan representation of the public interest is also required to bring to the attention of the people, from time to time, matters that are of vital national interest pertaining to the security of frontiers, and on some occasions, to threats from external forces. In the past 12 years in particular, since 9/11, and the fall-out from the invasion of Afghanistan borne by Pakistan, in the form of terrorism and severe decline in law and order, the State has also had to take the responsibility to communicate directly to citizens on new internal threats, and related issues of immediate concern as well as of medium-term and long-term significance.

8. While private, commercial media owned by citizens of the same State are also conscious of their social and national responsibilities and do provide their own contributions towards raising public awareness about matters that concern State interests and the well-being of all citizens, they are, at the same time, driven by commercial considerations of income, viability and profit.

9. Viewpoints received by the Commission from the 166 individuals and 81 organizations interviewed about TOR No.0 either reiterated views already expressed by them regarding TOR No.A i.e. as to whether there is a need for a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, or views were expressed with specific reference to the role of the Government in relation to State TV and Radio alone.

10. Vital and essential role of state owned electronic media.

11. Therefore, even up to the time when PBC and PTV remained monopolies in electronic media, they did render a crucial public service role, notwithstanding complete control by the Government-of-the-day.

12. At the opposite extreme of the above viewpoint, it is said that, if a country is to become truly democratic which Pakistan aspires to be, then there is no scope for State media and for Government-controlled media because such a situation would inevitably and automatically give a partisan Government of the day unfair control over State media and over financial support to such media through Government-controlled advertising and through grants-in-aid to such media. Whereas private media would be placed at a major disadvantage without similar discriminatory aid Further, Government-control and State media facilitate the production of propaganda which distorts public discourse.

13. The Commission is of the opinion that Article 19 has to be seen in three parts:

Part-I of Article 19 comprises the first part of the Article i.e. “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press… Except where State media did not, in the past, or in the present in 2013, enable equitable and fair access by citizens to the air-waves to express diverse viewpoints, the existence of PBC and PTV, per se, did not violate this first part of Article 19.

14. It is when we note the second part of Article 19 that there appears to be justification for the existence of State-owned media such as PBC and PTV in order to ensure that the provisos and qualifications which are part of Article 19 are articulated and matters related to such provisos and qualifications are brought to the attention of the people.

This second part of Article 19 reads: … subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
There are concerns about whether some of the terms used above can be defined with clarity. But be that as it may, suffice it to say here that private, commercial media do not necessarily ensure optimal projection of content relevant to the above subjects.

15. With the addition of Article 19 (A) dealing with the Right to Information, and with particular reference to the proviso contained in Article 19A, the existence of State media helps ensure that the provisos and qualifications and matters arising from these, are brought to public attention as private electronic media may not necessarily render this essential public service duty.
Article 19A Right to Information, reads: