KARACHI - Former federal information minister Javed Jabbar has expressed concern over unbridled and unchecked freedom to the electronic media in Pakistan in the present scenario.

He has said that viewers cannot afford to remain passive consumers of information anymore and they have to show activism for transformation of the media. He was speaking as a chief guest at the “3rd Transforming Youth Media Summit” organised by the Publicity Channel in collaboration with the Sui Southern Gas Company here on Friday.

Jabbar, who has written 15 books on media, said that more time he spent observing the liberated and independent media of Pakistan in the private sector more he became sceptical about its functioning.

The noted media critic said that he had not envisioned what he described as absolute freedom, which was being enjoyed by today’s private electronic media with the tacit approval of the government as well as advertisers. He said that this absolute freedom to the media would undermine the collective attitudes and conduct of people in the society.

He urged those who controlled and ran private electronic media to introduce themselves to the public, shun obscurity surrounding their lives, adopt transparency and present themselves for accountability for their errant ways to control production of the media content. He said that people should be least affected by faulty functioning of the media if they would maintain and observe their good social values and traditions.

The former federal minister urged students of various universities to enhance their reading skills and go through relevant books and research instead of relying on the Internet and social media in pursuit of higher education.

Sindh Madressatul Islam University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh said that historically journalism had been practiced in the Indian subcontinent by the personalities who wanted to bring about a positive change in the society. For this purpose, he said, they launched a newspaper to disseminate their message. He said that such missionary publishers of newspapers had to face imprisonment and closure of printing press. They had to incur massive financial losses because the colonial rulers of that time did not want them to advocate new ideas. Today, he said, the nature of ownership and entrepreneurship of the media had completely transformed. He said that big corporate business enterprises owned the media houses today and they were running these media organisations purely for commercial gains. In the present scenario the glamorous and glossy electronic media had become all the more pervasive in the society, but it could not overshadow the print media, which was being practiced by people inclined to thorough research and intellectual work, he said.

Mubashir Zaidi, writer and senior producer at a private news channel, said that anchorpersons and presenters had to use any means to attract the maximum number of viewers to their programmes for their survival in today’s ruthless private electronic media industry. He said it was high time that the media industry should change the way it operates and differentiate itself from any other regular business or industry keeping in view the social responsibility, which is considered part and parcel of every media organisation.

Shahbaz Islam, senior SSGC official, said on the occasion that students of media studies at universities should always observe the reality portrayed by the media with regard to any incident of public importance.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association Chairman Dr Kaiser Waheed, Salman Siddiqui of SSGC, Ruqiya Naeem of a private TV channel, anchorperson Ayesha Khalid and M Shahroze also spoke on the occasion.