LAHORE - For the first time in Punjab’s history, the provincial police department has announced a comprehensive media policy about coverage of heinous crime incidents.

The main objective of this strategy is to provide policy guidelines to the media wing of the police department on developing a province-wide mechanism for media engagement that ensures control over how and when police will interact with media and what information will be shared.

According to Punjab Additional-IG (Operations) Inam Ghani, the police will provide updates to the print and electronic media on critical cases without jeopardizing investigations or revealing police methodology. The department will also share success stories with public through media besides creating awareness about different facilities and services.

 “This is very important because any unauthorized release of information by police can have drastic consequences including violation of the right to privacy or a fair trial, jeopardizing police investigations or security operations,” Inam Ghani said. 

 As part of the new strategy, a central police information and media cell (PIMC) will be established at the central police office which will serve as a nucleus for all media interactions. The media wing will work under the supervision of Punjab Additional-IG (Operations)

The official, who leads the police operations across the province, said that the initiative is being launched as per vision of Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan not only to keep communities updated about important crime happenings but also to win the trust of the people.

“Effective policing requires trust and cooperation between communities and police for more effective law enforcement. The absence of communication strategy is especially evident in the cases of security related incidents where police are police are faced by a crisis,” the official explained. “The police news stories are a proven method to reduce fear of crime among communities besides providing confidence to people to report a crime, he said.

According to an official document titled “Punjab Police Media Policy Guidelines 2019”, the new media policy will help police generate trust and goodwill among citizens in addition to maximizing assistance and information from public to prevent and detect crimes.  The department, as part of the strategy, will ensure that facts and figures are properly communicated to pubic and information is disseminated about ongoing critical cases without compromising the investigation of those crime cases.

Officials say the Punjab Police has been bearing the brunt of Pakistan’s ongoing counterterrorism challenges for decades and policemen are leading from the front in the war against terrorism. But the public mistrust of the largest law enforcement agency remains high and approval rating remains low. “This hurts the morale and effectiveness of the police since,” Inam Ghani said. 

In order to counter negative reporting, the police department has decided to extensively monitor news coverage related to crime incidents and police working in the national media and social media as well.

The ridiculing of police and its uniform on electric media will be taken up with the management of the concerned media houses and Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority by the police department.

 

“Every inaccurate, baseless or unsubstantiated news item in the print or electric media will be taken up by police with CPNE and the management of the concerned media group and may also be reported to PEMRA for necessary legal action,” the document reveals.

 

Not enough, every inaccurate, baseless or unsubstantiated propaganda item against police appearing on the social media will also be reported to the cybercrime wing of the federal investigation agency.

 

On the other hand, the police department plans postings of well-educated and trained officers to run the media wing of the police at provincial, divisional, and district level. Only leading officers including the Punjab Additional IGP (Operations) and regional and district police officers will be authorized to speak to media. The media wing of the police will be responsible for providing necessary information to national media on time.

 “There is no bar on the entry of media persons in police stations. However, in case media persons desire to take video-recording equipment or DSNG inside a police station the person will have to coordinate with the authorized officer,” according to the new policy.

 

During any crisis situation, no police officer will interact or engage with media without prior approval.

A separate media enclave in the proximity of the crime scene as nearby as operationally possible will be established and regular briefings must be ensured to help and assist media to disseminate authentic information to the general public.