KARACHI - “The power of the Press is a concept which is neither new nor a foreign to our region. In fact, it was a major component in Pakistan’s independence right from the British Raj,” said Sindh Minister for Information Shazia Marri while addressing a seminar at the Karachi University on “Media Ethics and Laws for Future Journalists” on Saturday.

She said that the independence movement would never have been successful without the support of legendary journalists. “From Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who sought to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the Britishers, to Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, the founder of both Comrade and Hamdard; from Baba-e-Sahafat Zafar Ali Khan to the founder of Nawa-i-Waqt Hameed Nizami; from icons like Ghulam Rasool Mahar and Abdul Majeed Saliq, to Abul Kalam Azad, Hasrat Mohani. Above all Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the strongest believer in the power of the Press,” she said.

Marri said that it was unfortunate that even after the independence of Pakistan, freedom remained a myth where civil rights and liberties were severely curtailed, and the press quashed. She said that the journalists continued to fight against the system until the Prime Ministership of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “Shaheed Bhutto, a staunch believer in the power and freedom of the Press, not only strove to free the press, but ensured its freedom by enshrining the same in Article 19 of the unanimously accepted Constitution of 1973,” she further stated. While strongly criticizing the dictatorship of General Zia Ul Haq, Minister Information Shazia Marri said that Zia usurped power and callously removed Pakistan’s first directly elected Prime Minister. She said that the General believed in absolute tyranny and no one can ever forget the tragic incident of the public flogging of 4 journalists that occurred on 13 May, 1979. Marri said that sacrifices of those courageous journalists have inspired many who continued to fight against authoritarianism during the dark years of Zia rule.

Shazia Marri said that freedom to write and report was an undeniable right of every journalist but it was also important to respect the journalistic ethics and principles for which journalism was respected. Marri said that the element of investigation served as the backbone in journalism and it was extremely important to investigate before reporting any news report. She said that electronic media should grow out of the “breaking news culture” because not every news was so important that it got the label of “breaking news”. Marri said that only the stakeholders could prepare the code of ethics and it was promising to witness some of them being analytical about the media. She said that the reporters and the camera-persons were facing problems at some channels and it was the responsibility of those organizations to look after the well-being of their employees. Criticizing some anchor turned intellectuals, Shazia Marri said that they were only interested in turning their shows into battlefields and would only run promos with fights and unacceptable language. She said that such methods of conducting talk- shows were damaging the basic ethics and discipline of the society.

Shazia Marri said that Nawaz Sharif was a staunch supporter of General Zia and Imran Khan idealized General Musharraf so their understanding regarding freedom of media was extremely tricky. Marri said that today everyone wants to do politics like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and it was the success of Bhutto ideology.

Speaking about Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Marri said that her commitment to the accurate and unbiased dissemination of information was apparent in her own words when she proclaimed that “It is when the people are kept in the dark that the greatest travesties in our world have occurred. It is when journalists are whipped for telling the truth that we are in the greatest danger.” Shazia Marri applauded the President for his patience and political sagacity in case of all criticizm regarding him. She said that President Asif Ali Zardari who for years, was unjustly incarcerated but refused to bow to dictators.  “We have a government that believes in freedoms and liberties, and is committed to their safeguard. We have a government that supports the media and believes that information needs to be disseminated effectively and without distortion. A government that understands the importance of the press and the freedoms it requires, but that also appreciates the responsibilities that accompany these freedoms,” stated Marri.

Shazia Marri said that today’s democracy belonged to us all and it was our responsibility to safeguard the freedoms achieved through this democracy and allow it to become stronger and unshakeable.