Speakers call for independent, pluralistic, diverse media

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar held here on Wednesday to mark the 30th-anniversary celebration of World Press Freedom Day called for re-centering press freedom, as well as independent, pluralistic, and diverse media, as the necessary key to the enjoyment of all other human rights.
Addressing the event organized by UNESCO, Pakistan, the speakers said during the past three decades, the world had seen significant advancements in terms of press freedom such as the increase in independent media and the rise of digital technologies enabling free access and flow of information online. However, media freedom, the safety of journalists and freedom to express remain under a constant threat that has not only impacted press freedom but also the realization of other human rights.
“This has led to polarized political and societal discourse; erosion of trust; impositions of states of emergency and internet shutdowns; crackdown on critical voices and independent media; news desertification due to the collapse of traditional media business models; and tackling hate speech and online harms that disregard international standards, pose new threats to freedom of expression, and the fundamental role of human rights,” they added.
Therefore, on this occasion, events across the globe are being organized that highlight the link between press freedom, freedom of expression and other rights.
Like many other countries, Pakistan also faces serious challenges with respect to press freedom, safety of journalists, privacy, and limited access to information. Especially with the increased use of online/digital platforms, a substantial rise has also been noticed in disinformation, misinformation, and coordinated campaigns and instances of hate speech of content.
The speakers stressed the need to devise a road map to address challenges ranging from journalists’ safety to self-censorship to the intensification of abusive and hateful content online. Especially, they said in terms of upcoming elections during which credible information will be the key to addressing instances of disinformation, and hate speech to decrease political polarization in the country.
The seminar was informed that the UNESCO Islamabad office recently carried out research based on the Media Development Indicators and Media Viability Indicators Assessment Tool.
The research categories included various elements such as regulatory framework, plurality and diversity of media, media as a platform for democratic discourse, professional capacity building, infrastructural capacity, and media viability (media economy, labor market and financial health of media organizations).
Based on the research, draft recommendations were formulated exploring ways to increase advocacy with government and public bodies, promote alternative sources of revenue, and strengthen industry cohesion through collaborative efforts and improve financial sustainability.