Media Watch: Good Step by Express Tribune

Posted on October 27, 2010
Filed Under >Faris Islam, Media Matters
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Faris Islam

Earlier today, the Express Tribune announced via their website and newspaper that retired Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, a former Law Minister, Attorney General and Governor of Sindh would be the newspaper’s inaugural ombudsman. According to the announcement, the highly respected constitutional expert will “act as arbitrator” and as a link between the newspaper and its readership to promote accurate, fair and balanced reporting.

The appointment comes at a time where the role of the media and media coverage has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism. Following the recent “media explosion” which witnessed the launching of dozens of private media outlets of all mediums, many have complained that media standards, accuracy and accountability have failed grow with the number of media outlets. Indeed, two weeks ago the country was (once again) thrown into frenzy with after TV channels aired rumors that the government was considering the ouster of the judiciary and triggered a firm response from the judiciary.

Unfortunately, in such a competitive market and with a twenty-four hour news cycle, the urge to be the first to break the news – even if it is unverified – as well as the desire to sensationalize can be all too tempting. At the end of the day, news organization across the world and especially those operating in a new mediascape, like those in Pakistan, are fighting for profits and ratings, the pursuit of which often threaten fair, balanced and accurate reporting.

The Express Tribune’s appointment of Justice Ebrahim is a welcome example of steps media networks can take to address the dilemma. A highly-respected and neutral outsider can go a long way in putting their coverage in perspective and providing an outlet for readers to address their concerns.

While setting up this institution is an important step for the Pakistani media establishment, its effectiveness will have to be determined in the days to come, once it becomes more clear what the scope and power of a Pakistani media ombudsman will be.

15 Comments on “Media Watch: Good Step by Express Tribune

  1. HarOON says:
    October 27th, 2010 10:33 pm

    Good move indeed. Maybe if all newspapers could agree to name someone like him jointly as the ombudsman for all the media/

  2. Watan Aziz says:
    October 27th, 2010 10:45 pm

    ….accurate, fair and balanced reporting.

    When was it ever?

    ….media standards, accuracy and accountability have failed grow with the number of media outlets.

    Urdu newspapers write poor Urdu and serve as press releases of various parties.

    … aired rumors that the….

    So, lets see what they just wrote today!

    The *** markings are mine to isolate the choice of words that add to the rumors.

    ISLAMABAD: Sixteen judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan were *** quietly *** allotted residential plots worth millions of rupees each in Islamabad’s expensive sectors over the last two years (2008-2010) on the direct orders of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat under a scheme somewhat *** incredulously *** called the “Prime Minister’s Assistance Package”.

    A list of the names of the beneficiaries, which also includes the name of ad hoc judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday, was recently submitted to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the federal ministry of housing. The list tops the agenda of the next PAC meeting.

    The plots were allotted by the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) after it received official letters containing the names of 16 judges from the PM’s Secretariat.

    The subject of these official letters issued by the PM’s Secretariat was the allotment of residential plots under the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package. However, no details have been given regarding *** what prompted the government to float such a scheme *** , meant exclusively for the Supreme Court judges.

    The names of 16 Supreme Court judges are part of a main list of about 100 judges of both the four provincial high courts as well as Supreme Court of Pakistan *** now in the possession of the PAC secretariat *** . The chairman of the PAC, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, who heads the most powerful parliamentary body of the National Assembly, had ordered the housing ministry to provide details of the allotment of plots to judges, journalists, bureaucrats, and politicians from 1996 to date.
    Documents exclusively available with The Express Tribune reveal that, apart from the allotment of plots to 16 Supreme Court judges under the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package, 14 judges of the Supreme Court — both sitting and retired – were *** given *** two plots each by the government in violation of official policy, which restricts such allotments to only one plot per person, and that too if they do not already have a plot in the capital.

    Moreover, the judges of superior courts were allotted plots even though they were not serving in Islamabad – an essential requirement for such allotments. The exception in the updated list of judges’ who have been allotted plots, is the name of the honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who has not been allotted any plots in Islamabad. Otherwise, a quick look at official files now sent to the PAC reveals that almost all judges who served in the higher judiciary were *** given *** plots.

    The first-ever list of plots *** given *** to judges, politicians, journalists and bureaucrats has been compiled after Ch Nisar Ali Khan had issued instructions to submit the names those who were *** given *** plots as a part of government policy. The Express Tribune will also publish the list of remaining beneficiaries of the government’s allotment policy.

    LHC Chief Justice Khwaja Sharif also accepted a plot in Islamabad although he was serving in Lahore. Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, who retired on January 12 and was *** given *** a new contract, however *** took two plots *** from the government. The newly-appointed chairman of the NAB Justice Deedar Hussain Shah also *** got *** a plot in 2004 when he was a judge of the SC. Attorney General Moulvi Anwarul Haq also got a plot as a judge.

    Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2010.

    So, now the question is that does this Rauf Klasra and his editor either do not know how to express in English or have a bent to spread rumors and defame the integrity of the process?

    Well, first, since this has been going on for a while, to publish the news with “sansani khaiz” words means that either he woke up today or he is a very poor investigative journalist.

    Next, he has chosen to use word “allocated” and “given” and “took”. I am not a shrink, but something tells me he knows the difference between “allocated” and “given” and or “took”.

    So, there you have it.

    These belong to the “gitter-mitter” crowd, who will twice on Sunday and once every day, blame the poor and the uneducated for “wreaking havoc” on the country. And all the while, they hide their utter incompetence or exhibit their “pettypun” with rumors, gossips, innuendos and crass reporting.

    I am not a journalist nor a gossip monger, nor a rumor spreader, nor a hate monger. I am simple man. But what I will never do is to blame the honest, hard working, decent and good people of Pakistan for the ills of the “gitter-mitter” crowd.

    Just the opposite. I will make every effort to shame them. To expose them.

    Because Pakistan people deserve better. And especially, the voiceless, the helpless, the poor, the downtrodden and the meek.

  3. Umar says:
    October 27th, 2010 11:53 pm

    Steps like this may be more important than all the political kalabaazian that we are seeing. If these traditions of institutional accountability set in, even if slowly, they will mean more to Pakistan than all the siyasaats of our politicos.

  4. Naan Haleem says:
    October 28th, 2010 10:12 am

    It would be interesting to see how a jurist creates some SOPs for a newspaper, the objective of which is to trade hard facts of TRP, commercialism and tax evasion for relative terms of restrain, responsibility and impartiality. Is it really possible in a competitive environment? Do we have any such example from elsewhere in the world?

    Did they appoint him just for the English Daily or the whole of the newsgroup? The post does not clarify it. But this appointment will be interesting to watch for results given the fact that the group editor of Express is Abbas Athar.

    The whole of the literary efforts of Mr. Athar, whether in terms of writing columns or hosting a talk show, are dedicated towards defending rather justifying the corrupt practices of people like Mr. Zardari, Jamshed Dasti, Parvez Ashraf Raja and defamed cricketers Salman Butt, Asif And Aamir.

    What kind of arbitration would Justice Ebrahim bring to that end? Shall we see lesser reasons and justifications (for corrupt to rule Pakistan) on the group presentations?

  5. Farrukh says:
    October 28th, 2010 11:18 am

    Interesting choice of story. Is this really more important than Asma Jehangir election to Supreme Court Bar President?

  6. Jawed says:
    October 28th, 2010 12:06 pm

    @Farrukh

    Actually, it is. The Asma Jehangir story is a made up one by the media because it wants to just play on who is for or against the govt or judges, it is more sensational than real. It is a routine election won by a very accomplished Pakistani. That is all there really is to it.

    This one is a real change. This here is an even more accomplished Pakistani and the step by the newspaper is actually something NEW as well as something IMPORTANT. The cynicism of those who have declared it a failure before anything has even started aside, this actually is a change and something that is missed in the main media discussions. So, I am happy ATP has picked on it. That is, I think,, ATPs real strength. NOT parrotting the topic of the day as declared by TV talk shows and giving its readers something fresh and thought provoking.

  7. Humaira says:
    October 28th, 2010 12:25 pm

    I also welcome this. The thing that happens with these steps is that once you have such an institution people, including civil society but also politicians and others will start using it. They will use it in ways we cannot imagine. Some we will like some we will not. But the scenario will be changed and that is good news.

  8. Arifa says:
    October 28th, 2010 2:24 pm

    Express Tribune seems to be setting a lot of new trends. and good ones.

  9. aminpanaawala says:
    October 28th, 2010 3:17 pm

    THIS IS MOST REQUIRED FOR PRESENT SITUATION,WISH THIS STEP ALL SUCCESS.”I LOVE PAKISTAN”

  10. Memoona Saqlain says:
    October 29th, 2010 8:35 am

    Bravo!!!!!!!! Hope it works but it is the need of the hour.

  11. Irum says:
    October 29th, 2010 11:22 am

    This is an important step, but the real challenge will be in how it is implemented.

  12. Zubair says:
    October 29th, 2010 11:36 am

    Do we know yet what the process of launching appeals to the ombudsman will be?

  13. engr says:
    October 31st, 2010 1:04 pm

    “Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim”
    famous for his bad deeds !

  14. Gifts Pakistan says:
    November 4th, 2010 7:43 am

    Good step. I hope better results after that.

  15. USMAN says:
    December 4th, 2010 12:21 pm

    Has this now been implemented. How does one go and file a complaint with him?

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