The keynote speaker and member of the Punjab Bar Council, Rana Sardar Ahmed, highlighted Freedom Of Information Ordinance 2004 and said that the press was not free in Pakistan. He urged journalists to use Qanoon-e-Shahdat to obtain public documents and asked them to play a leading role in the campaign against human rights abuses by exposing cases of extra judicial killings, rape and torture. He said Government was still reluctant to amend Freedom of Information Law 2004 and the law of defamation, despite its previous assurances. Rana Sardar said that as to access for information in Pakistan, the government takes one step forward and two backwards. Sardar Mohammad Aslam Khambra, Tehsil Municipal Officer Ahmedpur East, said that electoral politics had increased the importance of rural centres, following the creation of local governments in 2001 with provisions relating to transparency and access to information. To date media had not managed to perform its role of keeping the public informed of local government’s performance, and required assistance in promoting regular harmonious professional interchanges with local governments and parliamentarians in local elections. He said that building the capacity of rural journalists to promote mutual understanding between local institutions and media can improve the quality of the flow of information to the public, develop greater awareness of rural issues by the citizens, and encourage better governance and democracy. Leading intellectual, Hassan Askari Sheikh, condemned the publication of blasphemous caricatures by Danish and European newspapers and termed it an abuse of freedom of the press and expression, which was a cardinal principle governing civilization. He said that freedom of expression had natural boundaries and limits and should be exercised with a sense of responsibility. It could not be used as a cover to engage in a slanderous tirade against personalities that command the highest reverence of religious communities across the world. He called upon professional organizations of publishers, editors, and journalists across the world to evolve a Code of Conduct for the press and other media, emphasizing responsibility and respect for culture and religious sensitivities while exercising freedom of the press and expression. He underlined the need for more training workshops in rural areas. The Director of Public Relations for the Government of the Punjab (Bahawalpur Division), Mr Ejaz Ahmed Ghauri, praised the Rural Media Network for arranging a training workshop for rural journalists to acquaint them with present day journalistic responsibilities, and exposing them to the latest information techniques. He appreciated publication of the newsletter Sadiq News which had gained prominence in a very short time. The Director later distributed certificates to the participants.
AhmedpurEast.>Director Public Relations Bahawalpur Division Ejaz Ahmed Ghauri giving certificates to participants of the one day journalism training workshop organised by Rural Media Network Pakistan at AhmedpurEast(staff Photo)
Convenor Rural Media Network Pakistan Ehsan Ahmed Sehar organised three training workshops in 1995, 2002 and 2005 with the collaboration of Pakistan Press Foundation, UNESCO and Friedrich Ebert Siftung (FES).
A three day Rural Journalists’ Skills Development Workshop was organised under the auspices of Pakistan Press International (PPI) with the collaboration of Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) in Jinnah Hall, AhmedpurEast from 22 Oct 1995 to 25 October 1995. It was inaugurated by the spokesman of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Syed Tabish Alvari, on 21 October 1995 and chaired by MPA Sardar Mohd Abdullah Khan Dahar. The Secretary General of the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Owais Aslam Ali, Managing Director/Chief Editor PPI Fazal Qureshi, and Khalid Saeed acted as trainers. Twenty-six male rural journalists from small towns attended. Adviser to Chief Minister Punjab, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, gave certificates to participants in an event on 25 October 1995 chaired by Sajjada Nasheen Uchsharif Makhdoom Syed Ghulam Asghar Bukhari.
Opposition Spokesman in Punjab Assembly Syed Tabish Alvari sitting with PPF Trainer Khalid Saeed