The Department of Social Sciences at the University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore, organized a seminar on media and civil society at the UMT campus. Prominent intellectuals, media professionals and members of the civil society participated in the seminar. A large number of students, faculty and staff members of the University attended the seminar.
The program commenced with recitation of some verses from the Holy Qur’an by Ahmed Shaheen. Ambreen Salahuddin, faculty member UMT, presented a short introduction of the seminar. She elaborated on the connection between media and civil society and how there is a persistence of failure to do justice to all inhabitants of society. Dr Afia and Asia Bibi are recent examples in this regard.
Dr Aslam Dogar, Director General Public Relations Punjab, spoke about the professional responsibilities of the media and how filtering information is one of the most important factors that our media seems to neglect. He explained how education can play a crucial role in developing our younger generation and create a healthy and tolerant environment. Journalists need to be given independence in fulfilling their role as analysts of the society.
Salman Abid, a TV analyst opined that Participatory Organizations take up their due role as civil society does not comprise of NGOs only but also students and labor unions. He spoke of how the media cannot be neutral because it has been established for profit and it will always broadcast news that makes the most money.
Dr Mughees-ud-Din Sheikh labeled civil society as a watch dog of the entire society. He argued on how the civil society, which is supposed to be free of governmental influence, has become a money making tool for people who want to project their images. The civil society has become the functionary of some external agents and is addressing selective issues that serve only certain vested interests. He explained how all important issues in our society such as child labor, beggary mafia and women’s rights are easily neglected because they do not serve a political purpose. These rights have been given to them by religion without them having to raise a demanding voice. There are many NGOs silently working for the uplift of the down trodden but they have been pushed to the background because they cannot invest in the media.
Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami talked about the Press Council that was formally established a few years ago and pointed towards the negligence of the government for it not having become functional even now.
Tehmina Daultana, former MNA and the chief guest of the session, said that we have to make a move to free our media and free our own morals to raise our voices to convert this frustration into a movement of freedom. She said that we need to become masters of ourselves, empower ourselves and create awareness to bring about a change in the society.
Dr A R Kausar, Pro-Rector UMT, closed the session by thanking the guests for their participation and their views. He stated that we need power to run our affairs but we need not to become slaves of this power. He also encouraged UMT students to participate in the development of our country’s future and to use their education and UMT as a platform to raise the country to new heights.
Later, there was an informal talk session over a cup of tea in which Tehmina Daultana, Dr Abdul R Kausar, Dr Abdul Hameed, Head, Department of Social Sciences, Dr Iftikhar Ahmad, Ambreen Salahuddin, Salman Abid, Mehr Abdul Rauf and Akmal Owaisi discussed the seminar topic in detail. They also made plans to hold a series of similar seminars in the future as well. This, they hoped, would develop a new forum for a dialogue on media and civil society.