Mon, 02 Aug 2021

Karachi [Pakistan], June 14 (ANI): Religious and ethnic minorities have been overlooked in Pakistan's mainstream media due to reporting priorities in the industry being dictated by commercial interests rather than human rights or public good.

While addressing a session of marginalised communities and the media's role in a two-day interfaith harmony workshop, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Shahzada Zulfiqar said that mainstream media preferred to give airtime to a politician's private affairs in Punjab rather than an incident of violence and killings in Balochistan, reported The News International.

Meanwhile, journalist Veengas stressed the need for sensitising of media on religious pluralism and more nuanced coverage of religious minorities. He also said that the media in Sindh province was more conscious about covering the minorities-related issues, such as cases of forced conversions.

Other speakers pointed out that balanced reporting could help promote equality, harmony, peace, and tolerance in society, while highlighting the need for diversification of the newsroom.

In another session on freedom of expression, veteran journalist Wusatullah Khan said our society had an inherent tendency to curtail people's right to free expression on different pretexts, The News International reported.

"Even the scanty freedoms that exist in some form in the country are also reserved for the dominant communities. The members of minority groups have no say in the national discourse," he remarked.

Religious scholar Maulana Syed Ahmed Binori remarked that suffocated environments caused explosive situations because a society devoid of outlets for free expression ultimately imploded in a violent way.

The 2020 report International Religious Freedom released by the United States earlier this month highlighted a downward spiral of religious expression in Pakistan, most notably in the form of blasphemy laws, punishment for which ranges up to the death penalty.

Citing civil society reports, the IRF report mentioned that there were many individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges, at least 35 of whom had received death sentences, as compared with 82 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges and 29 who received death sentences in 2019.

At least 199 individuals were accused of blasphemy offenses, a significant increase over 2019 and the highest number of blasphemy cases in a single year in the country's history. The accused were mostly Shia (70 per cent of cases) and Ahmadi Muslims (20 per cent of cases).

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country with about 220 million population. Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. (ANI)

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