Ban on govt ads for Dawn


By Javed Jabbar

THE reported ban by the federal government on government advertising in Dawn itself deserves to be banned. The Supreme Court should take notice of one of several recommendations made to this effect by the Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court itself in 2013.

After a comprehensive study, the report of the media commission (chaired by the distinguished former supreme court Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid and of which this writer was the sole member who had the privilege of writing the report’s text), on page 145 of the published version stated: “that the existing centralized advertising control policy operated through the Press Information Department be abolished…”.

The report defined alternative modes for the placement of government ads on a non-discriminatory basis through a declared policy strictly on the basis of merit (eg. circulation), relevance and accountability.

This writer sometimes strongly disagrees with some of Dawn’s views, specially on political-military aspects, yet one equally strongly condemns the use of government ads as a coercive measure to punish a newspaper for its policy. Apart from a violation of constitutional principles and the government’s own declared policy of support to freedom of expression and media, this act is self-defeating. The ban will inflict further pain at a time when the economy, advertising budget cut-backs and other coercive actions are exerting a negative effect on print media.

Dawn will continue to enjoy respect within the country and overseas as long as it sustains its laudable independence and commitment to professional, ethical journalism. Perhaps even more people will read Dawn after the ban, on paper and on its website. The Supreme Court should take suo motu notice of this action and order its reversal.

(The Karachi based author Senator (R) Javed Jabbaris former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting of Pakistan.
He is a prominent Pakistani writer, advertising executive, politician, intellectual, scholar, artist, mass communications expert and former information minister. Jabbar’s roots can be traced back to Hyderabad, India.)