By Amjed Pervez Malik, National Press Trust, Pakistan
Since establishment in 1964 as a citizen’s initiative by prominent businesspeople of the time, promotion of sound and healthy journalism remains the primary purpose of the National Press Trust (NPT). Much has changed since its creation in the structure, status, and administration of the Trust, however, the primary objective remains the same. As a Public Trust it continues to function as a nonpartisan and nonprofit organisation with adapted aims and objectives.
Dramatic changes have taken place in communication and journalism with the advancement and convergence of ICTs. Notwithstanding the continuing importance of traditional print and electronic media, digital media and social media platforms have not only transformed the old media but introduced a whole set of New Media which has become a major source of information and news for people in all parts of the world.
Pakistan, a developing and emerging nation of over 220 million people, is among those who have adopted new technologies at a relatvely faster pace and larger scale compared to some other countries with similiar socio-economic conditions. While it is a healthy sign and a positive development in empowering the hitherto disconnected segments of society and led to the democratisation of communication, it has given rise to new challenges. Most of the challenges are the same as those encountered by other developed and developing countries, while some are country specific due to its peculiar conditions and circumstances.
Realising the challenges of misuse of cyber based information and communication exchanges and the spread of digital media platforms, Pakistan like many other developing countries started Legislation and Codes aimed at monitoring and penalising those misuses considered harmful for the State and its Institutions as well as citizens’ privacy and safety.
National and Institutional efforts to check the negative impacts of these technologies and platforms are being dealt with in different ways by different countries and institutions. Developing countries, where knowledge about digital and social media remains very limited, are mostly relying on addressing the issue through Legislation, Restriction and Sanction or Punishment. Without denying the need and role of such steps and approaches, the National Press Trust, believes that before, or alongside these approaches, a national effort is required to create awareness and enhance Digital Media Literacy for self-regulation.
It is with this belief that NPT’s program for Digital Media Literacy had been launched as better and wider understanding is essential to check the creators of Disinformation and Fake News and the spread of such content which most of us do unknowingly or based on wrong self-belief
NPT, under its new assumed role, held a workshop for working media journalists in Lahore in March 2022 on the “Role, Responsibilities, Challenges & Opportunities of Digital Media Age”.
Based on the deliberations and lessons learned during the workshop as well as the growing challenge of Disinformation and Fake News, it was decided that instead of focusing on restrictions and legislation for sanctions only, national efforts should be directed to create awareness about the potential, advantages and harms of new media.
NPT fully acknowledges the huge opportunities offered by digital, social media especially online social media. But the creators and users of news and information on new platforms need to better understand all aspects of the new media. NPT believes that a national effort is required to create awareness and enhance Digital Media Literacy. The ultimate objective of NPT’s efforts is to lay the basis for a National Digital Media Literacy Strategy, focusing on Fake News and Disinformation. NPT knows how gigantic this task is and seeks the support of all stakeholders especially academics, working Journalists and opinion makers of traditional and new media.
So far the following actions have been initiated:
- WEB PORTAL: “nationalpresstrust.pk”. Collection of Resources from National and International organisations.
- Translation of Material in Urdu: We are translating the material in Urdu for better understanding.
- Social Media Account: Our Facebook, Instagram & Twitter account (@NPT_PAK) are being used for the Digital Media Literacy Program.
- Efforts for collaboration: with International and local organisations. NPT is touch with top media schools of the country and international organisations working on similar programs.
NPT has started a series of Focus Group Discussions, in collaboration with Media Schools in top universities of Pakistan. Memoranda of understanding are being signed with these universities and other institutions. The goal set for the initial phase is to develop a national basis for a comprehensive educational, awareness and literacy strategy. The target groups of National Press Trust endeavours include working journalists, media organisations and media schools. However, the national media literacy strategy will include other segments and strata of society and propose measures for children and students, teenagers, parents and senior citizens and professionals. NPT looks forward to gathering support and guidance from international organisations working on the subject to develop or adapt material for our literacy and awareness-raising program.
Amjed Pervez Malik, Senior Advisor, National Press Trust Pakistan