Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bloggers’ status in Pakistan

On October 12, a letter appeared in The Frontier Post.

Here is its text:

Hurdles of Pakistani bloggers

Why Pakistani bloggers cannot enjoy journalists’ legal privileges? The journalists, media persons, news anchors always enjoy legal privileges and certain immunities across the world as compared to the ordinary citizens of the State. The journalists all over the world are protected under media shield laws that allow journalists not to identify their sources.

However, when it comes to bloggers who are also regarded as Online Columnists, no such exemption, shield body or legal protection is offered to them as afforded to journalists. In this digital age of Internet world, where blogging and Online media have ground their bases, same sort of luxury and exemption must be granted to bloggers as well, so that they could value their worth the same as journalists do. No blogger either from Pakistan or from any nook and corner of the earth enjoys immunity from the law as they are still not considered as the part of media.

To be a pert of the media, it is necessary for the one to get affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, broadcast station or network, news service, news or feature syndicate, wire service or cable television system. Otherwise, one would not be believed as the part of media and cannot enjoy journalists’ legal privileges.

In Pakistan, bloggers are not treated as the media persons and face harsh hurdles if they are found liable over defaming content against a celebrity or an institution.”
[Syed Hassam Ahmed, Karachi]

Let’s first make it clear what the letter tries to say:

1. The letter highlights that the bloggers, the online columnists or journalists, do not enjoy such “shield body or legal protection” otherwise enjoyed by journalists.

2. Also, it argues that “the journalists all over the world are protected under media shield laws that allow journalists not to identify their sources.”

3. It demands that the “same sort of luxury and exemption” be given to bloggers.

4. By saying, “No blogger either from Pakistan or from any nook and corner of the earth enjoys immunity from the law as they are still not considered as the part of media,” the letter implies that the bloggers be given “immunity from the law” which journalists enjoy.

5. In its 3rd paragraph, the letter makes a case for the bloggers to be given status as the online columnists or journalists or media persons, even if they are not affiliated with any media entity which is the case with all the journalists.

6. In the same paragraph it argues that in the absence of this status the bloggers “cannot enjoy journalists’ legal privileges.”

7. The letter also argues that as the bloggers in Pakistan do not enjoy the privileged status media persons enjoy, “so (they) face harsh hurdles if they are found liable over defaming content against a celebrity or an institution.”  

Responding to this letter, I have the following points to make:

1. The letter makes a genuine case for the bloggers to be considered as columnists or journalists or media persons in their own right.

In the first place, I think the bloggers, through their blogs, should be able to earn such a status.
I know one such example:

In September 2010, David Farrar, a blogger, was one of the 3 speakers on “Getting the message out” – I too spoke there on the same topic. The event was Pacific Rim Policy Exchange in Sydney. See some important features from his bio:

‘David Farrar is the owner and editor of Kiwiblog, New Zealand's most widely read blog. Kiwiblog averages 500,000 page views a month and has an estimated audience of around 80,000 readers. In seven years Farrar has made 17,500 posts, attracting over 600,000 comments. David is also a regular commentator on radio, in print and on television. In 2009, the New Zealand Listener ranked David 4th place on their annual media power list. He also maintains a separate polling blog whose weighted average of the public polls was found to be a more accurate predictor of the 2008 election outcome than any of the individual polling companies. As the importance of social media increases, David has found himself a regular speaker to business, legal, and industry groups on the use of social media.’

No doubt this is an extreme case; but it brings home certain points, such as blogging may earn a special status to a blogger, and he should try his luck and talent instead of earning that status via privileges bestowed by governments.

2. In the 2nd place, there needs to be developed certain procedure which would accredit bloggers to be a registered as bloggers enjoying certain professional privileges with due responsibility. Also, I will suggest this accreditation agency should strictly be a private entity.

3. The letter talks of several “privileges, immunities, shield laws” media persons in Pakistan enjoy. This is an undeniable fact. The media persons in Pakistan enjoy many privileges, legal or not legal; more than that, media persons in Pakistan do have a nuisance value which has increased with the emergence of private TV and Radio channels.

4. But in no way it means that journalists or media persons should enjoy such privileges which include favors and payments from state and governments in the form of grants to their associations, clubs, etc, or housing schemes meant for them, or any such things.

5. That media persons should not be forced to reveal source / sources of their information is more of an ethical question. It’s part of the professional ethics of media persons more than the laws prevailing in a country.  

6. Of course, that’s just absurd that journalists or bloggers be given immunity from laws of the land, if the letter truly means that. Be he a journalist or a blogger, he should be held responsible for the information and opinions he shares with his readers. Likewise, no journalist or blogger can be considered privileged enough to enjoy immunity in cases of libel and defamation, as the letter seems to be implying and demanding.

7. It is interesting to see through the lens of the contents of this letter that how media persons or journalists practically operate in Pakistan and how the letter demands all those privileges (“legal privileges, immunities, media shield laws, exemption, shield body, legal protection, luxury”) for the bloggers also.

8. Lastly, the letter made a good point for the bloggers to be considered as journalists or media persons, but it confused it with all those “luxuries” it finds journalists enjoying in Pakistan.

© The Blogger
All rights reserved. No part of the contents published on this Blog – Notes from Pakistan may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of The Blogger.


  1. Yup i read article on AwamiWeb and hope Bloggers will get legal protection

  2. This issue has arisen because the bloggers in Pakistan think to get a "journalist" status. But the fact that blogs have very little viewership / readership and contributors compared with other media tools has been overlooked by them.

    There must be no protective legal cocoons for anyone in what so ever profession. The bloggers must first work hard at getting more and more readerships and viewers and contributors. Popularise yourself first. Populism carries its own weight of impact. The kiwiblog is a very widely and popularly viewed blog.

    In here, we don't have one single blog being ever near to the kiwiblog in it's readership / contribution. The blogger community needs to work intellgently and painstakingly to reach some worthwhile popularity first.