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Importance of media law and ethics in Media

Media Law:
Media plays a vital role in informing people about their surroundings, the truth and
the situations they reside in. Media law is not a term for a uniform and integrated
body of law like the law of contract or the law of crimes. It is a mix of a variety of
laws and ethics that are considered most important for a working journalist and
media industry. When the term media law is used, the focus is on the law itself. It
examines the limits within which the media organizations and journalists operate.
Hence this type of emphasis diverts the focus on fields like: freedom of speech;
defamation; confidentiality; privacy; censorship; contempt and freedom/access to
Media Ethics:
Ethics as a concept has been introduced by the Greeks who successfully managed
to divide the philosophical world into three basic parts. Aesthetics as to how an
individual sees the beautiful and his/her analysis of beauty without relying on
subjective evaluations. Epistemology as the study of knowing, debates about what
constitutes learning and what is known to human mind. And Ethics as the study of
what is good, both for the individual and the society. This was because the Greeks
were concerned with individual virtues of courage, justice, temperance and wisdom,
as well as the societal virtues, such as freedom.
Two thousand years later, ethics has come to mean learning to make rational
choices between what is good and bad, what is morally justifiable action and what is
not. Ethics also means distinguishing among choices, all of which may be morally
justifiable, but some more than others. Rationality is the key word here, for the
Greeks believed, and modern philosophers affirm, that people should be able to
explain their ethical decision to others. The ability to explain ethical choices is an
important one for journalists.
Concept of Media Law and Ethics:
Imagine, if there were no laws and ethics in the World? What had happened? Can
civilization and democracy, even life is possible without codes, laws, or ethics?
Certainly not. Right to know, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom
of the press are conditional. If laws and ethics are for everyone, then, why not for
journalists and media. Every constitution of the world guarantees freedom of press
and freedom of speech, but conditionally.
For many years now, globally, the media has assumed and reinforced and its
important role as a legitimate reflection of public interest and opinion. The power

and apparent influence of the media was long realized. However, the law is a
constantly changing institution. The laws in the area of media law change more
rapidly than the laws in other areas.
It is imperative that practitioners in any field have a sound working knowledge of
the legal and ethical considerations that apply to their occupation. This is especially
true with media organizations and journalists, who claim to be providing and
disseminating information and commentary for the public good and in the interest
of the public.

Purpose and Importance of Media Law and Ethics:

The purpose, functions and importance of media law and ethics may be summarized
as follows:

Media law regulates behaviour, in particular, it ensures the protection of

freedom of expression and discourages harmful speech. It does so by
providing a legal framework for the protection of the right to freedom of

It provides a mechanism for settling disputes by ensuring equality and

elimination for discrimination of any kind, so that access to remedies is not

It fosters an environment in which the mass media can determine its

own role by adhering to high standards of information provision that meet
recognized professional and ethical standards.

Media law ensures the right to be heard and the right to speak
and protects individual rights from unfair governmental action.

Social Reasoning: Everything that a media organization, media persons or

journalists do have ethical implications, to a lesser or greater extent. This is
because whatever is said, written or even for that matter been neglected has
influence on people. The influence can be good or bad. Because the media
has enormous influence, it is vital for media organizations to act in an
responsible and accountable way. When media acts irresponsibly several
things happen:

unnecessary harm is done to people

the media loses credibility
it weakens the medias vital role as watch dogs
the well-being of democracy suffers

Moral Reasoning: There are two fundamental characteristics of human

behavior: harm and mutual aid. Ethics and moral behavior are important
because of peoples universal aversion to harm either physical or
psychological. Harm is the experience of pain, suffering or deprivation against
our will that results from the willful or neglect act of another person. From the
moral point of view harm is wrongful injury as a result of human action and
should be seen as an aspect of evil. While most, if not all humans would want
to be harmed, it is true that most human beings inflict harm from time to
time to others. The co-existent realities the universal human aversion to
harm and the universal tendency to inflict harm are the conditions that call
ethical practice in the media necessary.

Professional Reasoning: Anyone can write or express their views in any

way they want. This is a human right. However, professional communication
exists among a group of people who are deemed and recognized so.
Therefore, if journalism is going to recognized as a profession in media
industry then it must have ethical standards, professional training that
enables a prospective practitioner or professional to acquire a body of
theoretical knowledge, a set of skills, cultivate the necessary qualities and
finally go through a rigorous process of practical experience or internship
before graduation. This is what sets a professional communicator from
ordinary communicator.

Media can a source of conflict: The media can also be a source of conflict
through the harm they cause to Society. When media practitioners do their
work unprofessionally their work unprofessionally their products can be
potentially harmful to individuals, organizations, societies and the world at
large. Harmful media products can incite hatred and violent conflicts, damage
peoples and organizations reputation, business and disrupt social and
economic life in general. This is why, although not only for this reason,
governments come up with different legislation to protect the public from
harmful effects of irresponsible media. There are many laws such as those
against libel, defamation etc.

In short, it helps the media industry and the journalists to learn ways to avoid being
sued for what is written or disseminated; learning to be more accurate about
matters; and to gain an understanding and respect for constitutional guarantees
and the protections they provide.


In Pakistan media ethics is unique as it illustrates how Islam tends to reshape the
values and ethics of society. The authoritarian regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan

promulgated the restrictive Press and Publication Ordinance 1963. It was replaced
by a mild regulatory law, the Registration of Press and Publication Ordinance of
1988 as a result of Federal Shariat court judgment on a petition, which entailed
examination of the already existing ordinance of 1963.
Article 19 of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan besides guaranteeing to
the citizens freedom of the speech and expression, also guarantees freedom of the
press subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of glory of
Islam, of the integrity, security and defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly
relations with foreign states, public order decency or morality or in relation to
contempt of court defamation or incitement of any offence.
The Newspaper Editors Council of Pakistan was formed on May 22, 1993. Its aim and
object includes safeguarding the freedom of the press and working freely for
healthy growth of journalism in the country. The Council believes that duty of
editors/journalists is to serve the truth. It is also believed that the agencies of mass
communication are carriers of public discussions and information.
The Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance 2002 was issued by the then President
Pervez Musharraf, providing the establishment of 19 members council with mandate
to implement 17 points ethical code of practice for the press. Majority of these
points relate to the moral and ethical values of journalistic profession.
The council is empowered to constitute as many inquiries commissions as may be
necessary for the purpose of deciding complaints within a stipulated time period
Pakistan native independent broadcast sector is only five years old. Until mid-2002,
the countrys electronic media was controlled heavily by the state. The military
government of Pervez Musharraf, promulgated PEMRA Ordinance 2002. Its main
objective was to open up broadcast sector for private ownership. It was
promulgated for regulating the establishment and operation of all the broadcasters
and cable television stations in Pakistan established for the purpose.
The freedom of information ordinance introduced in 2002 contains some positive
features acknowledging citizens right to know. However the 21st day time frame for
the release of information and inclusion of courts and tribunals, among those
require disclosing information mar its true spirit. Large amounts of information are
also not subject to disclosure under the ordinance, largely undermining the publics
right to know. Instead of applying to all records held by public bodies, the ordinance
provides a, restrictive list of public records subject to disclosure.
There have been growing demands by the members of the press to amend the
ordinance and pass a legislation that obliges the government to provide access to
all forms of information, except those which are specifically restricted. There have
been some developments in respecting the right to freedom opinion and expression
in South Asia but the progress is severely restricted by laws which give the state the
right to protect information and discourage open discourse on religious issues. An

atmosphere of intolerance in south Asia discourages free expression or opinion.

Laws based on security mist be reviewed in a world where information can be
received through electronic media or internet. It is essential to draw some minimum
guide lines to make the right to information effective. According to PEMRA ordinance
2002, the Authority has mandated to: 1) improve the standards of information,
education and entertainment, 2) Enlarge the choice available to the people of
Pakistan, I the media, 3) Facilitate the devolution of responsibility and power to the
grassroots by improving the access of the people to mass media at the local and
community level, and 4) Ensure accountability transparency and good governance
by optimizing the free flow of information.
The law lays down stringent and subjective pre-condition for eligibility of a license
says a broadcaster or CTV operator issued a license under this ordinance must,
among others, guarantee the following: a) Respect the sovereignty, security and
integrity of Pakistan, b) Respect the national, cultural social and religious values and
the principles of public policy as enshrined in the constitution, and b) Ensure that
programs and advertisements do not encourage violence, terrorism racial ethnic or
religious discrimination, sectarianism extremism militancy or hatred or contains
pornography or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of
decency. The electronic media regulatory authority ordinance is also arbitrary and in
violation of the international standard for a free flows of information and retains the
infamous system of licensing without defining eligibility in unambiguous terms. The
obligation imposed on private television channels to telecast programs mandated
by the authority appears to be a device to commission them for official propaganda
the ordinance is also silent on the decades old and persistent public demand for
freeing Pakistan broadcasting corporation and Pakistan television corporation of
official control and shows little respect or concern for views, needs and taste of
Pakistans pluralist society.

Media Landscape in Pakistan:

The current Pakistani media landscape reflects a multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic and
class-divided society. There is a clear divide between Urdu, national language, and
English, official language, media. The Urdu media, particularly the TV channels and
newspapers, are widely viewed and read by the massesboth in urban and rural
areas. However, the English media is urban and elite-centric. English print,
television and radio channels have far smaller audiences than their Urdu
counterparts, but have greater leverage among opinion makers, politicians, the
business community and the upper strata of society.
Before 2002, the Pakistans electronic media was under heavy control of the
government. And new developments in electronic media in Pakistan started in 2002
with promulgation of the Freedom of Information Ordinance of 2002 and

the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordinance of 2002. The
freedom of information ordinance contains positive features acknowledging citizens
right to know.
To bring its vision of liberalized media in the country, the military government of
Pervez Musharraf, promulgated PEMRA Ordinance in 2002 to establish Pakistan
Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. Mandate of PEMRA is to improve the
standards of information, education and entertainment, and to enlarge the choice
available to the people of Pakistan Including news, current affairs, religious
knowledge, art and culture as well as science and technology (PEMRA website). To
meet this mandate the ordinance provided to open up broadcasting media for
private sector. In addition, it contains provisions to regulate the operations of all the
broadcasters and cable television stations established under this ordinance.
After promulgation of above ordinances, a number of private TV channels have got
licenses to operate in Pakistan. According to the PEMRA statistics, more than 80
satellite TV channels were working in the industry at the end of year 2013. Licenses
are granted in categories of education and news and/or entertainment specific
This progress has led to a new era of information age in the country with many TV
news channels both in English and Urdu languages. These channels immensely
compete among themselves for market share. This competition is, further,
toughened by the landing rights given to foreign channels such as CNN, BBC world,
Sky news etc., to operate in Pakistan. Although, English channels have their place,
however, cut-throat competition is observed among major Urdu news channels such
as AAJ, ARY, Dunya, Express, Geo and Samaa news channels. Media landscape is
quite vibrant and the channels enjoy independence to a large extent. This fierce
competitive environment has both its pros and cons.

Pakistan: A case Study:

Defamation Laws spring from Law of Torts, having its roots in English Common Law.
Salmond defined tort as, A civil wrong for which the remedy is common law action
for unliquidated damages, and which is not exclusively the breach of contract, or
the breach of trust. The word tort comes from the latin word tortum, implying to
twist meaning thereby behavior or conduct that is tortuous or wrong. It
corresponds with the English word wrong and the Roman word delict. When actions
are twisted, this is in opposition to actions that are considered straight.
To be a tort, an act, whether commission of it, or omission of it, must be wrongful.
This wrongful action must result in damage. The damage may be either legal terms

or actual terms. The cause of redress as a result of the act must lie in a legal
remedy or in an action for damages. Damages are monetary claim to damage
suffered. The damage must be in real or legal terms. The party having complained
must have suffered from a legal or wrong committed by the act of another.
Law of Torts basically is based on a simple, understandable and logical principle that
any and every harm to another individual is unlawful and thereby punishable. In
these torts is a wrong that is deemed as a wrong affecting ones reputation. This is
known as Defamation.
Defamation is described as:
An international false communication, either published or verbally spoken, that
injures anothers reputation or good name. Holding up of a person to ridicule, scorn
or contempt in a respectable and considerable part of the community, may be
criminal as well as civil includes both libel and slander. Defamation is that which
tends to injure reputation, to diminish the respect, esteem, good will or confidence
in which the plaintiff is held or to excite adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feeling
or opinions against him. Statement that exposes person to contempt, hatred,
ridicule or obloquy.
Slander will be described as: Speaking of base and defamatory words tending to
prejudice another in his reputation, community standing, office, trade, business, or
means of livelihood. So slander has certain basic ingredients; (a) it is defamatory (b)
it is oral and (c) it must lead to damaging anothers reputation. A person against
whom slanderous comments/opinion is made is contempt to file a case against the
person committing the offense.
The onus to prove that slander was committed lies on the plaintiff. He must prove
that the communication took place and that its defamatory. It must not be a fair
comment on the person or an institution. This, then will not constitute slander. In
slander, the person bringing about a case must prove that special damage has
resulted owing to the slander.
An interesting example of Slander would be from July, 7 th 2012 when former chief
minister of Punjab, Journalist and News Anchor; Najam Sethi announced to have
sued renowned Journalist, Mubashir Luqman for Rs.1 billion alleging defamation.
Documents revealed that the case was based on statements by Luqman in his
program Khara Sach on Dunya News to be false and malicious allegations due to
the tense political situation at that time in the country. Especially high level of antiAmericanism, intentionally aimed at provoking and inciting mobs or extremists to
enagage in physical violence.
Libel is the second kind of defamation. Here, the ingredients of libel are (a) words
stated must be defamatory (b) it must be in the form of permanent record that can
be referred back to, and (c) it must refer to the person of the plaintiff (complainant).

Libel is actionable per claim of damages for publication of defamatory statement:

While determining damages due regard has to be taken of following factors: (a)
nature of defamatory statement (b) conduct of person responsible for its publication
(c) conduct of such person after issuance of notice and after institution of case (d)
degree of care and caution exercised before publication of disputed statement.
Each time of slander and/or libel is repeated, it becomes an offence and the
offender is liable to be brought to court for the offence. Every time it becomes
cause for a new case. There are many grounds on which damages can be
aggravated or mitigated in case slander and libel.

Factors that mitigate damages:

There are many grounds on which damages against the offender can be mitigated.
If the accused apologizes at the first opportunity, court will take cognizance of the
fact. If evidence falls short of justification i.e.; if the case is not strong enough and
does not prove guilt of the accused. Absence of malice will also be an important
factor in determining and adjudging damages. The court will also keep in mind if the
plaintiff is in habit of libeling the defendant, and if in reaction the, plaintiff is also
doing or saying something falling within the purview of defamation, against the
defendant, this will be duly considered by the courts. Also if the plaintiff has far from
clean reputation, courts will take this into consideration. This does not mean to say
that if someone has a doubtful reputation, anyone can get away by saying anything
about his/her reputation. What it does mean is, if the plaintiff has a bad reputation,
it is easy for another to be taken in by a negative news related to the plaintiff.

Defamation Law in Pakistan:

In Pakistan slander is a civil crime whereas libel is both civil and criminal defense. In
2002, President Pervez Musharaf passed a Defamation Ordinance which is as follows
and is discussed for better understanding and application of the law in Paksistan:
[1st October, 2002]
An Ordinance to make provisions in respect of defamation
Preamble. WHEREAS it is expedient to make provisions in respect of defamation
and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto;
AND WHEREAS, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it
necessary to take immediate action;

NOW, THEREFORE, in pursuance of the Proclamation of Emergency of the

fourteenth day of October, 1999, and the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of
1999, read with the Provisional Constitution (Amendment) Order No. 9 of 1999, and
in exercise of all powers enabling him in that behalf, the President of the Islamic
Republic of Pakistan is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance:
1. Short title, extent and commencement. (1) This Ordinance may be called
the Defamation Ordinance, 2002.
(2) It extends to the whole of the Punjab].
(3) It shall come into force at once.
2. Definitions. In this Ordinance, unless there is anything repugnant in the
subject or context,
(b) broadcasting means the dissemination of writings, signs, signals, pictures and
sounds of all kind, including any electronic device, intended to be received by the
public either directly or through the medium of relay stations, by means of,
(i) a form of wireless radio-electric communication utilizing Hertzian waves,
including radio telegraph and radio telephone, or
(ii) cables, computer, wires, fibre-optic linkages or laser beams, and broadcast has
a corresponding meaning;
(c) editor means a person or operator having editorial or equivalent responsibility
for the content or the statement or the decision to publish or circulate it;
(d) newspaper means a paper containing public news, intelligence or occurrences
or remarks or observations or containing only, or principally, advertisements,
printed for distribution to the public and published periodically, or in parts or
number, and includes such other periodical works as the Government may, by
notification in the official Gazette, declare to be newspaper;
(e) publication means the communication of the words to at least one person
other than the person defamed and includes a newspaper or broadcast through the
internet or other media; and
(f) publisher means a commercial publisher, that is, a person whose business is
issuing material to the public, or a section of the public, who issues material
containing the statement in the course of that business.

3. Defamation. (1) Any wrongful act or publication or circulation of a false

statement or representation made orally or in written or visual form which injures
the reputation of a person, tends to lower him in the estimation of others or tends to

reduce him to ridicule, unjust criticism, dislike, contempt or hatred shall be

actionable as defamation.
(2) Defamation is of two forms, namely: (i) slander; and (ii) libel.
(3) Any false oral statement or representation that amounts to defamation shall be
actionable as slander.
(4) Any false written, documentary or visual statement or representation made
either by ordinary form or expression or by electronic or other modern means or
devices that amounts to defamation shall be actionable as libel.
4. Defamation actionable.the publication of defamatory matter is an actionable
wrong without proof of special damage to the person defamed and where
defamation is proved, damage shall be presumed.
5. Defenses. In defamation proceedings a person has a defense if he shows that

(a) he was not the author, editor, publisher or printer of the statement complained
(b) the matter commented on is fair and in the public interest and is an expression
of opinion and not an assertion of fact and was published in good faith;
(c) it is based on truth and was made for public good;
(d) assent was given for the publication by the plaintiff;
(e) offer to tender a proper apology and publish the same was made by the
defendant but was refused by the plaintiff;
(f) an offer to print or publish a contradiction or denial in the same manner and with
the same prominence was made but was refused by the plaintiff;
(g) the matter complained of was privileged communication such as between lawyer
and client or between persons having fiduciary relations; and
(h) the matter is covered by absolute or qualified privilege. 6. Absolute privilege.
Any publication of statement made in the Federal or Provincial legislatures, reports,
papers, notes and proceedings ordered to be published by either House of the
Parliament or by the Provincial Assemblies, or relating to judicial proceedings
ordered to be published by the Court or any report, note or matter written or
published by or under the authority of a Government, shall have the protection of
absolute privilege.
Explanation.In this section legislature includes a local legislature and Court
includes any tribunal or body exercising the judicial powers.

7. Qualified privilege. Any fair and accurate publication of parliamentary

proceedings, or judicial proceedings which the public may attend and statements
made to the proper authorities in order to procure the redress of public grievances
shall have the protection of qualified privilege.
8. Notice of action.No action lies unless the plaintiff has, within two months
after the publication of the defamatory matter has come to his notice or knowledge,
given to the defendant, fourteen days notice in writing of his intention to bring an
action, specifying the defamatory matter complained of.
9. Remedies.Where defamation shall be proved to have occurred, the Court may
pass order directing the defendant to tender an apology, if acceptable to the
plaintiff, and publish the same in similar manner and with the same prominence as
the defamatory statement made and pay reasonable compensatory damages as
general damages with a minimum of Rs. 50,000 (Rupees fifty thousand) and in
addition thereto, any special damage incurred that is proved by the plaintiff to the
satisfaction of the Court
[Provided that in case of the originator the minimum compensatory damages as
general damages shall be three hundred thousand rupees.]
10. Code of Civil Procedure and Qanun-e-Shahadat Order to apply.The
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act No. V of 1908) and the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984
(P.O. No. 10 of 1984) shall mutatis mutandis, apply to the proceedings under this
11. Ordinance not to prejudice action for criminal defamation.Nothing in
this Ordinance shall prejudice any action for criminal libel or slander under any law
for the time being in force.
12. Limitation of actions.An action against
(a) an author, editor, proprietor or publisher of a newspaper;
(b) the owner of a broadcasting station;
(c) an officer, servant or employee of the newspaper or broadcasting station; or
(d) any other purpose,
for defamation contained in the newspaper or broadcast from the station or its
publication otherwise shall be taken within six months after the publication of the
defamatory matter came to the notice or knowledge of the person defamed.
[Trial of cases.The District Court shall have the jurisdiction to try the cases under
this Ordinance.]

14. Court to decide the cases expeditiously.The Court shall decide a case
under this Ordinance within a period of 12[ninety days].
15. Appeal.An appeal against the final decision and decree of the Court shall lie
to the High Court within thirty days and the High Court shall decide the appeal
within sixty days:
(Provided that no appeal shall lie against an interlocutory order of the Court.)
16. Power to make rules.The Government may, by notification in the official
Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Ordinance.

The law clearly defines what is meant by publisher, editor, newspaper, cable wires
etc. so there is no ambiguity as to whom the law relates to and how the law
interprets the terms and definitions. Defamation in its both forms i.e. libel and
slander have been discussed at great length earlier. The Ordinance interprets and
explains defamation as per international standards. Also as per international
standards, libel is made actionable per (on the face of it) if any material published
damages the reputation of the person defamed. A person accused may prove
defense, if any, that the statement is wrongly attributed to him. If he can prove that
it was made in good faith and in the interest of public good. If the plaintiff gave the
explicit permission to publish something and later due to any external pressure or a
change of heart, he has now brought about a suit of defamation. However, the onus
to prove this will squarely lie with the defendant.
The defamation Ordinance, 2002 is one of the laws, which were promulgated by
President General Musharraf as a package of media laws in 2002. Prior to this
Ordinance, defamation was a criminal offence under the Pakistan Penal Code
(PPC), 1860. Sections 499-502 of PPC deal with the criminal defamation and
provide a procedure for its adjudication by Sessions Court as an offence. However,
under the Defamation Ordinance, one can file a suit a case of civil court
jurisdiction for damages as well. The Ordinance defines kinds of defamation i.e.
libel and slander. It also provides defences in defamation proceedings. These
defences include:
a) Fair comment on the matter in the public interest;
b) Truthfulness of matter made for public good; and
c) Absolute or qualified privilege. Section 6 of the Ordinance defines Absolute
Privilege and Section 7 explains what constitutes Qualified Privilege. Absolute
Privilege is any publication of statement made in the Federal or Provincial
legislatures, reports, papers, notes and proceedings ordered to be published by

either house of the Parliament or by the Provincial Assemblies, or relating to judicial

proceedings ordered to be published by the court or any report, note or matter
written or published by or under the authority of a Government. Qualified Privilege
is any fair and accurate publication of parliamentary proceedings, or judicial
proceedings, which the public may attend, and statements made to the proper
authorities in order to procure the redress of public grievances. This means that if
the matter falls under the definition of either of the privileges, absolute or qualified,
it is legal to disseminate the information to the public.

As evident from the meaning, Laws and ethics try to promote good will and always
appeal the conscience of media organizations and journalists to shun mean-spirited
attitude. All media men should refrain from causing damage to reputation of a
person or an institution. The issue of media ethics is too broad and no unified field
on media ethics offers rules or standards that apply to all media fields. Ethics is
simply a matter of personal integrity. Ethics simply means that people should not
tell lie, steal, cheat or commit other antisocial acts. Ethics is doing what is right but
the problem is that right is defined differently by several people. The essential
aspect in relations to the behavior of journalists is their image of the public. There is
some basic principle of journalists that media professionals should abide by these
principles in performing of their duties.