Canada committed to unwavering support for media freedom

Zubair Qureshi

High Commissioner of Canada Leslie Scanlon at a media consultation jointly organized by UNESCO, EU, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Embassy of Sweden, High Commission of Canada in Pakistan, and Friedrich Naumann Foundation reaffirmed Canada’s unwavering support for media freedom globally and said media freedom is at the heart of a free, democratic and robust democracy.

More than 50 participants from civil society, government agencies, newspapers, parliamentarians, digital media professionals, academia, international organizations, and missions participated. Under this year’s global theme of World Press Freedom Day “Shaping a Future of Rights” – Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights diverse group of experts focused on identifying priorities for media development.

The consultation is a follow up of recent research that took place in Pakistan based on UNESCO’s global tool Media Development Indicators developed to assess media landscape in countries. During the event, media as a fundamental right, the significance of its freedom and media ethics, sustainability, and financial viability and themes such as disinformation, hate speech online especially in relation to election reporting were also discussed in detail.

The inaugural panel discussion highlighted the importance of safeguarding press freedom and promoting media diversity. UNESCO Director and Representative, Youssef Filali Meknassi highlighted UNESCO’s significant role in leading the debate to ensure that During the expert panel discussion titled “Lessons learned from media development indicators and ensuring sustainability”, the participants shared commitment to improve the media sector especially in dealing with generating revenues, countering disinformation and online hate speech to restore credibility of information and quality of reporting.

Zafar Abbas, editor of an English daily and convenor of editors’ safety forum highlighted the need for sustainability in media for more independent and responsible reporting.

Mahim Maher, convenor of Pakistan Digital Editors Alliance suggested to invest more in digital platforms to create a credible news platform. Haroon Rashid and Jahanzaib Haque proposed to make newsrooms more economically sound and sustainable, and ensuring and sharing best practices.

The session was moderated by Asad Beg, Media Matters for Democracy. Gharida Farooqi moderated the panel “Implementing Democratic Safeguards in the Media Space”. Parliamentary Standing Committee Chair Naz Baloch acknowledged the challenges facing the media industry, especially by the women journalists and the need to adapt to rapidly changing technologies.