News Reporting Faculty, Department of Mass Communication organized a seminar on May 15, 2019 regarding election reporting. Seminar was compromised of esteemed panel of journalists including Mr Azam Malik affiliated with Geo News Lahore, Mr Wakeel Anjum affiliated with AAP News and Mr. Mian Abid also affiliated with Geo News Lahore. Ms Faiza Rafique was moderating the event. News Reporting Faculty including Mr Adeel Ahmad Aamir, Ms Anam Muzamill, Mr Abid Ali Butt and students were among the attendees of the event. Ms Rachel Hasan, Chairperson, Department of Mass Communication was also present at the seminar.
Ms Faiza Rafique opened the floor for panel discussion by asking the panelists about the role of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Election Reporting. Mr Azam Malik while addressing the question explained that ECP is responsible for monitoring and accountability of funds during election campaigns. Talking about the newly introduced Result Transmission System (RTS) and its failure in General Election 2018, Mr Azam explained that lack of technological resources, poor training and literacy issues were identified as the main reasons of the failures of RTS. Failure of the system also gave birth to various conspiracy theories and speculations during election results and transparency of the elections was challenged. He also emphasized the need to efficiently incorporate biometric system for fair elections.
Role of political advertising and media during elections was also discussed, Mr Azam explained that funds are allocated by political parties to influence public perception. In addition to political advertising, ownership structure of media organizations also influences the election reporting. Mr Mian Abid while discussing the role of media emphasized the importance of background knowledge and awareness of sources during election reporting. He further explained the challenges journalists have to face during election reporting including the issues of restriction on access, restriction on free speech and dealing with violent conflicts during elections. While talking about the requisites of election reporting he explained that reporters must have to have the knowledge of role of caste system in constituency politics. Reporters must be aware of the issues of public in certain constituency and their priorities. In addition to awareness about constituency Mr Abid also emphasized on the importance of creating and mobilizing the network of sources, marking polling station and availability of the technological support during election coverage.
Mr Wakeel Anjum explained the challenges of election reporting in Pakistan, he added that the intervention and influence of various state and non-state actors during elections affect the election coverage. He elaborated about the safety challenges journalists have to face when they are in field during elections. He also spoke on the issue of biometric verification in elections, quoting the example of Indian Election he said even biometric system cannot guarantee fair and transparent elections.
Seminar was a great opportunity for news reporting students to learn from experienced journalists. Student questions were addressed by the panelists in the conclusion of the seminar, guests were thanked and handed souvenirs by Ms Rachel Hasan on behalf of Department of Mass Communication.