Media Need Reformation
By Asif Haroon Raja
Gen Musharraf after coming to power through a military coup on October 12, 1999 decided to boost up and modernize electronic media by allowing foreign ownership in the name of freedom of expression and to show soft image of Pakistan to the west. His concept of enlightened moderation also had similar ambition of promoting liberalism. Private TV channels were given a free hand to broadcast their own programs and news in 2002. It may be recalled that till that time, there was only one PTV channel and one to two private TV channels in Pakistan. The number suddenly shot up to mind blowing figure of 100 within a matter of 2-3 years. Among the TV channels, Jang/News Geo TV gained greater prominence and became popular because of its colorful programs. Anil Ambani from India, an American Group and Mir Shakilur Rehman family jointly owns this independent media corporation.
Pakistan had not struck gold or oil to be able to create space for so many channels and that too in such a short time. Soon it became the 4th pillar of the state and began to build perceptions of choice, accentuate political polarisation, stoke ethnicity and sectarianism, glamorize separatists in Baluchistan and RAW connected MQM, discredit premier institutions and influence the decisions of the policy makers.
Notwithstanding that our media has progressed leaps and bounds, unfortunately it has lost track and has been hijacked by foreign agencies. The US, Britain, Israel and India have deeply penetrated media houses and have invested huge amounts to buy the loyalties of owners, producers, anchors and writers. India is making heavy investments in our media to promote Indian culture and demean our premier institutions. Our media instead of defending national interests is promoting foreign agenda.
In the name of freedom of speech and independence, our media has literally gone berserk and trespassed the limits of decency. Till recent it was operating without an honor code. The agenda of our media, NGOs, some private think tanks, human rights organizations, a segment of intellectuals and academicians is to spread rumors, create misgivings, encourage the critics and obstructionists, accentuate divides within the society, underplay the good work of the government and overplay its weak areas, provoke institutions and create bad blood between civil-military relations, accentuate secular-Islamic divide and undermine Islamic values and culture. Media houses, anchors and writers promote the given themes to spread gloom and doom through yellow journalism and sensationalism. Electronic media stimulates liberalism. They are shy of talking of India, USA and Israel and invariably defend or simply ignore India’s crimes.
Working upon the assigned themes given by the foreign paymasters, the media has been spreading rumors, creating misgivings, exploiting existing weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the state and institutions, opening up settled issues for debate to make them controversial, making non-issues into issues and sidelining real issues, downplaying the good work of the government/institutions, inciting one against the other, spoiling the image of Army and ISI, indulging in sensationalism through ‘breaking news’, propping up image of India through organisations like ‘Aman-ki-Asha’ and SAFMA and covering up its ugly face, holding Pakistan responsible for promoting Jihadism and keeping Indo-Pak relations tense, helping India in its propaganda war against Pakistan, projecting all Islamists as extremists, Jihadists and terrorists and putting the whole blame on Islamists. Media has played a role in making power centres fight among each other. Almost every Army chief was provoked to oust civilian government.
As is well known, the Geo News Channel is the most controversial TV channel in Pakistan and has earned a bad reputation of airing anti-Pakistan and anti-military establishment news/programs and for promoting secularism and obscenity. It earned notoriety over becoming part of ‘Aman ki Asha’ which was RAW sponsored. In 2014, the Geo News telecasted a non-stop defamatory talk show after the attack and injury of its anchor Hamid Mir, blaming ISI and its head Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam for the act. While Geo’s blemished track record was well known, it was quite a surprise to see the whole lot of journalist community and media workers of print/electronic media staging protest demonstrations and rallies across the country in support of Geo. They expressed their anger as to why Geo had been put on last numbers from its original slot by the cable operators. Their protestation to some extent might have been justified had the channel been arbitrarily shut down and wrongly penalized. In a day or two, the viewers of Geo would have got adjusted to the new numbers. It was not a big issue to warrant country wide protests.
It is now a well-known secret that Jang-Geo Group is funded by the US State Department, British House of Lords, CIA, MI-6 and RAW. This group is major beneficiary of $60 million allocated by Obama administration for Pak media. Geo and The News as a policy prop up secular and anti-Islam anchors and journalists to promote secularism and undermine Islam. Marvi Sirmed, Farzana Bari, Tahira Abdullah, Kamila Hyat, Hasan Nisar, Ghamdi, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Aysha Saddiqa, Asma Jahangir, Najam Sethi, Imtiaz Alam, MAK Lodhi, Salim Safi and some others are among the favorites. Latest addition is Talat Hussain who the other day wrote a venomous article in The News about outgoing Gen Raheel Sharif.
Since 2004, Pakistan has been facing a media world war. In international media, Pakistan’s warts are magnified out of all proportions, while its finer features are ignored or downplayed. A few TV channels particularly Geo TV groomed and nourished by foreign agencies are mandated to supplement Indo-US-Western Media war against Pakistan by badmouthing Pak Army and ISI.
Lending strength to the Indian propaganda, Hamid Mir wrote an article and reiterated in his TV program holding Pak Army squarely responsible for all the atrocities committed in former East Pakistan in 1971 and suggesting that Pakistan must apologise to Bangladesh. For his and Asma Jahangir’s prejudicial stance, both were rewarded by Bangladesh government. PPP government awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz to Hamid Mir. It may be recalled that his father Waris Mir also spewed venom against Pak Army during and after the 1971 war. He was also conferred Hilal-e-Imtiaz posthumously for his so-called laudable services.
Geo TV in its exuberance to promote Indian interests diligently works on the Indian theme of ‘common culture’. This is totally in contrast to what Quaid-e-Azam stated and which became the raison de etre for demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims. There is no denying the fact that Hindu and Muslim cultures are totally different and there is hardly anything common between these cultures. Language, script, literature, poetry, music, architecture, dress, food, method of serving food and method of greeting are different. All the rituals on the occasions of birth, marriage, death, and finally the way of thinking are also different.
A highly controversial Aman-ki-Asha (wish for peace) venture co-sponsored by Jang-Geo Group and Indian newspaper sprouted from nowhere professing to work towards removing age-old rifts between the two neighbors and promoting peace and harmony. The apparently noble venture, funded by RAW was aimed at making Pakistan submit to Indian demands. While highlighting the virtues of peace, the promoters of this program kept counseling Pak leaders to opt for peace but never counseled the belligerent and uncompromising Indian leaders wanting peace on their terms. They want trade, and that too with balance of trade heavily tilted in favor of India, minus Kashmir. They want Pakistan to accept Indian hegemony and live in peace as a vassal State of India.
The Geo has been off and on cautioned and fined but it has made little effort to improve its image among great majority of Pakistanis and it continues to promote agenda of its foreign paymasters. It is no secret that the US and India are doling out huge funds to this channel for the propagation of their themes and building perceptions of their choice among the public. ARY, Samaa and Dunya also excel in sensationalism and yellow journalism.
Kashmir is being bled since 1989 but Indian security forces broke all records of human rights violations after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani on 8 July, 2016. They are killing hapless and unarmed Kashmiris like stray dogs and blinding the protesters by using pellet guns. Kashmiris are crying in agony and expectantly looking towards Pakistan to help them in their hour of distress. All political parties, religious and social groups, academia and civil society pressurized the government to play its part and pressed the international community to stop the genocide of Kashmiris in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK). Ironically, the journalist community instead of coming forward to express their support to the Kashmiris, paid more attention to Panama scandal, security leaks scandal, Imran Khan’s public meeting at Raiwind and his threat to lockdown Islamabad, than on record breaking atrocities of Indian security forces in IOK.
The media as a whole has been fomenting frustration, disillusionment, resentment and hatred among political parties, communities, groups, and thus accentuating societal divides. Assisted by political parties in the opposition, the media has been making all out efforts to spoil civil-military relations, and to provoke Gen Raheel Sharif to oust Nawaz Sharif and seize power. When he didn’t oblige, some subjected him to bad press. The media gets assistance from hundreds of foreign paid NGOs deployed in every nook and corner of the country, human rights and aid giving agencies, section of seculars and liberals, like-minded intellectuals, and lobbies.
In short, the media rather than confronting foreign media onslaught, building the image of Pakistan and the institutions, making the people aware of the motives of adversaries of Pakistan, educating the youth to move towards constructive channels, motivating the youth by injecting nationalism and patriotism, and promoting cohesiveness, the media has been playing the enemy’s game. The media has contributed a great deal in weakening the platform of religion which binds multifarious communities together. In its effort to promote liberalism, it has been demeaning Islamic culture, undermining the respect and dignity of the nation. Some TV channels have routinely been subtly discussing settled issues like role of founding fathers in creating and accepting truncated Pakistan, two-nation theory, Objectives Resolution and ideology of Pakistan to mislead the younger generation. Quaid-e-Azam is made controversial by portraying him as secular. His August 11, 1947 speech is often quoted to prove their contention as correct.
Aman-ki-Asha went for a six in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks in November 2008 because of highly vitriolic military, diplomatic and media campaign launched by India against Pakistan. The purpose behind the Indian media onslaught was to discredit ISI and get it declared a rogue outfit. The lone key witness Ajmal Kasab, allegedly an ISI/Lashkar-e-Taiba man, was declared a Pakistani. Rather than confronting Indian hostile media by exposing scores of glaring loopholes in the story cooked by India, Hamid Mir authenticated Indian story by taking his team to a village Faridkot and declaring that Marhatti-speaking and Raam worshipping Kasab belonged to that village. Kasab was never presented by India to Pakistani investigators/judiciary or to Interpol since it knew that he was a phony. He was secretly hanged to death inside the jail premises despite the fact that he kept pleading that he was not guilty. It was later announced by a teacher of Ajmal Kasab in Faridkot that he is very much alive and didn’t understand which Kasab was hanged by India.
Rather than combating Indian media’s belligerence and highlighting the glaring loopholes in the story concocted by India, Geo remained on the defensive and blamed Pakistan agencies, Lashkar-e-Taeba and Hafiz Seed led Jamaat-ud-Dawa for the sins committed by India. Mir and other Geo anchors didn’t deem it fit to highlight the role of Maharashtra anti-terrorist chief Hemant Karkare who was the first brave Indian police officer to expose Hindu terrorism in 2008. Earlier on, Geo had turned a blind eye to the sensational details provided by I.K. Shukla about Hindu terrorism in India in his report in Milli Gazette dated September 26, 2005. Likewise, startling disclosure made by Swami Aseemanand before investigating magistrate Deepak Dabas on December 18, 2010 that he and several other RSS extremist Hindus were involved in Samjhota Express, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Malegaon blasts, and that Mumbai attacks were conducted by RAW agents with the help of Mossad were also ignored by our media.
Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde removed all doubts of RAW’s complicity by giving an interview to Washington Post on January 20, 2013 that BJP and RSS were promoting Hindu terrorism through their training camps. He said that the duo was behind all the terror attacks in India from 2001 to 2008 that were put in the basket of Pakistan. He stated that the blasts in Pakistan bound Samjhota Express, in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and the Malegaon mosque in Mahrashtra were the handiwork of Hindu extremist group Abhinov of which Lt Col Sharma Purohit was an active member. He added that the accused blamed the minority community for the crimes. Congress leaders defended Sushil’s stance and confirmed that Right wing terrorism was a reality in India. Satish Verma, former Indian Home Ministry officer and investigator spilled the beans by stating that both December 2001 and November 2008 attacks were orchestrated and pre-planned by BJP to pressure Pakistan, discredit ISI and freedom movement in Kashmir. India’s Home Ministry Undersecretary Ravi Mani submitted signed affidavits in the court to substantiate Satish Verma’s report. Yet our media and so-called free and liberal Geo remained mum. The government remained tied to its policy of appeasement and failed to build a counter narrative to expose India’s false propaganda. One can imagine what would have been the reaction of Indian media had such revelations come to surface against Pakistan.
RAW is deeply involved in destabilizing Baluchistan using Afghan soil. Bundles of proofs were provided to former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Gen McChrystal Stanley, Chuck Hagel and more recently Gen David Petraeus and several other US/western notables are on record having stated that India has been pumping in huge funds to destabilize Baluchistan. Yet, for unknown reasons our media doesn’t find any fault in RAW’s doings. India has built 62 small and major dams in IOK over rivers whose water belongs to Pakistan under 1960 Indus Basin Treaty. Pakistan is being systematically turned into a desert. Like our political leaders, Pak media is also tightlipped over this grave issue which threatens the very existence of Pakistan. Preachers of Aman-ki-Asha felt shy to raise this issue.
No terror attack took place in India after Mumbai attack in India in 2008 till the Pathankot attack in January 2016. In these 7 years, Pakistan was subjected to hundreds of RAW sponsored attacks in Pakistan and the fatality figure shot up to 60,000 people. Despite having concrete evidence of RAW’s involvement in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi, the government for unknown reasons didn’t build a viable counter narrative to expose the ugly face of India and thus allowed open space to India to continue with its malicious propaganda campaign to malign Pakistan as a nursery of terrorism as well as its covert operations to bleed Pakistan.
India is an ethnic museum ruled by 2.8% Brahmins. It is rived in social injustices, class discriminations, religious prejudices and Hindu bigotry. Rape is used as a weapon in occupied Kashmir; in rest of India rape is practiced as a fashion against low caste Dalit girls. Indian Muslims are treated worse than Dalits, the lowest class within Hinduism. Indian security forces equipped with black laws are involved in most terrible human rights violations against minorities. India is bent upon imposing Hindutva in India, which will perpetually consign Muslims and other religious minorities to second rated citizens deserving no rights. Two dozen insurgencies are raging in India because of unjust and harsh policies of Brahman rulers. RAW is ill-reputed for its clandestine operations inside and outside India. It is the biggest terrorist state in South Asia and is notorious for state terrorism against Indian minorities and Kashmiris. Large numbers of Indian Army senior officers are involved in corruption and sex scandals. Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails are treated inhumanly. Our media never touches upon India’s anomalies and excesses but blows up even small weakness of Pakistan.
Since 1991, Indian media has consistently been projecting Pakistan as a terror abetting state and that insurgency in IOK is Pakistan supported. After 9/11, this theme was further promoted and after Mumbai attacks in November 2008, India made the issue of terrorism more important than Kashmir issue. India under extremist Modi has adopted a highly belligerent posture against Pakistan and has intensified covert operations in Baluchistan and also heated up the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and working boundary in Sialkot sector. It has been violating 2003 peace agreement almost daily by resorting to intense firing. Escalation has been gradually upped from small arms firing to mortar firing and now field artillery shelling. As a result hundreds of civilians living in close proximity of LoC have died and so have several soldiers. Besides. It carried out several false flag operations to implicate Pakistan. Other provocative acts in the recent past were a fake surgical strike and intrusion by a drone in Azad Kashmir, and spying by a submarine in Pakistan waters in Arabian Sea. Modi has now threatened to stop/control water flowing into the rivers of Pakistan and dry up Pakistan.
The government is tied up to its unwise policy of appeasement, while the media is remote controlled by foreign powers. Net loser is Pakistan. PEMRA and Ministry of Information are to be blamed for letting the media break the codes of ethics and go berserk. Till recent, our media had no honor code and code of conduct. In their bid to outpace each other and improve their ratings, TV channels tend to make their so-called investigative stories juicy and spicy and in the process add large content of falsehood and half-truths.
What is urgently needed is to reform our media and make it Pakistan friendly. PEMRA should formulate a comprehensive media policy and guide the print/electronic media to divert its energies from harmful programs towards constructive and motivational programs aimed at building nationalism, patriotism and bridging divides within the society. The media should assist in building rather than tarnishing the image of the defenders of Pakistan. Notwithstanding media’s fruitful contributions, its negatives should be turned into positives.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre and Member Executive Council PESS. He takes part in TV talk shows and delivers talks on current issues. firstname.lastname@example.org