Uncompromising Media Need Positive Changes
Every one knows that besides facing multi-faceted problems like acute financial crisis, unemployment, so¬c¬ial inequities, lack of security, lack of sound educational base, least technological prowess, loadshading of electricity and gas in wake of continuous acts of terrorism, Pakistan is also coping with external intrigues which are posing serious challenges to the people as well as the country. In these terms, Pakistan is passing through the most testing time of its history.
Regrettably, our own ethical values, traditional customs and cultural norms are not only neglected, but are also being depicted as orthodox, extremist and outdated. Domestic media, educational institutions and governing elite appear to have forgotten the significance and undercurrents, associated with own core middle class and the ideals required to maintain social order.
In the western countries, no doubt, media have been playing a key role by educating and guiding the people regarding various developments and issues which have been taking place on global and regional level. When taking advantage of the freedom of expression, in the west, newspapers and TV channels employed various tactics like sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion of facts to attract the maximum readers and viewers for financial gains in the era of competition, consensus developed among responsible journalists and media owners around the world that it is against the moral codes of journalism. Therefore, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched an Ethical Journalism Initiative in 2008.
Unfortunately, that freedom of media in Pakistan appears to have been totally misused due to the uncompromising media. In this regard, without taking cognizance of its negative effects on the people, spawning scores of new TV channels and associated burgeoning business interests led to coin unique methods of generating market competition so as to attract viewership and control financial shares.
While presenting little or no legitimate well-researched news items, our TV channels, exploit, distort and exaggerate the news to create sensations and attract viewers in order to become more popular with the sole aim to advance their financial gains. Based upon opinion-masquerading as objective fact, our media anchors mislead and excite public opinion. They do not indicate what the people need, but show what the people want, thus have stunning impact of psychological shock.
Ignoring the moral codes of journalism, media reporters, analysts and anchors have adopted negative techniques and unscrupulous practices in their coverage because they have developed the habit of challenging the prestige of sensitive institutions of the state such as judiciary, army, ISI and law-enforcing agencies.
At present, the security and investigation agencies which are engaged in counterterrorism operations across the country have been barred from talking to media persons, because the Interior Ministry has decided to streamline the procedure of sharing of information with media so that the latter could not manipulate the same through sensationalism.
It is notable that a select group of media anchors not only holds prime time TV Talk Shows to promote their premeditated ideas and skewed opinions, but also project their views through print media leaving no space for middle class to offer feedback on the quality of contents discussed during panel discussions. Resultantly, freedom of expression is getting repressed by media itself, as few anchors and media owners have monopolized the media market and have formed powerful syndicates to support each other, while silencing the voice of the dissents by sparing no space for impartial and independent expression.
Therefore, serious issues like terrorism and dialogue process with Taliban get confused and perplexed, causing psychological stress for the audience. During the peace dialogue, our media analysts cynically commented that both Taliban and the government seemed to buy time, as military operation was imminent against the former. The aim was to dishearten the mediators and the public. Media was projecting trivial details which permitted the extraneous elements to promote their own agenda through acrimonious arguments so as to spread a sense of discontentment. Consequently, the secrecy of dialogue was exposed to compromising risk. Media reports resorted to hasty coverage of all happenings, neglecting the confidentiality of contents and sometimes objective reporting was also overlooked. Thus, due to media trial, the dialogue process runs into contemptuous ridicule. It also serves the agenda of anti-Pakistan forces which have been propagating against the peace dialogue.
Media anchors pose as jacks of all trades but actually they lack knowledge, insight and zeal to build correct perceptions on real issues. Consequently, they tend to project the themes of few political leaders to promote their insular agenda.
Moreover, advertisements shown on electronic media contain double loaded messages with vulgar images and erotic contents. Such commercial might be offering large amounts of revenue, but social ethics and moral values cannot be sold at any cost. Hence, there is a need to curtail the oversensitive commercials. Furthermore, advertisements, aired on domestic TV channels’ broadcast, publicize products, films and celebrities from India with extraordinary elements of nudity and eroticism, allowing penetration of Indian culture in Pakistan. This brings sense of shame and guilt among domestic viewers. In this context, TV commercial “SAATHI” might also be cited as an example.
However, our uncompromising media have not been able to build public pressure to convince the concerned authorities to pay attention on foreign sponsored schemes, designed to change the relevant contents of text books, syllabus—by promoting ideology of Pakistan, glorification of past Islamic history and moral values as related to own social order. It seems that as part of the psychological warfare, anti-state foreign entities appear to have collaborated with domestic media and some renowned anchors so as to weaken Pakistan by inculcating ideas.
Now, the right hour has come that being the fourth pillar of the state, our own media must show responsibility in order to pull the country out of the multiple crises. This needs positive changes. For the purpose, values maintained by middle class must be upheld and media programmes be tailored to extend respect to Pakistan’s cultural norms, while promoting social values. Middle class must be held in high esteem, as they are the one who can uphold the national flag with honor.
Media anchors must improve their understanding of different issues with a view to building consensus among masses, and avoid confusion on vital issues. Matters like dialogue process between the government and the Taliban merited more matured approach. Live coverage and indication of the location of the government’s dialogue committee also created security hazardous situation, therefore extra-care needed to be exercised to keep the location secret.
At this sensitive moment, our Armed Forces and law-enforcing agencies are operating under warlike conditions. Therefore, media must realize that some degree of filtration of information is essentially required. This will enable the security forces and law-enforcing agencies to block some vital elements of information reaching the criminals. So, it is time for all of us to get united and show confidence in the government, these agencies and Armed Forces in order to succeed against terrorists and criminals.
Besides, our media must follow the real principles of journalism by educating and guiding the people towards right direction through credible and true information. They should avoid developing ‘stereotypes’ among the people by displaying unbiased news and comments.
Media must provide space for impartial expression of opinions and get positive criticism to reach a workable solution rather than exploiting the issues and reaching no where. Electronic media Talk Shows should not be commented and reinforced through print media by the same anchors to close the chances of expressing dissents’ point of view, as is presently done by some media.
Indian commercials, films and dramas must be censored and naked vulgarity be covered to protect own audience from bad images and objectionable contents. TV advertisements must be morally approved contents and ethically acceptable images.
Media must assertively contest change of syllabus and text books, as the same will weaken own ideological bonds. Muslims have cherished past and its glorification through text books which must build moral strength among our youth through media.
Attention must be paid by all media anchors and commentators in thwarting all anti-Pakistan schemes, designed to erode our moral values, cultural norms and Islamic bonds, besides distorting country’s image, and are promoting radicalism or extremism. Particularly, our media has a greater responsibility in countering external intrigues and schemes which inflict damage to Pakistani values. All this could be possible, if, our uncompromising media change positively.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations