Appreciating Media During North Waziristan Operation
Although in the western counties electronic TV channels enjoy much freedom of expression, yet they follow self-imposed code of conduct during serious national issues, especially like war. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy in the US homeland, American government, opposition, media and public had become one, because the country was at war against the non-sovereign entities, popularly called terrorists.
As regards Pakistan, in the recent past, the electronic media was playing irresponsible role by showing the panic-ridden messages of the terrorists, and live coverage of the counter-terrorism operations. For example, the electronic media recklessly failed to demonstrate sense of censor, showing maturity in live coverage of the Karachi Airport operation against the militants. In this context, certain information including move of own echelons, different steps or techniques, used by our security forces, supervision of operation by a particular tier of command, arrival of higher officials and reports submitted to Army’s high command were required to be strongly censored, as the same information was also made available to terrorists through live coverage. Live coverage of security personnel moving in a particular direction was utterly irresponsible, as such movements were part of the operation, the outcome of which was yet to be decided. The operation was to proceed in different phases to imbalance and eliminate the terrorists. This required media to show sustainable patience, calmness, self-control and forbearance. A line must be drawn beyond what media should not be allowed to operate and make noise.
Both Pakistan’s intellectual and non-intellectual citizens started raising questions that irresponsible media coverage creates misperceptions and demoralizes own security forces. This also entails conducting proper training of media reporters and anchors which must be ensured by media houses.
They opined that in crisis situation, lives are at risk. Hence, media should not disclose names of victims, vital locations, forces, weapons, and tactics adopted. It is also duty of media to create maintain sense of hope among domestic audience, especially when the operation is still going on. Noting the irresponsible approach of the electronic media, even general messes said that there should be an effective media controlling body to monitor and direct the media to engage in coverage of sensitive installations such as airports, air bases and other security outfits.
But by setting aside past practice, during the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb against the militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), Pakistan’s media proved that it can play its positive role against terrorists by standing side by side with the Armed Forces. Particularly, TV channels of the country displayed that they have been observing self-control mechanism, related to the war against terrorism, which is essential to defeat the merciless insurgents of the state.
Since June 15, 2014 when the military operation started, and the jets of Pakistan Air Force have been bombing militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan, while Pak Army has been killing the insurgents including foreign fighters through ground offensive which has successfully been achieving its goals, covering the details of operation Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan’s domestic media has conducted itself in a dignified manner, showing sense of maturity and reverence for the Armed Forces. Media appears to have exercised restrain and prudence, while covering the operation. Irresponsible reporting and signs of sensationalism have been kept out, thereby, attaining credibility and earning appreciation of the nation.
It is notable that domestic media of the country did not provide much space to the terrorists to express their pessimistic viewpoint during the ongoing military operation in NWA. Therefore, there was no chance for the terrorists to get glorified through indirect means of media projection.
Everyone knows that operation Zarb-e-Azb has been launched in North Waziristan to destroy and eliminate the threat, posed by the militants who were challenging the writ of the government and were disturbing law and order situation in the country. The entire nation abhorred them for their elusive conduct, power motives and designs to undertake violent acts of terrorism including suicide bombings, attacks against Armed Forces, vital installations and innocent civilians. Government of Pakistan and general public were fed up from shadow acts of terrorists, as they frequently engaged in kidnapping for ransom, looting, target-killings, extortion, coercive methods of recruiting and mischievous techniques of fundraising.
Upsurge in terrorist activities and their open proclamations to continue with their devastative strategy of frightening terrorism and exploitation led to public anger and frustration. Hence, Pakistan’s government undertook tough decision to eliminate all terrorists and destroy their sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency which had become hub of these culprits.
In this regard, when the Pakistan Government decided to launch the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb against the militants in North Waziristan Agency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the nation into confidence through parliament and senate, asserting that Pakistan would not be allowed to become safe havens of terrorists. He further stated that military operation would continue till achievement of ultimate objectives. Earlier, DG, ISPR Directorate, Major-Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa stated, “On the directions of the Government, Armed forces of Pakistan have launched the operation against foreign and local terrorists…who had been waging a war against the state of Pakistan by disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property…with the support of the entire nation, these enemies will be denied space across the country.” On June 16, 2014, Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif also pointed out, “Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been launched with the objectives of rooting out terrorists, eliminate their sanctuaries in NWA and rid the country of terrorism.”
However, the entire nation including media, civil society, political parties, social workers, intellectuals, and general masses appreciated the government’s decision to undertake military operation in NWA with a view to getting rid of terrorists from FATA.
While the international community appreciated PML (N) government for going after the terrorists, the domestic media played a positive role in projecting the achievements of Armed Forces in cleansing NWA/FATA of the terrorists. The collective national urge and longstanding desire of Pakistani masses to eliminate the militants from these areas have been optimistically projected by domestic media. The nation took a sigh of relief, hoping that disruption, destruction, sense of fear, uncertainty and prevailing disorder created by terrorists, will soon come to an end.
As media reports revealed precision strikes by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) against registered and well-identified positions of terrorists, the nation expressed its indebtedness to PAF for their remarkable performance. Similarly, the ground operation has also been objectively projected by domestic media, giving all possible details of the present operation. In fact, unlike the past, our internal media has been showing sense of responsibility, maturity and high esteem for national concerns and interests in its efforts to project or cover operation Zarb-e-Azb, for which media’s optimistic role be eulogized.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s media, politicians, leaders of religious parties and general masses are showing solidarity with the armed forces, which could also be judged from the recently-held countrywide protests and rallies in support of the North Waziristan operation, and assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Nevertheless, media coverage of operation Zarb-e-Azb proves that domestic media has shown signs of conscientiousness, sense of patriotism and proclivity to support anti-terror campaign. As terrorists pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s internal security, therefore, all segments of society including media anchors fully support the government’s decision to eliminate the terrorists.
No doubt, we can conclude that the entire nation is at war against the ruthless insurgents, but the positive role of media is appreciating during the North Waziristan operation due to the fact that all our TV channels have been encouraging the Armed Forces in their fight against the militants, while projecting that state is more powerful than the misled bands of terrorist outfits.
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