Controlling Media for Elimination of Terrorism
By Sajjad Shaukat
Terrorism is based on symbolic strategy to communicate connotative meanings by conveying the message to different segments of society and administrative echelons that terrorists are powerfully dangerous, deadly and treacherous. Hence, the terrorists select sensitive targets like airports, women, children and lone bread-earners of a family, Police officials, judges and others representatives (Personnel) of the law enforcing agencies, security forces and so on.
In case of Pakistan, it is openly stated that terrorists are not invincible, and that they can be eliminated through power of the state, coupled with collective efforts of various entities of the country.
For the purpose, contents of media reports must be properly monitored and strongly censored prior to broadcast. Media must follow a code of conduct and journalistic ethics, as envisaged by the profession of journalism and in accordance with the national interests. The official or self-control mechanism, related to the war against terrorism is essential for the Pakistani media, particularly for the TV channels. Media must project that state is more powerful than the misled bands of terrorist outfits.
In this regard, the electronic media should not buy the panic-ridden messages of the militants, portraying them as the most dangerous and powerful elements who will play havoc with the targeted victims. Rather, the media should indicate that terrorists are weak and fragile; therefore, they undertake heinous missions stealthily. Media must exploit their vulnerabilities by projecting their true worth.
Especially, our media must be fully controlled in order to conduct successful counter-terror operations, and should be used as a support element of the state. It should not be allowed to conduct selective coverage of events such as showing mutilated bodies, severely injured people, destruction of property and brutally smashed scenes of surrounding.
Live coverage of operation should not be permitted. If, it is allowed, it should be specifically authorized by the highest level of command or administration and should be used only, when it is beneficial to Pakistan’s national interests or positive projection of our own image.
It is notable that in the recent past, 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 own forces, supervision of operation by a particular tier of command, arrival of higher officials and reports submitted to Army’s high command etc. 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.
Irresponsible media coverage creates misperceptions and demoralizes own forces. This also entails conducting proper training of media reporters and anchors which must be ensured by media houses.
Besides, in crisis situation, lives are at risk. In this connection, media should not disclose names of victims, vital locations, forces, weapons, used and tactics adopted. It is also duty of media to create and maintain sense of hope among domestic audience, especially when the operation is still going on.
There should be an effective media controlling body to monitor and direct the media to engage in media coverage of sensitive installations such as airports, air bases and other security outfits.
Nevertheless, it is better that during counter-terrorism operations, media must be fully controlled and kept out. This will help all tiers of command to maintain their effectiveness against the terrorists, and achieve their objectives. Simply speaking, if media is controlled, the terrorism can be easily eliminated.
Every one knows that during this different war against terrorism, Pakistan is passing through a very crucial moment. In this context, besides other terror-attacks at various places of the country, massacre of the innocent Shia pilgrims in Balochistan, attack on Karachi Airport and suicidal assault on the Security Force at Boya, which occurred within 24 hours prove the fact that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jahngvi (LeJ), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and other separatist outfits like the Baluch sub-nationalists have connections with one another. They are behind several terror-attacks and sectarian violence, as assisted by American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad. These insurgent groups are responsible for human rights violations in Baluchistan and other places of Pakistan. Undoubtedly, these internal banned outfits have a nexus with a single aim to destabilize Pakistan at foreign behest. Their foreign masters synchronized these cowardly acts in darkness to hurt Pakistan domestically, regionally and internationally. Question arises, who are the real beneficiary—only those who move strings of traitors living in Pakistan. However, we must unite against our true enemies.
While claiming responsibility for Karachi Airport assault by the TTP after recovery of Indian-made weapons, ammunition and chemical syringes from the militants clearly indicates that Indian RAW is directly involved in all terrorist activities in Pakistan. In this drastic development, should we always remain silent to keep the so-called Aman ki Asha (Desire for peace) with New Delhi alive?
In fact, TTP which is fulfilling the sinister designs of Pakistan’s external enemies was playing the double game like its foreign masters. It orchestrated Jirgas of the tribesmen just to gain strength and time to resolve their own internal differences. At the same time, they conducted brutal attacks against Pakistan’s strategic installations and assets to obtain nefarious aims to malign us in international community and destabilize our commercial hub, Karachi. We must not tolerate this any longer.
It is mentionable that the military operation, “Zarb-e-Azb” against the militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has rapidly been making progress, as the jets of Pakistan Air Force have bombed militants’ hideouts, and Pak Army has been recapturing the areas, controlled by the TTP. So far, armed forces have killed several militants, destroyed their bomb-making factories and forced more than 40 insurgents to surrender before the Army. The operation is successfully achieving its objectives due to the fact that the entire Pakistani nation—civil society, political parties, media houses and opinion builders fully supported military operation against terrorists and their bases in NWA. No doubt, the progress of the operation is very encouraging, showing sense of hope and optimism that a broad-based military operation will annihilate the terrorists, smashing their safe havens in North Waziristan regions.
But, despite this cooperation which shows national unity for the North Waziristan operation, our media needs responsibility for elimination of terrorism in the country. In this respect, official press briefings are earnestly essential, as their absence would add to chaos and state of uncertainty, allowing media to act without any direction, and requisite restrain or responsibility. A mechanism must be prepared to control media affairs (especially when any operation is going on) through designated officials.
Again, live coverage of an event should be sparingly done and efforts must be made to support the state organs—law enforcing agencies and the security forces. Media must not be allowed to glorify the terrorists through their irresponsible and careless reporting. Therefore, it is correct to construe that proper control over media which is the key to eliminate terrorism is need of the hour. Let us do it before it is too late.
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