Irresponsible Media Need Responsibility
By Sajjad Shaukat
At this critical hour, Pakistan is passing through multi-faceted crises such as political instability, economic problems, social strife, menace of terrorism and scourge of corruption in wake of India’s war-like diplomacy and cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan’s side, which are further encouraging the foreign enemies to fulfill their collective designs at the cost of Pakistan, as it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World.
In this respect, Pakistan’s armed forces have been coping with internal and external challenges in order to maintain the security of the country. Externally, these forces have equally responded to India’s aggression at the Line of Control (LoC) along Kashmir. Recently, tension between India and Pakistan accelerated when the former set off a series of unprovoked cross-border firings at the LoC. So far, Indian forces killed some personnel of Pak Army and the paramilitary troops.
Internally, our armed forces have also been fighting a different war of the enemy which employs subversive activities of various kinds like suicide attacks, targeted killings, assaults on the Army and on security agencies, kidnappings and sectarian violence. In this regard, militant outfits, especially Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) including other banned organizations have claimed responsibility for a number of terror-attacks. Karachi, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan have become special targets of their acts of sabotage.
So far, more than 3000 soldiers have become martyrs in this different war in maintaining the integrity of the federation.
However, external entities like the US-led India and Afghanistan are operating without restraint to damage the core fiber of national edifice of Pakistan through their intelligence agencies, while New Delhi is particularly working against the national interests of our country. Besides other hostile countries, Indian propaganda machines and media openly use malicious expressions to call Pakistan, a country allegedly sponsoring terrorism—propagating against Pakistan’s armed forces, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other law-enforcing agencies.
But, it is regrettable that by showing irresponsible approach, Pakistan’s media have been creating confusion among the people by raising controversial debate regarding various issues like NATO supply, drone attacks, targeted operation against terrorists in Karachi, peace talks with the Taliban and military operation against the militants by indicating self-presumed differences between the civil and military leadership.
While speaking in the tone of anti-Pakistan elements, our media, particularly most of the TV channels have ignored the sacrifices of Pakistan’s armed forces regarding the security of the country and against terrorism. Biased attitude of the so-called media commentators and journalists have not only been trying to demoralize the armed forces by undermining their fighting spirit, but have also been misguiding the general masses, while setting aside the services of these forces, as noted in relation to the Swat and Malakand military operations—resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), floods, desilting of canals (Bhal Safai)—especially during the Earthquake of 2005, entailing restoration of law and order on many occasions. In the recent past, armed forces were in the frontline for people-salvage from areas of earthquake which hit Balochistan.
Unfortunately, in the recent years, without grasping reality, some media persons of Pakistan have been propagating against Pak Army, Frontier Constabulary (FC), Military Intelligence (MI) and ISI. It seems ridiculous when some of them allegedly say that security agencies are behind terrorist activities in Balochistan. These detractors have manipulated various cases like Memogate Scandal, Mehrangate Issue, case of the missing persons etc. including deteriorating law and order situation of Balochistan.
In this context, let us take the example of Balaochistan. By taking advantage of the judicial activism, these media entities have been exploiting this case. While the truth behind human rights violations, the missing persons and aggravated law and order situation of Balochistan is that foreign-backed militant groups such as BLA, and another group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have been fighting for secession of the province have kidnapped and killed many innocent people and the security personnel in the province. They also massacred many persons through suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings and sectarian violence. On a number of occasions, these insurgents groups claimed responsibility for their criminal activities. Notably, since 2001, a majority of Pakistanis also left for Afghanistan for Jehad purposes, without informing their families, while many people joined the Jahadi groups. However, these separatist elements which have brought about unrest in Balochistan have tried to create rift between the top leadership of Army and the Judiciary, which is still being manipulated by our media.
So, it is due to unethical practice—the negative media criticism by the pseudo-analysts that a wave of pessimistic emotionalism, stereotypes and prejudices have been created by them against the armed forces.
Nevertheless, by 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 interests. 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 like judiciary, army, ISI and law-enforcing agencies. While following the rude techniques of yellow journalism, they raise any issue or development and initiate debate among the political commentators who themselves intend to gain eminence. Media anchors and experts who manipulate the concerned issue also conceal the truth and ground realities, particularly in wake of the war against terrorism—neglecting the multiple crises which Pakistan is facing at this crucial moment.
Now, the right hour has come to pull the country out of the multiple crises. In this connection, being the fourth pillar of the state, media needs to display responsibility by performing its moral duties in accordance with the true ethics of journalism. While playing the positive role, especially, our TV channels and the concerned experts must seek the solution of various problems like load shedding, unemployment, soaring prices of products, recession and dependence upon the US-led developed countries, IMF and World Bank for financial aid, which have resulted into acute poverty.
Both our print and electronic media must project the relief activities of the armed forces and other security agencies—their sacrifices in coping with worst challenges and disruptions caused by the miscreants in various places of Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and Karachi.
Media anchors must not only encounter false propaganda of the US and some western countries, particularly that of India against Pakistan, its armed forces and intelligence agencies, but also play their optimistic role in the image-building of the country including that of the security agencies. Besides, those internal entities which are following foreign agenda should not be allowed to hurt Pakistan’s national interests.
More, significantly, our TV channels must also encounter cultural penetration of Indian TV channels by developing their indigenous programmes, shows and dramas in such a way, which could attract the viewers. Thus they can promote our own cultural and religious values.
No doubt, mistakes have been committed by everyone in the past, and could unintentionally be done in the present. But, instead of exploitation, our media and their commentators should emphasize the solution of the concerned crisis, during debate.
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 in wake of war against terrorism.
Notably, solution of sectarian violence demands that people of Pakistan must be educated by the media that their survival lies in inter-sect harmony—and all the segments of society must show selfless unity with the security forces and law-enforcing agencies in castigating the external conspiracy, aimed at igniting sectarian riots in the country.
Moreover, Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority must also lay down the procedure to check the TV channels or their programmes so as to ensure that they are not violating the moral codes of journalism for sake of financial gains.
Nonetheless, instead of showing irresponsibility through sensationalism which is creating confusion among the people, our media must act with responsibility by seeking the solution of their problems, and those crises which Pakistan is facing at present.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Affairs.