Media Madness

various_tv_channels_from_pakistan
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Qasim Tareen, a friend of mine, posted a note on Facebook a few days ago in which he expressed his sentiments towards the Pakistani media. I have also been speaking to a few of my friends and family members in the past two years who can’t stop complaining about the media and how they have taken things to a whole different level. The quotes below may seem like a fit of anger at first but the reason I appreciate his piece is because he has personally been working in the Media world in Pakistan, is speaking with experience, and is credible. Sadly, he’s right and we can’t deny his truth.  There were days when we used to sit in front of the television at 9:00 pm and eagerly wait for the daily news, which was our only source of what’s been going on the country and now we have trouble focusing for even a minute as we are overloaded with information. Free Media is great … but till what extent? Trust Pakistanis to use and abuse even the media where people like you and I have to sit down and express our hatred for it …

Qasim started off the note by saying “Warning: Reading newspapers and watching the news in Pakistan can seriously damage your health. Did someone take our journalists & media to a corner in school and teach them to scare the life out of people? How many of them are educated? How many are professionally trained journalists? Will they soon begin to take off their shoes and throw them at each other? How much capital is required for Capital Talk?”.

He then went on and said “spreading awareness is one thing but spreading fear, panic, and providing a forum for attention hungry wolves is quite another”. Qasim also stated how disturbed he was with the fact that the recently released Red Mosque criminal Maulana Abdul Aziz has been splattered all across Pakistan for the past few days and a criminal like him should not have access to millions of homes. To be honest, I agree with him. Why is it that Pakistanis are portraying such negatives aspects on televisions and newspapers for all to judge? People should also be shown other sides to our country and relevant problems, which prove that Maulana Abdul Aziz is not today’s Pakistan.

I remember browsing through Youtube last year when I came across a Pakistani talk show, which seemed interesting. It was meant to be an intense program on Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and the host had invited my father, Ijaz Ul Haq, Imran Khan, and a member from MQM whose name I have now forgotten and rightfully so to come join him on the show for a good debate. In the first few minutes, the MQM gentleman distracted my Father and Imran Khan and swiftly swayed the discussion from the main issue of debate. Instead of sticking to the subject  of innocent lives that died in the Red Mosque fiasco, the host encouraged this discussion and began discussing Imran Khan’s past, which included his Ex Wife, his Ex Girlfriend, and Sita White’s daugther in California. The show ended up being a disaster with everyone arguing and fighting and the purpose of the talk show was never achieved. What was that all about? It ended up being a joke and I don’t know why the MQM representative had to come on the show to clean everybody’s dirty laundry in public.

Moving on, Qasim questions the “Quaid-e-Azam University Professor, Dr. Pervez Ali Hoodbhoy, who recently added to the turbulence on airwaves, by saying that the Taliban will take complete control of Pakistan in 6 months”. I think that along with Qasim, there are quite a few of us who would be curious to know where this figure came up from? I think Dr. Saab should elaborate on this strong statement!

Qasim then continues by saying that “Formal education teaches you the importance of critical analysis but how often is that sharp tool criticism used on Pakistan’s media? More importantly, how often is that sharp tool of critical analysis used on the media by the media itself? Self-censorship is one thing but how just a bit of self-awareness? The media seems to be preoccupied with force feeding it’s audience with awareness and has ended up becoming ignorant of the monster it has become itself.”

In conclusion of the note, Qasim supports the expression – If you keep a dog chained up for most of it’s life and then release it, the dog will go wild because it doesn’t know what to do with it’s freedom. The same goes for the Pakistani media who are now out of control and need to slow down a bit.

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13 comments

  1. A few more questions that Qasim has raised on his Facebook Note –

    What’s more terrifying, being aware that there is a threat from powere hungry ideologically charged, armed groups of people, or seeing a video of someone getting decapitated, images of severed limbs, dead bodies and pools of blood?

    Do you think the media by such terrifying material is spreading terrorism? And by doing so helping the terrorists? Do you think the media by giving so much attention to terrorism is encouraging young impressionable individuals to become a terrorist?

  2. shaheryar mirza · · Reply

    I agree with (not having read the whole note) what Qasim says. There are a few major problems with the news media in Pakistan and they are all symptomatic of a young and immature media, coupled with the dog analogy that Qasim uses at the conclusion of his note.

    I usually wonder, while watching one of the seemingly millions of 24 hour news channels, how many of these journalists are trained. And if they haven’t received formal training (as most journalists around the world usually haven’t) then one can only conclude that they learn on the job. The problem is, that when in Pakistan people are “learning on the job” ,persay, they are learning within a media world with zero ethical guidelines or regulations. Basically, Pakistan desperately needs a code of ethical guidelines (like the RTNDA one in the US). Without that-journalists can and will make a mockery of the profession. ‘It it bleeds, it leads’ used to be the mantra in the USA (and still is for many) until the early 1900’s. And that is the mantra in Pakistan today because frankly, it sells. And journalism is a business. But without ethical guidelines in the industry, we arrive at the current state of the news media in Pakistan. And it’s out of control. Professional journalists in Pakistan should unite to agree on a Code of Ethics, without which this current sensationalism and excess punditry will not abate. I think in the decade to come-the Pakistani news media will mature (I hope). And to be optimistic, the most ethical and credible model of reporting will become the standard. This took time in the USA and only in 1897 did the New York Times’ objective, non-sensationalist, and non-activist model of journalism prevail. With that kind of evolution the shitty journalism and journalists will be weeded out (to an extent). Along with ethical guidelines laws need to be enacted to protect journalists and the freedom of the press. And additionally, legal consequences such as defamation, libel etc., should become part of the law if they already aren’t (maybe they are but aren’t put to use). I think all of these laws can only work if both journalists are protected, and their speech, and additionally if journalists also have to face consequences for irresponsible reporting and/or punditry. The CApital Talk episode you talk about could be a clear case for defamation of character (although I’m not a lawyer and it wasn’t a piece of reporting). Nonetheless, the moderator in charge of the discussion had a responsibility to ensure that his show follows a responsible, rational and intellectual path. Which he did not do. Any thoughts?

  3. shaheryar mirza · · Reply

    P.S. I Heart MQM

  4. shaheryar mirza · · Reply

    additionally, i think some news media outlets do a better job (and some a very good job) with providing quality reporting and information.

  5. Re: Dr Hoodbhoy, its not just he who is predicting the unfortunate break-up of the country. But infact from all corners we are hearing about rapid talibanisation in Pakistan. They have made inroads into Punjab and have allied themselves with radical extremist movements in all corners of the province. They are now in control of Swat which as you know is only a short distance away from Islamabad. Many commentators such as Ahmed Rashid, Tariq Ali and others have gone on air and expressed their concern that Pakistan is staedily moving towards a scenario that we saw in the Balkans not too long ago leading up to the break up of Yogosalavia. I wouldnt pick on Pervez Hoodbhoy he was not being a typical ‘sensationalist’ reporter when he said what he did. It is a scary thought but the break-up of our dear country is an all too scary eventuality. May allah save our beautiful homeland and its people.

  6. Omar – although I have just skimmed your blog – this article stands out with substance.

    You have hit the nail on the head in your assessment of how the media has moved away from its role of reporting the news. It is sad to see what is happening in Pakistan and the large influence of the media over recent events. I have always believed countries like Pakistan will never achieve a desirable political setup with our current democracy – but I suppose the media is more interested in generating revenues from creating ongoing political feuds and drama that has dragged our nation’s name in the mud. Today Pakistan is one of the most saddest countries in the world’s eyes thanks to the media.

  7. Do all of you seriously believe that pakistan’s problems will magically evaporate if the media is ‘curbed’ to make it more palatable for general consumption???????

    What’s worse???? To live in ignorant bliss of the problems around you or to have access to a dynamic and diverse source of information that you can choose to accept or deny????

  8. i have two words for Gahtan, Susan Boyle.

  9. The media should be free and fair and there should be no exceptions. For all of you who disagree and feel that it should be censored in today’s day and age – you need to think again. Aren’t you the ones screaming and pleading for a good democratic government in Pakistan? Same goes for the media world. Get over yourselves and live with it!!!!!!! This is the reality in your country and if it’s too hard to watch it and read it in the news then there are other things you should be doing instead of complaining about seeing bomb victims on you televissionnn screeeens!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous · · Reply

    Go monitor your elections!

  11. There obviously is high demand for these news channels otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. If people are so disgusted by what’s being put out there then stop watching. I have noticed from personal experience that instead of opting for soap operas or dramas, many households prefer to watch political debates in Pakistan.

  12. Also, yes what that MQM person did on TV by bringing up Imran Khan’s past was off topic and probably inappropriate given the subject at hand. However, please note that the people of Pakistan vote in these officals and are responsible for the calibre of our MNA’s and ministers. Is the REAL problem at hand about the TV channel allowing the person to say such things on TV or about the fact that these are the leaders we have repeatedly chosen for ourselves over the years?

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