The following article by Junaid Qaiser was originally posted on Let Us Build Pakistan. This article is an excellent examination of the poor conditions of too much of our media and is recommended to read. Obviously this does not refer to all journalists, but there is a growing group of very loud voices in media who have adopted the attitude that facts do not matter and only political ends are the goal of their pseudo-reporting. Sometimes these attitudes are taken because the people at the top of media companies are only interested in making millions and put money ahead of the good of the people as has been reported by independent groups like Pakistan Media Watch. Mr Junaid Qaiser’s article is especially recommended because it does not take a partisan approach but rather simply discusses the facts. I think our media ‘talking heads’ could take a lesson from him.
Pakistan’s right wing media: a breeding ground for extremism – by Junaid Qaiser
Pakistan’s predominantly right wing media’s hostile propaganda against politicians and misrepresentation of information serve as a breeding ground for extremist aberrations in the society.
Journalism is a gentleman’s profession, but here in Pakistan, newly born liberalized media seems to be working up mob hysteria especially against politicians and the democratically elected parliament. Media and its self-puritan anchors are continuously encouraging a pseudo-religious approach to politics and its hostile propaganda against democracy and against the West, which is very much suitable for extremist aberrations.
Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti American anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians. The right wing style media has been vociferously running stories of corruption, nepotism and malpractices of politicians and leaders in the parliament, and connect all these bogus stories to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is portrayed by the media as too deferential to the United States. Several anchor persons exhaust all their energies in presenting the prejudice of US against the Pakistani nation. Pakistani journalists who unconditionally support their establishment started the campaign against Kerry Lugar Bill and coalesced anti-Western politicians, and Muslim fundamentalists — implausibly claiming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined and the country could end up as a U.S. neo-colony.
Corporate plutocratic media, as a sole grand savior of the nationalism, sovereignty and morality, seems to be fomenting instability and despondency in the society. It is imposing and thrusting hard line teaching, eulogizing dictatorship and count demerits of democracy. The stories have been written and presented to provide only one dimensional approach, world view and restrict the other independent thought process of readers/viewers. Turning a blind eye towards these obscurantists tendencies might prove costly to the nation.
Some talk shows have implicit sheer bias against the PPP government and parliament and they only counts it’s demerits, they are packed with illogical and fact-less stories of corruption and falsifying evidence on important democratic issues. – some TV anchors have launched vociferous campaign against PPP government exposing corruption of ruling politicians.
President Asif Ali Zardari has been the favorite punching bag for a media trial for the last 22 years, fake and baseless stories of him kidnapping an expatriate Pakistani and extorting money by planting a bomb on his leg to duty evasions, he has faced all. Not a single anchor has ever raised and highlight corruption and human cost. Why are corrupt army officials, judges and journalists beyond criticism in TV talk shows?
Alleged corruption from trafficking heroin to grabbing precious land; from taking kick-back on purchase of equipment (sub-marines included); how they have forgotten years of misrule by military dictators? Had they [Apex Court’s Independent Judges] not taken oath under the PCO (a fake, illegal document), but no one is raising question of morality here? Why then, we concerned citizens wonder, media only discusses civilian corruption? All this reflects the undemocratic mindset prevailing in the media to demonize democracy and parliamentary institutions. In a way these talk shows erode trust in democracy.
Dictatorial regimes’ policies aimed at perpetuating their own power at the cost of national interest and disruption of democracy and political instability have already created huge system deficit. Owing to our media sadly, not very much democracy appreciative – and due to irresponsible reporting and journalism, we have become apolitical nation and people have been losing faith and confidence in the democratic system and normative governance. All the above mentioned journalistic odds are eclipsing the future of Pakistan as a vibrant nation. Even media on occasions provide imputes of publicity to the terrorist groups and extremist aberration. This trend further confuse the ordinary citizens. Therefore efforts to counter terrorism and check extremism are needed to put an end to the above mentioned problems and to bring the nation out of prevailing quagmire of confusion and chaos.
Although we are living in the age of media abundance but still we are facing informational dearth, as pure citizens related issues and real political debates seem to be missing or lacking in our talk show democracy. It’s just tug of war and main emphasis is on speculation and conspiracies rather than fact and democratic thought.
The media persons should adopt a highly detached and objective style, while informing readers and viewers about the significant phase of the story, they should neither take side nor condemn any politicians, sect or group. Rather one should document the facts objectively and then leaves it to the readers to judge the event and draw the conclusion. It should try to give a balanced rather a one sided or biased view against peoples parliament.
While extremist groups are primarily responsible for denying space for pluralistic thinking and limiting the scope for democratic development, some newspapers in Pakistan are themselves involved in promoting intolerance in society. TV channels were guilty of providing the oxygen of publicity to the extremist ideology and in a mad race for breaking news many channels reported events without verifying the facts and often exaggerated the events.
There are flawed assumptions and speculations – misuse of the religious, political and national narrative by the hosts is the leading cause of extremism in the society. These political actors want a clash between the executive, legislature and the judiciary for their own ulterior motives. However, the political forces which represent the people of Pakistan and the current holders of high offices in other institutions have shown maturity by not getting into the trap of these political actors.
In the ‘talk show democracy’, political actors are, through their illogical and fact-less narratives, irresponsibly spreading confusion, conservatism and instability. Mainstream Media Mind and it’s conspiracy theorists do not want to see parliament complete its term and are prompting blue eyed politicians of the establishment i.e Ch. Nisar Ali and Abid Sher Ali, who say that fake degrees can lead to midterm elections. It is a new wish and conspiracy of political actors.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s stated policy is very clear that, extremism, militants and terrorism in all forms and manifestations pose a grave danger to the stability and integrity of the nation. It’s manifesto in election 2008 clearly described that- democracy never wages terrorism. Dismantle militant groups that take hostages and impose their writ through force and terrorism and militancy will be vigorously confronted.
The unprecedented successes made by the PPP led democratic government in the war against terror – today fully acknowledged by the international community — is a direct result of the national political will and consensus that gave legitimacy and effective strength to the military operations in Swat, Bajaur and FATA. Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is fighting a decisive war against terrorism and we as a nation very much moving towards being a more rationale, humanist, tolerant and moderate society.
There appears to be a lack of vision and wisdom in media and its talk shows. Very little focus is on creating intellectual and physical structure to transform the society. Now they have become a norm with media and it’s anchorpersons, whose world view is very much narrow and they nothing but to promote undemocratic mindset and intolerance. Even the content and debate in talk shows fails to highlight popular maxim of treating the of democracy with more democracy on the contrary they eulogizing extremism and undemocratic point of view. although Pakistan has come a long way, in terms of responsibility the private media scene is still it’s embryonic stage. It should highlight and emphasis that federation must be strengthened through the process of democratic pluralism, social justice, cultural values and tolerance. Instead of hate speech there should be free responsible speech and media should build public consensus against extremism.
There is no effective citizen’s oriented responsible journalism to transform the citizens into active and effective citizens. The need of the hour is to modernize news process with more emphasizes upon developing humane, democratic and scientific approach among viewers and readers instead of stuffing them with hatred against politicians [real representative of peoples] and parliament. Only then we as a nation can develop our identity as a rationale nation that would ensure much needed peace and prosperity. Media needs to frame a code of conduct and strictly adhere to it and should build intellectual safeguards against extremism instead of becoming tool for its own economic and political promotion.